lemon polenta cake

It was a rainy day here in Moscow, so I thought I’d try to do a quick baking experiment. I decided to make a traditional Italian polenta cake, which is super simple. I love the combination of the citrus taste from the lemon and the crumbly texture. I think it’s much better than a regular flour-based lemon cake. 
A classic polenta cake generally calls for almond meal to enhance its moisture, but with this recipe I use a lemony syrup drizzled over the cake before serving. It makes the cake well-moistened without needing to add the almond meal. I like to enjoy this cake as is, but if you like, you can top it with a spoonful of smetana and some lemon zest.



  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Cake and assembly

  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, melted, slightly cooled
  • 1½ cups coarsely ground polenta
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (I used 4.5% fat)
  • ¾ cup whole milk

Recipe Preparation

For lemon syrup

Simmer bay leaves, sugar, and salt with ½ cup water in a small saucepan, stirring occasionally to dissolve, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in lemon juice. Remove bay leaves and let cool.

For cake

Preheat oven to 170°C. Butter a 9″ loaf tin. Whisk polenta, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest, cardamom, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together yogurt and milk in a large bowl. Mix in dry ingredients, then ¾ cup butter. Transfer batter into prepared tin. Bake until golden brown and firm, about 60 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes. Place a plate over the top of the pan and invert the cake to remove. Using a toothpick, poke holes all over cake, then gradually and evenly pour lemon syrup all over, letting it soak in. Let sit for 30 minutes before serving.

Serve cake with smetana and freshly grated lemon zest.

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