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The Best Polenta Orange Cake

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Amazing polenta orange cake! It is soaked with syrup, so soft, moist, and delicious! The best sweet polenta cake I have ever had!

slice of polenta cake with orange syrup on a yellow plate with a fork.

This polenta orange cake (also-known-as malai dulce – sweet cornmeal – in Romanian) is the end of a long quest after a sweet and delicious recipe made with polenta. I’ve made many polenta cakes over the years, searching for the one I would like, the one I imagined so many times when reading some recipes. And this is it – the best orange and polenta cake recipe! Who says polenta is only for making savory dishes?

And if you would like to check more orange dessert recipes, have a look at the Orange Drizzle Cake, the Orange Tiramisu or the Orange Popsicles.

Why is this the best recipe?

  • Texture: The best there is! Soft, moist, no grittiness, although the cornmeal was not cooked before.
  • Taste: Incredibly delicious; you can really taste the oranges.
  • Super easy to make: Stir the ingredients, bake, make the syrup, and soak the cake with it.
  • Potluck cake: Easy to transport and eat without a plate and spoon.

Recipe ingredients

listed ingredients for orange polenta cake.

Polenta:

  • I used medium cornmeal or polenta with a short cooking time; the instructions on the package indicated 10 minutes of cooking time. Choosing a cornmeal type that doesn’t need to be cooked for a long time helps against the grittiness you will experience if you use coarse cornmeal.
  • Not corn flour, which is completely fine and smooth.

Semolina:

  • For the same reason, I chose a fine/ soft semolina kind.
  • I live in Germany and there are two sorts of semolina here: the coarse/hard one that I use to make dumplings for soup and the fine/soft kind used to make semolina porridge or semolina desserts, for instance.

Oranges:

  • It is preferable to use organic ones as you will also need the orange zest. Choose unwaxed oranges, wash them with hot water and dry them well before zesting.
  • You can also bake the cake with blood oranges.

Greek yogurt:

  • Full-fat creamy yogurt.

Oil:

  • A neutral-tasting kind of oil like canola or very mild sunflower oil. Don’t use olive oil or anything else with a pungent taste.

Other ingredients: eggs, sugar, milk, baking powder, vanilla sugar, vanilla extract or vanilla essence, lemon juice, icing sugar.

sliced sweet polenta cake with orange slices on top.

Recipe steps

Orange polenta cake:

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius/ 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a casserole dish, 28×18 cm/ 11×7 inches. Grate zest of one of the whole oranges; you will need about 1 tablespoon of zest or more to taste.
  • Dry ingredients: Mix the cornmeal, semolina, baking powder, and grated orange peel in a small bowl. Set aside (1).
small bowl with cornmeal mixed with semolina.
  • Eggs: Separate the eggs. Beat the egg whites until stiff and set aside. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks, sugar, vanilla sugar, or vanilla extract and 50 g/ 1.7 oz/ scant ¼ cup of the yogurt until pale and thick (2). Use an electric mixer or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment.

collage of two pictures of beating egg yolks for batter.
  • Add the vegetable oil in a slow stream while beating all the time. Add the rest of the yogurt and beat for about 1 minute. Add the milk and mix shortly (3).
  • Slowly add the cornmeal – semolina mixture to the wet ingredients mixing with a regular eggbeater/whisk this time (4).
collage of two pictures of mixing batter for cake.
  • Fold in the egg whites carefully (6). Pour the cake batter into the prepared tin (7).
  • Bake for about 45 minutes or until the cake is golden and a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.
collage of two pictures of cake batter and batter in a baking dish.

Orange syrup:

  • In the meantime, make the syrup.
  • Juice the citrus fruit until you have about 100 ml/ ½ cup juice.
  • Sieve the orange juice into a small saucepan; add the sugar and the lemon juice. Heat on medium heat. When it starts to boil, remove it immediately, you should have a relatively thin syrup (8).
  • Once the polenta orange cake is ready, poke holes all over with a toothpick.
  • Pour the syrup all over the top of the cake and let the cake cool completely in the dish (9).
collage of two pictures of making orange syrup and soaking a cake.

Finish:

  • Cut the cake into squares, remove them carefully from the baking dish, place them on a serving plate, and sprinkle with icing sugar.
  • Decorate with orange slices if you wish.

Expert tips and FAQ

You might not need all the syrup to soak the polenta orange cake; I had a little leftover, but not much. Use as much as necessary and make sure to soak a bit more around the edges, should they be a little drier than the rest of the polenta dessert.

Recipe FAQ

Which cornmeal is the best to use?

A finer type of cornmeal/polenta with a short cooking time. This is important. Otherwise, the sweet polenta cake might be too gritty. Choose a sort with 10 minutes of cooking time.
The same goes for the semolina; use a soft/fine type.

Can I make it ahead?

Yes, you can make the orange polenta cake one day ahead; leave it to cool in the baking dish. Once cool, cover it with a clean kitchen towel and keep it at room temperature until the next day.

How to store?

Store leftovers for up to one day on the counter and 3-4 days in an airtight container in the fridge.
Freeze leftover pieces on a plate. Once solid, transfer to freezer bags and freeze for 2-3 months. Defrost on the counter. You can refresh the pieces shortly in the oven.

Other serving suggestions?

Serve the polenta orange cake with whipped cream, Greek yogurt, or crème Fraiche stirred with a bit of brown sugar. Or try it with some ice cream.

small cake pieces decorated with orange slicing and icing sugar.

More polenta recipes:

slice of polenta cake with orange syrup on a yellow plate with a fork.

The Best Polenta Orange Cake

Amazing polenta orange cake! It is soaked with syrup, sosoft, moist, and delicious! The best sweet polenta cake I have ever had!
5 from 6 votes
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Course: Desserts
Cuisine: Romanian
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings: 12
Calories: 238kcal
Author: Adina

Equipment

  • Casserole dish, 28x18 cm/ 11x7 inches

Ingredients 

Cake:

  • 150 g 1 cup medium cornmeal (5.5 oz), Note 2
  • 50 g ¼ cup fine/soft semolina (1.8 oz)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange peel optional (Note 3)
  • 3 eggs large
  • 125 g 2/3 cup granulated sugar (4.5 oz)
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla sugar or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 450 g 1 ¾ cup Greek yogurt (1 lb), divided
  • 100 ml scant ½ cup vegetable oil ( 3.5 fl.oz)
  • 50 ml scant ¼ cup milk (1.7 fl.oz)
  • icing sugar to dust
  • 1 orange to decorate optional

For the orange syrup:

  • the juice of 2-3 oranges about 100 ml/ 3.4 fl. oz/ scant ½ cup fresh juice
  • 50 g ¼ cup sugar (1.7 oz)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Instructions

Sweet polenta cake:

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius/ 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a casserole dish, 28x18 cm/ 11x7 inches.
  • Mix the cornmeal, semolina, baking powder, and grated orange peel in a bowl. Set aside.
  • Eggs: Separate the eggs. Beat the egg whites until stiff and set aside. In a larger bowl, beat the egg yolks, sugar, vanilla sugar, or vanilla extract and 50 g/ 1.7 oz/ scant ¼ cup of the yogurt until pale and thick.
  • Add the vegetable oil in a slow stream while beating all the time.
  • Add the rest of the yogurt and beat for about 1 minute.
  • Add the milk and mix shortly.
  • Slowly add the cornmeal – semolina mixture mixing with a regular egg beater/whisk this time.
  • Fold in the egg whites carefully.
  • Bake: Pour the mixture into the prepared dish and bake for about 45 minutes or until the cake is golden and a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Orange syrup:

  • In the meantime, make the orange syrup. Juice the oranges until you have about 100 ml/ ½ cup juice. Sieve the juice into a small pot add the sugar and the lemon juice.
  • When it starts to boil, remove it immediately, you should have a relatively thin syrup.
  • Poke cake: When baked, take the cake out of the oven and prick it all over with a toothpick.
  • Soak cake: Pour about ¾ of the syrup all over the cake. Add a bit more around the edges, should they be drier than the rest of the cake.
  • Cool completely in the dish. Cut the cake into squares, remove carefully from the baking dish and sprinkle with icing sugar. Decorate with orange wedges if you wish.

Notes

  1. A digital kitchen scale will give you the most precise measure ensuring the best bake possible (Amazon affiliate link).
  2. Look for a sort with a short cooking time – mine needed only 10 minutes.
  3. From an organic, unwaxed orange.

Nutrition

Serving: 1square | Calories: 238kcal | Carbohydrates: 32g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 49mg | Sodium: 120mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 18g
Tried this Recipe? Pin it for Later!Mention @adinabeck or tag #WhereIsMySpoon!

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Recipe Rating




Sissi

Thursday 2nd of February 2017

Adina, you are amazing! You should write a book about polenta! Your recipes are so creative! I love this orange cake idea as much as savoury dishes.

Laura Dembowski

Wednesday 1st of February 2017

Cornmeal can definitely add that grit to cakes that is just unpleasant. I always use superfine and make sure there isn't too much in a recipe. The best thing I made with cornmeal was a blackberry buckle. Oh, man, was it good.

Kathryn @ Family Food on the Table

Monday 30th of January 2017

Doesn't it feel so good to finally find the recipe you love?! Sounds like it was a lot of testing and a lot of hard work to bring us this cake - and it looks SO worth it in my opinion! Looks so light and fresh and that orange syrup? Oh yum!!! Way to stick with it - you found a winner for sure! ???

grace

Monday 30th of January 2017

this cake looks to have an amazing texture! i think cornmeal is very underused as a dessert ingredient. :)

Cheyanne @ No Spoon Necessary

Monday 30th of January 2017

I've never had polenta in a cake before!! This is another great post on polenta, girlfriend! LOVE the orange syrup here! Looks delicious! Cheers!