Lemon Almond Polenta Cake (G-Free)

by Sally on March 27, 2011 · 17 comments

in Baked Goods, Breakfast, Dessert, Gluten-free

From the first bite, you experience the soft crunchy texture from cornmeal and ground almonds, the fresh flavor of lemon, and moist richness that comes from olive oil. You will never believe this is gluten-free, dairy-free and can be made low sugar. My go-to dessert.

Of Cornmeal and Olive Oil

Needing a gluten-free, dairy-free dessert for a client, I adapted one of my favorite cake recipes from Deborah Krasner’s The Flavors of Olive Oil: A Tasting Guide and Cookbook to meet the need. I also turned to Bob’s Red Mill for gluten free cornmeal and flour blend.

By using gluten-free cornmeal, gluten-free flour blend and almond milk, this olive oil cake turned out beautifully.  Now, I always make it this way. It’s one of my go-to dessert recipes and it never disappoints.

Perfect after dinner with fresh berries, this cake also works with a cup of tea in the afternoon or with a cup of coffee for a weekend breakfast.  Fresh berries are a nice addition but optional. I used to dust it with powdered sugar but no longer keep it in the pantry.

A Snap to Make in a Food Processor

There are many great things about this recipe. It is easy to make. The batter is done quickly in a food processor, then poured into a parchment-lined springform pan and baked.  It can be made two days ahead, wrapped and refrigerated. I think it would also freeze well, but it never lasts that long. No frosting required: just a dusting of powdered sugar (optional). Sometimes I add a little whipped cream on top, but it’s really not needed.

Honestly, I could just eat the batter. I relish licking the spatula and scraping my finger around the food processor bowl after the cake is in the oven.

To Reduce Sugar by Half

In my quest to reduce sugar, I’ve started making this with part granulated whole leaf stevia. I use Wholesome Sweeteners brand. As the substitution of sugar is half, I use a 1.2 cup of their Organic Sugar and 1/4 cup of the stevia.  (Note 3/6/14)

I plan to test the recipe with other nuts such as hazelnuts and pistachios. For a vegan version, I’d like to test an egg substitute or use flaxseed instead of the egg. No matter how you make it, I’ll bet it will become one of your regular recipes too.

Lemon Almond Polenta Cake (G-Free)

This recipe is from The Flavors of Olive Oil: A Tasting Guide and Cookbook by Deborah Krasner. I’ve adapted the recipe to be gluten-free, dairy-free and reduced the sugar. It’s wonderful for dessert with berries, even an afternoon snack or breakfast. For a reduced-sugar version, see note below. This recipe is most easily and accurately made with a digital kitchen scale.

Serves: 12


  • ½ cup (90 grams) gluten-free cornmeal, medium to coarse grind  (Bob’s Red Mill) or standard cornmeal
  • ½ cup  (70 grams) gluten-free flour blend (Bob’s Red Mill), other g-free blend or standard all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons (7 grams) baking powder, aluminum-free
  • ¼ teaspoon table salt (2 grams)
  • 1 ½ cups (7 ½ ounces or 210 grams) whole raw almonds
  • 1 cup, 7 3/4 ounces  (215 grams) sugar, preferably organic evaporated cane juice (see below to reduce sugar)
  • 1 large lemon, Meyer if available
  • ¾ cup (175 ml) extra virgin olive oil (use a fruity good quality oil)
  • ½ cup (125 ml) almond milk, organic unsweetened vanilla ( I use homemade, recipe is here)
  • 2 large eggs, organic
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • Powdered sugar to finish before serving, optional
  • Fresh berries and mint, optional

Special equipment

  • 9” (23 cm) springform pan
  • Parchment paper rounds or wax paper
  • Food processor with steel knife
  • Digital scale (helpful but not mandatory)


  1. Pre-heat oven to 325 (163C) degrees
  2. Spray a 9” springform pan with non-stick spray and line with a parchment round cut to fit the bottom.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt together.
  4. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel knife, pulse the almonds and sugar for about 30 seconds. They should have a coarse, sandy texture to them.
  5. Cut lemon in half. Juice one half to get 1 ½ tablespoons; discard rind and add juice to the food processor. Pick the seeds from the other lemon half, cut lemon half into four pieces and add to the food processor. Process for 45 seconds. Scrape down the bowl with a flexible spatula.
  6. Add oil, almond milk, eggs and almond extract. Process for 1 ½ minutes. Add the cornmeal/flour mixture and give it a few long pulses to combine.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake about 45-60 minutes, or until golden and firm to the touch. A cake tester or toothpick comes out with just moist crumbs attached. Timing depends on your ovens.
  8. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then run a thin bladed knife around the inside edge of the pan. Release the spring, remove the bottom pan and parchment, and cool on a wire rack. Let cool completely. Serve as desired with berries, whipped cream, whipped coconut milk or plain.

The cake will hold for two days wrapped well and refrigerated.

TO REDUCE SUGAR BY HALF: Use 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup granulated whole leaf stevia such a Wholesome Sweeteners.    

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Stephanie Weaver March 28, 2011 at 7:19 am

I can vouch for this amazing cake! It’s incredible. The photos came out fantastic! :)


2 Michelle K March 28, 2011 at 8:46 am

Yum! Got to try this one first hand it had a wonderful medley of flavors and textures. Went wonderfully with the fresh organic strawberries and was very satisfying after dinner. Thanks!!


3 Maribel March 28, 2011 at 2:17 pm

This couldn’t come at a better time as we are going to a get together this weekend where the host is gluten intolerant! Thanks, Sally!


4 Mike March 28, 2011 at 5:33 pm

Fantstic cake recipe! Can’t wait to bake this one for the family party this weekend and I learned you can mix a cake batter in a food processor.
Thanks and Regards

blenders and food processors


5 Jayne March 29, 2011 at 1:21 pm

That looks and sounds amzing!


6 Jennifer (Delicieux) March 29, 2011 at 10:56 pm

Firstly, let me say I love your photo of the gorgeous cake. Yum!

I make a lemon almond cake but I love the idea of including polenta. I will have to try this. Thanks for sharing :D


7 Dr. Patrick Mahaney March 30, 2011 at 1:06 pm

Looks delicious, as usual! I am a huge fan of polenta, so it is nice to see its’ nontraditional use in a cake.


8 Dianne Jacob April 11, 2011 at 8:30 pm

I took this cake to a friends’ place for a housewarming gift. My friend Tom had 3 servings! Then he sent an email the next morning saying he and his wife had it for breakfast. So I would say it’s a success. It was rich yet light, great texture, and I loved the lemon and almond flavors. I was sad to give it up as a gift.


9 gitika partington April 24, 2012 at 2:29 pm

adapted because I did not have everything…used dark dark sugar, coconut milk instead of almond milk, and vanilla instead of almond essence…..and was still lovely thanks
made it for my choir and it all went!!!!! I did cook it for an extra 20 mins though as I was using fan assisted oven and took the temp down 5degrees…put it back up to 160 after an hour…still looked a bit like it was undercooked in the middle on top…but it was absolutely fine! “best cake” said Mr P. ans I am no cake maker ( am now)


10 Eva Chowaniec January 27, 2013 at 10:57 am

The cake looks just wonderful! I have to go and get the ingredients for it tomorrow!

One question though: Is it possible to substitute the sugar with Stevia in liquid or powdered form?

Thank you for this wonderful recipe and the mouth-watering pictures!


11 Sally January 27, 2013 at 11:09 am

Hi Eva. I’m not sure. I’ve never tried it. It’s harder to substitute ingredients when baking. If you are looking for an alternative sweetener other than sugar, have you tied coconut sugar? Even if you used half of the sugar and just a little stevia. That might work, although it is not as sweet as sugar, and this is not a very sweet cake anyway. Thinking about the recipe and process, the sugar is ground in the food processor with the almonds. If you used powdered stevia, it would be different in terms of the texture of the meal that you are making. It would be less in volume for one thing. I’m thinking that the cake might come out flatter, which would not be bad. If you decide to try it please report back and let me know how it works. I will have to try it that way myself as an experiment, then update the post and recipe with a note. It really is a delicious cake!


12 Eva Chowaniec February 5, 2013 at 11:53 am

Hello Sally,

I did take your advice and substituted half of the sugar with a 1/2 tsp. powdered Stevia. It did come out a little flatter as you suspected, but let me tell you!!!! This cake is INCREDIBLE!
I actually had to make it twice that weekend, the first time I didn’t have real lemon at hand so I substituted with lemon granulate that claims to be “real” and added a little more almond essence. This was my husband’s and my kids’ favourite.
I made the cake again for some friends and stuck to your recipe (only the sugar/Stevia combination I kept)…and this turned out to be MY favourite due to the slight bitterness the lemon rind added…

Either way this recipe is a keeper!!!! Shouldn’t make it too often though or I will have to go clothes shopping soon!!!

Thank you so much!!!!


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