Blood Orange & Rosemary Polenta Cake

It’s slowly starting to feel a little more spring-like out there, it’s a little bit lighter & brighter, & the birds are chirping again. I may not be packing away the jumpers & cosy socks just yet but it is giving me some hope & much needed energy for the coming months ahead in the kitchen & garden (not to mention building an allotment!). I’m sure I’m not alone here but the weather & seasons affect both my mood & energy levels terribly. It’s not so great in the winter time but one simple glimmer of sunshine & I’m raring to go!

Blood Orange & Rosemary Polenta Cake

This is the sudden burst of energy I’ve found myself with this week, which ultimately translates into my baking (as most things do!). I’m ready to say goodbye to my reliance on the store cupboard & welcome freshness & colour back into the kitchen. Unfortunately it’ll still be quite some time before anything is ready to harvest from the garden though, but luckily I’m still working my way through the ridiculous amount of seasonal blood oranges I’ve purchased this year.

Blood Orange & Rosemary Polenta Cake

When it comes to colourful cakes, there’s none more vibrant & reminiscent of sunnier times than polenta cake. Polenta is a staple of Northern Italy where it is generally associated with lower & working class families as a peasant food. Polenta would be made into a sort of mushy porridge which was cheap & filling. These days, whilst it’s still an Italian store cupboard staple, polenta is so much more. With a rich yolk-like yellow colour & slightly sweet flavour, polenta makes for the most beautifully golden coloured cakes.

Blood Orange & Rosemary Polenta Cake

What better addition to my ruby hued Italian blood orange could there be than bright, golden polenta. To add a little interest to both flavour & perfume, I’ve added some of my hardy herbs to the mixture. About the only things that do thrive in the garden throughout winter, namely rosemary (one of my favourite & most used herb in the kitchen). Fragrant rosemary works so well with fresh citrus flavours in this blood orange & rosemary polenta cake. The combination of whole oranges & polenta in this cake creates a wonderfully moist, light texture. A final, smooth layer of lightly sweetened mascarpone finishes off this cake perfectly, keeping it a thoroughly Italian affair.

Blood Orange & Rosemary Polenta Cake

(makes one 20cm cake)


For the cake:

  • 4 blood oranges
  • 6 large eggs
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 125g polenta
  • 125g ground almonds
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp rosemary, finely chopped

For the syrup:

  • Juice of 1 blood orange
  • 3 tbsp caster sugar
  • Sprig or rosemary

For the topping & decoration:

  • 250g mascarpone
  • 30g icing sugar
  • 1 blood orange
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 100ml water
  • A few sprigs of rosemary


For the cake:

  • Begin by boiling the blood oranges, add the oranges to a large saucepan & cover with water. Bring to the boil before reducing to a simmer for approximately 1 hour, until the orange have softened then, carefully remove the oranges & set aside until cool enough to handle
  • Once cooled ,slice the orange in half & remove any seeds before blitzing the oranges in a food processor or with a hand blender
  • Place the eggs & sugar to large bowl & use a whisk or a hand mixer to beat the two together until light & pale
  • Add the blitzed orange puree to the bowl & stir through
  • Sift the polenta, ground almonds & baking powder into the bowl & fold through
  • Finally, add the chopped rosemary to the bowl & fold through until evenly distributed
  • Pour the mixture into a deep 20cm round cake tin, greased & lined with baking parchment
  • Bake the cake at 160C for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake can be removed cleanly, without any mixture attached

For the syrup:

  • Whilst the cake is baking, make the syrup by adding the juice, sugar & rosemary sprig to a small saucepan & gently heat until all of the sugar has dissolved
  • Bring to gentle simmer & simmer away for 5-10 minutes until the mixture becomes syrupy
  • Once the cake is baked, remove from the oven & use a skewer to poke a few holes all over the top of the cake
  • Spoon over all of the syrup mixture
  • Leave the cake to cool in its tin for 10 minutes before removing & placing on a cooling rack to completely cool

For the topping:

  • In a bowl, soften the mascarpone before sifting over the icing sugar & beating together
  • Spread the topping all over the top of the cooled cake

For the decoration:

  • To make the candied orange slices, begin by slicing the orange quite thinly
  • Put the slices into a medium sized saucepan along with the sugar & water
  • Gently heat everything until the sugar has completely dissolved
  • Once dissolved, bring the mixture up to the boil & continue to boil for 5 – 10 minutes until the sugar & water have become thick & syrupy
  • Carefully remove the orange slices, allowing any excess liquid to fall away & place on a piece of baking parchment to cool
  • Once cooled, arrange the slices on top of the cake along with a few rosemary sprigs to decorate


  1. This is a fantastic recipe. I’ve made other blood orange polenta cakes but this is the best. Made it today to rave reviews.

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