Sweet polenta cake with orange, lemon and almond

It is believed that this polenta cakes has its origins in Ivrea, a town in the province of Torin, Piedmont, Italy. The cake is traditionally covered with a drizzle of honey and orange juice. We believe that the cake is made as a symbol of the Battle of the Oranges which takes place there every year during carnivale.

Made with just a few ingredients, this is the type of cake that Italian housewives will whip up upon the arrival of unexpected guests or serve with the Sunday meal.

Battle of the Oranges

The Battle of the Oranges takes place during the last three ‘fat carnivale days: Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and involves thousands of towns people. Nine combat teams ‘on-the-ground’ (representing the revolutionaries), throw oranges at ten ‘cart-based’ teams (representing the Duke’s guard).

Legend has it that a ‘Mugnaia’, who was a woman chosen from among the citizens spouses, once refused to accept the ‘right’ of the local duke to spend a night with each newly-wed woman, and chopped off his head.

The origin of the tradition to throw oranges is not well understood, particularly as oranges do not grow in the foothills of the Italian Alps and must be transported from Sicily. In 1994 an estimate of 265,000 kilograms (584,000 lb) of oranges were brought to the city for the Battle of the Oranges. These oranges mainly came from leftovers of the winter crop in southern Italy.

Sweet polenta Cake – Serves up to 12

  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil, plus extra for greasing pan
  • 1 cup natural sugar
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1 cup fine polenta (or cornmeal)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (use gluten-free, if needed)
  • 3 large eggs
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Juice of 1 orange, for drizzling
  • Raw honey for drizzling
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Line the base of a 9 inch springform cake pan with baking parchment. Grease bottom and sides lightly with some of the oil.
  3. Whip 2/3 cup of oil and sugar together, until pale and fully combined.
  4. Mix together the almond flour, polenta, and baking powder, and beat part of this dry mixture into the oil/sugar mixture, followed by 1 egg. Continue to add the ingredients and alternate the dry ingredients and eggs. Beat thoroughly until it is all incorporated.
  5. Finally, beat in the lemon zest and vanilla, and pour, spoon, or scrape the mixture into your prepared cake pan.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes, or until lightly golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. The edges of the cake should have begun to shrink away from sides of the pan.
  7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Release the sides of the pan and invert cake onto a cake platter. Drizzle with orange juice and honey while the polenta cake is still warm.
  8. Serve immediately, or store at room temperature overnight or in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
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