How to Make This Easy Orange Polenta Olive Oil Cake

It’s citrus season in California. Our farmer’s market has been brimming with all different types of oranges. Originally, I tried a different recipe to create a blood orange polenta cake, but it didn’t turn out so well. The texture was off, or at least, I wasn’t a fan. Then I found this orange polenta olive oil cake and thought it sounded like a winner. Sure enough, it turned out so much better than the first one.

I know this recipe might seem complicated, but it’s actually pretty straight forward. If you love to bake, like I do, then I know you’ll enjoy the process of making this cake. I personally find baking so relaxing, even therapeutic, so the additional steps in this recipe made the whole process that more fun for me.

This was actually the first time I ever had polenta cake. Polenta is an Italian staple. I try to create Italian recipes whenever I can as a way to connect to my family heritage. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I actually really enjoyed this cake. It is totally different than any other cake I’ve had before. I’d actually compare it more to a very sweet corn bread. This particular recipe is extremely citrus-y. The orange flavor really comes through and the syrup glaze is very sweet.

Overall, this cake turned out really well and I can definitely envision trying this again with all of the wonderful citrus I can find here in LA.

Orange Polenta Olive Oil Cake


4 oranges
2/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cornmeal (not stoneground)
1 t. baking powder
¾ t. salt
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more, as needed
¾ cup + 3 T. granulated sugar, divided
3 eggs
2 T. orange juice concentrate
1 T. lemon juice


Preheat oven to 350ºF. With microplane, grate zest from two oranges; set aside. Juice remaining oranges; set aside. Cut both ends off zested oranges; cut each orange crosswise into 1/8- to 1/16-inch-thick rounds. All oranges should be cut in half except for one slice; discard center pith.

Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over bottom of ovenproof 10-inch skillet; sprinkle with 2 T. orange juice. Heat skillet over medium-low heat until most sugar bubbles. Remove from heat.

Starting at the outer edge of the pan, lay halved orange slices in melted sugar with “scalloped” edge of each slice touching pan edge. Fit as many orange slices as possible into circle. Arrange remaining halved orange slices in concentric circles toward center, finishing with reserved whole slice in center.

In medium bowl, sift together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. In electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, on medium speed, beat together olive oil and ¾ cup granulated sugar until thickened and golden. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, until mixture is thick and creamy-gold, 3-5 minutes, total. Beat in zest and 1 T. orange juice. On low speed, add flour mixture in three batches, beating after each addition just until blended.

Pour batter evenly over orange slices and smooth top. Bake cake until golden-brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.

While the cake is baking, make soaking syrup. In a small pot, stir together remaining orange juice, remaining 3 T. granulated sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook until mixture reduces to consistency of maple syrup, 3-5 minutes. Reduce heat, as needed, to prevent burning.

Let cake cool in pan on wire rack for 5 minutes. Run a thin-bladed knife around inside edge of pan to loosen cake sides. Invert serving plate over cake, invert pan and plate together, lift off pan. If fruit sticks to pan, loosen and place on the cake. While the cake is hot, use a fork or bamboo skewer to make holes without going all the way through. Spoon or brush some syrup over cake. Allow to soak in; spoon or brush on more. Repeat until all syrup is used. Allow cake to cool completely before slicing.


  1. I have never had a polenta cake before. This looks so yummy! I also find baking therapeutic. Something about it that’s just calming. Plus, the sweet smell always make any day so much better!

    Maureen |

    1. This was my first time trying polenta cake too! It’s definitely different than traditional cake – it’s a lot denser, like corn bread, but I really liked it and yes, a great orange smell!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *