Orange Polenta Cake

Image of Stevie Parle

Picture courtesy of

I’ve got used to policeman looking younger than me but now chefs are getting in on the act. Sad but true.

Still, when it’s Stevie Parle, one of the new generation (comparatively speaking) of culinary wunderkinds, I really don’t mind.

He is one of those people who creates the sort of apparently effortless food you really want to eat.

Having worked and/or trained at Ballymaloe, the River Cafe and Moro, he has the sort of culinary pedigree that immediately sparks my interest.

The Ballymaloe cookery school, run by Irish food guru Darina Allen, a legend in her own lunchtime: check. The husband-and-wife team, Sam and Sam Clark, and their terrific Spanish/Moorish-inspired restaurant Moro: check. And the justly famous River Cafe, set up by Ruth Rogers and the late Rose Gray and which has trained a series of chefs now hugely successful in their own right, including the Clarks, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver: check.

Stevie Parle runs his own restaurant now, the Dock Kitchen in London, as well as writing cookery books, a column for the Daily Telegraph and making television programmes. And he’s still only 28. Ho hum.

His cookery writing is appetising and interesting while remaining refreshingly fuss-free. This is a recipe from his Telegraph column for a delicious and very pretty orange and polenta cake. It’s dairy- and gluten-free and makes a lovely dessert.

Image of finished cake

Stevie Parle uses extra virgin olive oil. I replaced it with extra virgin, cold pressed rapeseed oil, which tastes just as good and gives the cake an extra golden glow.

Blood oranges have a short season but you can still find them in the shops, labelled variously as blood oranges, blush oranges or sweet Sicilian oranges. Failing that, use ordinary oranges. It will still taste good but won’t look quite as beautiful.

The recipe suggests you use a loose-bottomed tin. Be warned, the juice can run, so stand it on a tray lined with a sheet of baking parchment when it goes in the oven. Or use a different tin. And do use fine-ground polenta.

You can find the original recipe here:

Stevie Parle's Orange Polenta Cake

  • Servings: 12+ depending on greed
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Image of dry ingredients

5 large or 7 small oranges, preferably blood oranges

300g sugar

250g fine-ground polenta

200g ground almonds

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

4 eggs, beaten

225 ml extra-virgin rapeseed oil


Put two of the oranges, skins and all, in a deep pan, cover with cold water and simmer for an hour until completely soft.

Drain, then remove any pips and whizz the oranges, including the skins, to a puree in a food processor.

Preheat the oven to 170c/325F/Gas Mark 3. Grease and line a 23cm cake tin.

Scatter a tablespoon of the sugar over the base of the tin.

Peel the oranges then cut horizontally into 1cm slices, discarding any pips.

Image of blood oranges being peeled

Arrange them in concentric circles, overlapping, on the base of the tin. I failed to do the overlap and the cake, while still beautiful (I think) had rather sad bits of batter showing between the slices. Harken to the maestro.

Image of sliced oranges lining bottom of tin

Combine the dry ingredients in a big bowl and add the beaten eggs.

Stir in the oil and orange puree, stirring well to avoid any lumps.

Image of oil being poured into batter

Image of orange puree being stirred into the mixPour the batter over the oranges and cook in the middle of the oven for 75-90 minutes or until a skewer comes  out clean.

Cool in the tin before inverting onto a plate to serve. Lovely with creme fraiche.

Image of cake with a big slice taken out

I made this as a birthday cake for a friend and things got a bit blurry at the party

Image of slice of cake with creme fraiche

14 thoughts on “Orange Polenta Cake

  1. That is a beautiful cake! I am embarrassed to be so dim, but, I have a question. It seems the oranges in the water are not peeled but also seems blending the skin in the food processor would be very bitter. What am I missing? Thanks for everything.

    • Hi Chip, thank you and you’re not being dim at all. I know it sounds weird but it works. You boil the oranges in their skins for an hour until they’re soft (rather like making marmalade) and then whizz the whole thing (except for any pips) in a food processor. When you taken into account the fairly small amount of puree compared to the sugar and remaining ingredients, it’s not bitter at all, it just gives it a lovely fragrant orange flavour.

  2. Looks fantastic Mrs P. Interesting use of polenta. I used it with some Indian lamb shanks recently. Post to follow.
    I find it a bit depressing when the Garda Commissioner (Our chief of police, recently retired in a scandal) looks young to me!

    • I’ve just had a look at some pictures of him and I’m sure you’re telling porkies. I’m looking forward to the lamb shanks – I sometimes do them in a tagine but haven’t tried them with Indian spices. Now I’m feeling peckish.

  3. Pingback: National Vegetarian Week | Mrs Portly's Kitchen

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