Flourless almond, orange and polenta cake

January diets can be hard. I should know, I’ve been on one for 20 days now.

So if you’re feeling anything like I am, you’re probably ready to treat yourself to something naughty food-wise now (within reason). That’s where this cake recipe comes in – it’s a very GI-friendly cake (not quite as amazingly low GI as my squidgy black bean brownies, but much better for you than a standard cake recipe). It replaces flour with polenta and ground almonds and uses soft brown sugar rather than caster sugar. It should still be enjoyed in moderation (although try telling George and Chris that, who devoured over half of it between them in about 30 minutes) but one slice will hopefully satisfy your sweet cravings without being too damaging.



It’s delicious too. Utterly, completely, delicious. I put it down to the lack of flour – the polenta, ground almonds and pureed orange make it irresistibly dense and damp and wonderful.

It goes perfectly with your morning coffee and a good book.

almondcake5You will need:

  • 150g polenta
  • 200g ground almonds
  • 2 large oranges, whole
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 350g soft brown sugar (or golden caster sugar, if you’re not dieting)
  • 23cm diameter round springform cake tin

For the drippy lemon icing (if making)

  • Around 7 or 8 tbsp icing sugar
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • zest of 1 lemon

ps. You’ll notice this uses a lot of eggs. This is because the eggs, together with the orange puree, replace the “fat” in this recipe (ie. the role in the cake recipe that would usually be occupied by lots of butter or oil). So don’t worry if the number seems very high – it works beautifully.

almondcake71. Boil your 2 whole oranges (rind on) in a large saucepan with just enough boiling water to cover them. Set a timer for 1 hour and check on them occasionally to see if they need a little more water added to keep them both just covered. Once an hour has passed, cover the oranges in cold water and leave them to cool (they need to have cooled down quite a bit before you can use them in your recipe below).

2. Grease your springform tin very, very well. I like to put a circle of baking paper on the bottom too and grease that as well, just in case (greasing both underneath and on top of the baking paper keeps it in position). Once greased, take a tsp of polenta and dust over the sides and bottom of the tin. Tip out the excess. Preheat your oven to 180 C.

3. Beat together the sugar eggs, either by hand or by using an electric mixer on a medium speed setting. As there are quite a few eggs in this recipe, you’ll need to beat this for longer than you might think. Around 7 minutes in an electric mixer will be ok, or double that amount of time if you’re doing it by hand. You want it to be a thick batter by the end.

4. Mix together the dry ingredients – polenta, ground almonds and 1 tsp baking powder – and set aside. Take your (hopefully now cooled) oranges and blitz them to a puree in a large food processor. Then add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture, beating very quickly, followed by your orange puree. Mix together for a minute or so and then stop. You don’t want it overmixed.

5. Pour your cake mixture into your springform tin. Don’t overfill – you should try and leave at least 2cm at the top of the tin to allow for any expansion. If you have leftover cake mixture you can fill some muffin cases with it like I did.

6. Now the baking process. I say process as it’s not straightforward for this cake. It has three steps, and you’ll need to set timers in between, but the amazing dampness and denseness you’ll get through doing this is 100% worth it:

  • Cook for 10 minutes at the pre-heated temperature of 180C
  • After 10 minutes, turn down to 150C and bake for 30 minutes
  • After 30 minutes, turn down to 140C and bake for a further 30 minutes

Check the top of the cake is firm and springy after baking it for the timings above. If not, leave it in at the lowest heat for a further 5 minutes or until done.

7. Remove the cake from the oven and leave in the tin to cool a bit (around 20 minutes should be enough). Then unfasten the spring from tin and marvel at how perfectly your cake has baked (this type of recipe results in a devastatingly perfect rise). Transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

almondcake38. You could leave it here. The cake is wonderful already and could happily be served. Perhaps with a dollop of natural yoghurt and a teaspoon of marmalade or honey if you’re dieting. But if you want to sweeten it up a little bit more, and you’re not massively worried about the diet angle, then I would highly recommend you finish it off with some drippy icing.

To do this simply add the icing sugar into a large bowl and gradually add in your lemon juice, mixing with a teaspoon until you get a nice pouring consistency (but not too thin – you don’t want it to be translucent). You may need to adjust the quantities of icing sugar and lemon juice above until you’re happy with it. Then, using your teaspoon, simply dollop the icing into the centre of the cake, and then smooth over with the back of your spoon until it reaches the edges and just starts to drip over them. Finish with a sprinkling of lemon zest. Leave to set.

And you’re done! Tuck in and enjoy… With a good coffee and some Virgina Woolf, as I did.

almondcake8 almondcake4 almondcake6 almondcake5 almondcake1

How are you doing with your January diets by the way? I’ve noticed the South Beach posts on here have proved popular – let me know if you’re trying it out with me, I’d love to hear from you…

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