An Austerity Cake (Well, sort of) of Orange and Polenta

Yesterday saw several UK cities, my own included, hosting Anti-Austerity rallies. I would have loved to have attended the London one, but child number two has a nasty case of chicken-pox and child number one required the taxi of mum and dad all day! I found myself idly looking through the kitchen cupboards at one point, thinking about Austerity and, to my mind what it breeds, poverty. I have never experienced poverty. Even as a child, the fact that my mother worked in a supermarket meant we always had lots of great food on the table – even if we didn’t have much of anything else. Today I am in the fortunate position of wanting for nothing. When I go to the supermarket I don’t have to look at what things cost, I buy what I want. I am very very lucky. Consequently the cupboards are often bursting with things we don’t need and I throw too much away. While I scanned the cupboards, a bag of polenta caught my eye, along with some ground almonds. I can’t cook with polenta. its always tasteless mush. BUT I remember eating a DELICIOUS slice of lemon Polenta cake in a Soho cafe the other week. There were also several oranges that needed eating. Ha! I will use these to make a cake I thought. Remembering how fortunate we are and vowing to use the stuff piling up in my cupboards and stop wasting food, when I am so so fortunate and others are not. It turned out well. A surprise to me –  I am generally a cook rather than a baker. So am pleased to share this with you…and if you were on the rallies yesterday, well done – you are awesome.

You will need:

  • 200g soft unsalted butter
  • 200g Demerera sugar (plu 50 g for the syrup)
  • 2 large eggs (or 3 medium)
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 150g ground almonds
  • 150g polenta
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • juice and rind of three oranges
  • one of two springs of fresh rosemary


  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees. Butter and paper line your cake tin really well, including the paper.
  • Grate the rind of all three oranges and juice all three as well. Keep separately and set aside.
  • Beat the sugar (200g) and butter until really soft and fluffy, there should be no lumps. I prefer to do this by hand than in a mixer.
  • Next, add the vanilla essence and eggs slowly – you will want to do this part with a mixer. Keep beating till its a really smooth consistency.
  • Add the polenta, ground almonds and baking powder. Mix well for several minutes.
  • Next, pour in half of the orange juice, half of the rind and the rosemary – mix in.
  • Pour the mixture gently into the cake tin. It should be smooth but will look a little ‘grainy’ because of the polenta. It will also be little drier than usual cake mixture.
  • Bake for about 40 mins. Till firm in the middle and coming away from the sides. make sure it does not burn.
  • Let it stand for 5 mins then VERY carefully turn out to a plate – its a really crumbly cake and this bit can be tricky to keep it together. take your time. its does fall apart a bit.

Before it cools down fully, make the sticky syrup. to do this:

  • Heat the rest of the orange juice, rind and 50g sugar super gently till it bubbles and reduces. It will become a little thicker and sticky – but not too much! make a few fork holes in the cake and pour over.

You can serve on its own or with some ice-cream or creme-fraiche.


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