This polenta cake is easy, delicious and 100 % gluten free. Top it with whipped cream and sliced peaches for a fuss free dessert!
Also try our Maple Butter Cornbread Muffins if you are a fan of cornmeal!
One of my favourite desserts in the summer is a simple cake topped with fresh fruit. When the fruit is at the peak of the season, no need to add much in order to get the most amazing flavour!
This polenta cake is one of those treats. Easy, straightforward and absolutely glorious in its simplicity. I served it crowned with a whipped cream cloud and macerated peaches. I also drizzled my cake with a tablespoon of honey.
What is Polenta?
Those of you who have never baked a cake using polenta might be slightly intrigued. However, if you’ve ever baked with cornmeal or eaten cornbread, you know exactly what polenta is!
Polenta is cornmeal, the only difference between the two is polenta is always made from yellow corn, which gives it that vivid colour. While cornmeal could be either yellow or white aka grits.
Polenta comes from Northern Italy, and is usually served as a side dish to any meat. It is also used to thicken soups. A good cook will use butter, Parmesan cheese and lots of love to prepare polenta.
It is utterly delicious and the pure definition of comfort food. If you are curious, take a look at our Slow Cooker Italian Beef Stew with Polenta. Also, check out our Italian recipe collection while you are at it!
You can also bake with polenta! 100% polenta cakes are naturally gluten free. They are a great alternative to wheat flour cakes. Even if you are not suffering from gluten intolerance, polenta cake are simply delicious!
Can polenta, cornmeal and grits be used interchangeably? Absolutely!! The only thing I would watch out for is how your cornmeal or polenta are processed. If you are baking, you will want to use fine polenta or cornmeal for better texture.
I wanted this cake to have an intense flavour of summer and using fresh fruit is the best way to achieve that. However, I didn’t just want to slice the peaches and plop them on top of the cake. I was after extracting as much flavour as possible.
What did I do? I macerated the peaches first! It might sounds like a complicated technique but in reality macerating fruit just means sprinkling it with some sugar and alcohol, then letting it sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
During that time the sugar and alcohol will draw out juices from the cut fruit and create a flavourful sauce. I used sweet Marsala wine as my alcohol since I always have a bottle from making either Chicken Marsala or Creamy Mushroom Marsala Sauce.
You can use anything you like. Orange flavoured Cointreau or Grand Marnier will work great or use lemon juice if you want to avoid alcohol.
Recipe Tips and Notes
- As I mentioned above, this recipe is gluten free, therefore the cake batter will look quite a bit different. It will look and feel thick and heavy, more like paste rather than fluffy batter. Don’t be alarmed!
- Don’t forget to use gluten free baking powder if you are feeding this cake to celiacs.
- Make sure to use fine polenta for best texture.
- If you bake your cake in a springform pan, I would advise you to line it with parchment paper to prevent the butter from leaking out. Or use a regular pan to avoid that.
- The polenta cake texture is quite unique and a bit more coarse than a wheat flour cake. However if your cake is too gritty, it might be underbaked. The polenta needs more time to absorb the butter and soften. Keep the cake in your fridge overnight will help with that issue.
- I used sweet Marsala wine to macerate peaches but you can substitute with lemon juice to keep it alcohol free.
- This cake is best when served at room temperature. So take it out of the fridge 30 minutes before serving.
- One the best things about this cake is it gets better as days go by because polenta softens and the cake texture improves!
More Summer Cake Recipes:
- Summer Peach Cake with Red Berries
- Cherry and Apricot Cake with Amaretto Cream
- Wild Blackberry Tea Cake
- Lemon Ricotta Cake with Blackberry Glaze
- 250g/1 cup unsalted butter
- 200g/1 cup white granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 150g/ 1 ¼ cup ground almonds
- 150g/1 cup fine polenta or cornmeal
- 2 tsp baking powder use gluten free baking powder for a gluten free cake
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 85ml/1/3 cup buttermilk
For the toppings
- 2-3 ripe peaches pitted and sliced
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp sweet Marsala wine or lemon juice
- 125ml/1/2 cup double/heavy whipping cream
- 2 tbsp icing sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 tbsp honey
- Preheat the oven to160C/325F. Beat the softened butter with the sugar till fluffy, add the eggs and continue beating for a minute. Then add the ground almonds, fine polenta, baking powder, salt, vanilla and buttermilk, mix till just combined. The batter will be heavy.
- Transfer the batter to an 8 inch/20 cm greased cake pan, smooth the top and bake for 50-60 minutes. Take out of the one and let it cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then take out of the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.
- Slice the peaches, then sprinkle 1 tbsp sugar and sweet Marsala wine or lemon juice over them, let the peaches macerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- Combine the whipping cream with icing sugar and vanilla, whip with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Top the cake with whipped cream and peaches, then drizzle with honey.