August 16th, 2009


My Farewell Celebration Cake for Mum; Lemon, Polenta and Almond Cake

This lemon, polenta and almond cake recipe has been with me since I was a young commis chef working in a London restaurant. This is another one of my recipes that has left me with fabulous memories,mainly of grafting really hard as a young chef. I remember the seriously lemony zing and I loved eating the raw batter.When I made this cake yesterday as my farewell to mum, the memories came flooding back as if it were yesterday.

The time has come for mum to return home and the tissues are at the ready as we are preparing to take mum to Heathrow. I thought no farewell would be proper without baking a cake. After all I owe mum a big thank you for all the ironing, cleaning, chatting and teaching me how to knit. Mum brought a few recipes and even grannies book came along and now she’s returning with this one to bake for her friends.

Like me, mum loved the richness, moistness and lemony punch that this cake delivers, if she could, she would have taken a few slices on the plane. As we were eating the cake we were  analysing it in depth as we have been doing with all the recipes during the past three months. We came to the conclusion that this cake would be lovely for a glorious afternoon tea and would also make a scrummy pudding with a big dollop of mascarpone ice cream.


I did make a few alterations to the recipe from my previous commis day’s by adding the crunchy almond and sugar topping and the boozy addition. As it’s a celebratory cake a glug of Amaretto fits the bill quite nicely.


  • 225g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 225g ground almonds
  • 3 large free-range eggs
  • 115g polenta
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped
  • 4 small lemons, zest and juice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1tsp amaretto liqueur
  • 50g light brown sugar
  • 50g flaked almonds

Preheat the oven to 150°C; line and grease a 7"(18cm) OR 8"(20cm) spring form tin, I have used the 7" today and the cake was level with the top. I used to bake this cake in a 8" pan which results in a slightly shallower cake.

I recommend unwaxed lemons for this recipe as it has a clean taste and a very powerful fragrance. Zest all the lemons thoroughly and squeeze the juice, strain the juice to remove the pips and set aside.

Cream the soft unsalted butter, vanilla seeds and the sugar until pale and fluffy. Fold the ground almonds into the creamed butter and sugar mixture. Add the eggs one at a time, mix well after each addition. Add the amaretto liqueur and the lemon zest and juice.

Sprinkle the polenta and baking powder over the egg batter and lightly fold it in, do not over work the mixture. The mix is naturally runny.

Pour the mixture in to the prepared cake tin, place the cake tin in the preheated oven on the middle shelf and bake for 1 ½ hour, test if the cake is cooked by inserting a metal skewer and if it comes out clean with a light oily residue left on the skewer, then its ready.

Sprinkle the flaked almonds and light brown sugar over the cooked cake, I then spray the top of the cake with clean water a couple of times, return the cake to the oven for a further 8 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool until lukewarm before removing the tin.

This cake has a very fine texture and is very rich so small slices will be highly recommended.

Serves 8 - 10 slices of cake

Print Recipe Print Recipe with Photo

20 Comments to “My Farewell Celebration Cake for Mum; Lemon, Polenta and Almond Cake”

Pages: [2] 1 » Show All

  1. Wendy Seal says:

    Hi again. Just wondered if this cake might be ok to freeze, that would solve my problem.
    Wendy Seal.

  2. Madalene says:

    Hi Wendy,

    Freezing will be fine.

    Happy cooking

  3. Saintothers says:

    Made two 5″ cakes instead of one 7″, they turned out perfectly – a very delicious lemon cake: will definitely make again.

  4. I feel like I’ve stumbled upon a treasure trove of recipes, oh wait, I have! Thanks. This cake looks exceptional.

  5. Christine says:

    I made the cake today finally. We had it warm with berries and some creme anglaise we made a couple of nights ago. But the batter was not runny at all so I was a little concerned. And I have a convection oven so it was baked in an hour. Thank god I decided to go take a look. And it turned out great. Unfortunately it is only 2 of us so we have a lot of cake left. Hopefully it will still be good tomorrow.

  6. Christine says:

    Hi Madalene, there used to be a local bakery that made a fantastic almond polenta cake that is about 2″ wide and 3/4 of an inch thick. That cake is light with the polenta bits giving crunch inside and a nice crust on top. The bakery is no longer and I have been looking for a similar recipe for a long time.

    I am really eager to try your recipe and be successful. First because of my own craving plus my husband is gluten sensitive. It is always a treat to be able to cook a ‘normal” cake that everyone can eat. However, since there are so many different sizes of lemon, I am concerned. Can you provide a ball park volume of the juice needed? 1 cup total? Or is a ‘small lemon’ about the size of an egg or any smaller?

    Thank you! Thank you!

  7. Madalene says:

    Hi Christine
    I used fairly small lemons and work on 50ml of juice per lemon so for this recipe I would allow 200ml of lemon juice.

    Happy Baking,

  8. Jose says:

    I made this recipe and while it was really good I don’t think it came out the way it should have. I have a few questions about it. I got nervous about putting the batter into the spring form pan since there was so much liquid so I put it in a regular pan What do you do to make sure liquid doesn’t drip out of the cracks? The batter really didn’t combine well enough to soak up the lemon juice.
    Also, It was a 9 inch pan also since I don’t have an 8 inch pans. It ended up baking like a lemon bar. The lemon juice baked on the bottom (which inverted became the top) and was almost like lemon curd while the rest was a dense, crust like cake. Like I said, it tastes like lemon bars (albeit really tasty lemon bars).
    Also, how much vanilla flavor comes through in the cake? The lemon seemed to overpower either the vanilla or the amaretto.

  9. Madalene says:

    Hi Jose,
    Using a 9inch instead of a 8 inch is fine, I think that you should have reduced the cooking time with 8/ 10 minutes as the cake was shallower. It sound as if your lemons where very juicy and large, I suggest next time that you use three lemons if your lemons is big and juicy. The recipe refer to small lemons. I think your polenta might also have something to do with it. I use fine ground polenta which is early the consistency of semolina, finely ground. The cake batter is suppose to be soft and runny as described in the recipe. The cake is also moist and not suppose to be dry at all. I use a spring form and close the gaps by closing the spring and the batter stays inside, I also line the cake tin with parchment paper. The vanilla is suppose to be complimentary flavour and not a prominent vanilla flavour. All in all I think the quantity of lemon was too much, if your lemons are large reduce the number to three.
    Hope you will try this recipe again.
    Happy Baking Madalene

  10. Annabelle says:

    I’m making this cake for the second time today due to popular demand – it’s especially good served warm.

    I also left out the amaretto as didn’t have any but have seen other recipes using limoncello which sounds yummy too

Pages: [2] 1 » Show All

Leave a Comment