bien cuit

Rhubarb and orange polenta cake

cakes, desserts | May 2, 2017 | By

Rhubarb is a quintessential taste of spring. The first pink stalks are eagerly awaited in the markets in France from late April onwards. Bizarrely the French seem to prefer mammoth-sized stalks, so a friendly chat with the stallholder in my local market usually results in him agreeing to pick me out all the tender thin stalks that his compatriots aren’t so keen on. The French also recommend peeling their rhubarb – something that has never made sense to me, as along with the skin you remove most of that gorgeous colour.

If you want to make even more of that amazing colour when you’re poaching rhubarb then you have a few options – you can add a shot of cassis to the poaching syrup or alternatively another trick I read about on the lovely Mad about Macarons blog recently is to add some dried hibiscus flowers to the pan. 

This recipe came about as I wracked by brains trying to think of a suitable dessert for a Spring-themed charity lunch I held at home recently. I love flat Italian style polenta cakes – they are so delicious warm from the oven, but are also very easy to dress up for dessert with a little crème fraîche, crème anglaise or ice cream.

It was a recipe certainly worth working on, as everyone absolutely loved it at the lunch. I plan to make it again later in the year when the apricots are in the market, although I might swap the orange and cardamom flavourings for lemon zest and a little amaretto. If you make it, do leave a comment!

By the way, I have made this using the ‘instant’ type polenta that is finely ground and also the coarser maize grits, and both worked well.


Rhubarb, almond and polenta cake (serves 8+)

300g young thin stalks of fresh rhubarb, washed and cut into 2cm pieces
2 tbsp demerara sugar

175g unsalted butter, softened
150g golden caster sugar
200g ground almonds
4 medium eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange (untreated), finely grated
juice of half an orange
75g polenta, fine or coarse 
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
seeds from 10 cardamom pods, ground in a pestle and mortar
2 tbsp flaked almonds

  1. Mix together the rhubarb and demerara sugar and set aside for an hour.
  2. Grease the sides and base of a 9” 22cm spring from cake tin. Line the base with a circle of baking parchment.
  3. After the rhubarb has macerated, drain it in a sieve over a bowl and then preheat the oven to 160C (140C fan).
  4. Beat together the butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy.
  5. Beat in the ground almonds, and then the eggs, one at a time.
  6. Fold in the vanilla, orange zest and juice.
  7. In a small bowl combine the polenta, baking powder, salt and ground cardamom.
    Fold this dry mixture into the wet one.
  8. Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and level the surface. Arrange the drained rhubarb evenly over the surface and then scatter the flaked almonds over.
  9. Bake for about 75 mins until the centre springs back when touched and the mixture is dry to the point of a knife or skewer. Cover the top loosely with foil if it is browning too much for the last 15 mins.
    Best served warm.


  1. Leave a Reply

    May 10, 2017

    Is this the wonderful cake you baked for us at Easter? It was delicious!

  2. Leave a Reply

    Jane Greenlee
    May 10, 2017

    I made the cake. It is delicious. I followed the recipe almost to the letter (I forgot the salt and had to combine butter and Stork marg as I did not have enough butter). It turned out so well. It was still moist and fresh tasting 4 days after baking. Thank you for such a good recipe. It is set to become a firm family favourite in our house.

    • Leave a Reply

      May 10, 2017

      It lasted 4 days at your house?! It barely makes it past two here! So glad you made it and liked it Jane!

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