Spiced Orange Polenta Cake

If you follow me on Facebook or instgram you’ll have seen that last week I was on holiday with my family in beautiful Marrakech. We spent our time lounging on rooftops and mooching around the souks in the thirty degree heat. Coming back to th UK to find that winter has finally arrived was certainly a shock.

In Marrakech we saw orange trees everywhere and the smell from the many orange juice vendors in Jmaa el Fnaa square is divine. We wandered around the labyrinth of alleyways in the Medina and got pleasantly lost, stumbling across shops selling exotic treasures. I particularly loved the spice souks; the heady smell of rich spices piled high and shaped into cones and the sight of shops laden with dried chillies and things I couldn’t even identify was magnificent. 

This Spiced orange cake is inspired by the flavours that remind me of Marrakech. It’s gluten free, using Polenta and Almond, and can easily be made dairy free by substituting the butter for a soya based margarine. As usual, I’ve used whole spices and ground them myself to make sure they are as fresh and fragrant as possible. If you’re not a fan of the spices I’ve used, leave them out or substitute them for whichever spices you prefer. I’ve chosen to ice this cake with an intense orange icing, but it’s sweet and moist enough to be simply dusted with icing sugar. It is also really delicious served warm from the oven, with mascarpone or ice cream.

Ingredients 

  • 200g butter, melted and cooled
  • 200g fine Polenta
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 7g gluten free baking powder
  • The zest of one orange
  • 1 star anise, 3 cloves, the seeds of 5 Cardomom pods, a small piece of ginger and a small piece of cinnamon, all finely ground. 

For the syrup:

  • The juice of one orange
  • 100g sugar
  • 100g water
  • 3 star anise, 3 cloves and a small piece of cinnamon, left whole.

For the icing:

  • 200g icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • Zest of half and orange
  • Juice of half an orange

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 170 degrees C / gas mark 3. Grease and line an 8″ cake tin.
  2. Mix together the butter, sugar, spice and zest. 
  3. Add the eggs and whisk well.
  4. To this, add the Polenta, ground almonds and baking powder.
  5. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 45-55 mins. The cake will feel springy when it is baked, and a skewer will come out clean.
  6. Whilst the cake is in the oven, make the syrup. Place all the ingredients in a saucepan, stir to dissolve the sugar and bring to a boil.
  7. Simmer for 5 minutes to reduce the liquid into a syrup. Leave to cool with the whole spices infusing. This will intensify the flavour.
  8. When the cake is baked, poke several holes in the top with a skewer and pour over the syrup. If you are using a loose bottomed tin be sure to place the cake on a tray or plate so that should any syrup escape out of the bottom it doesn’t make a sticky mess all over your kitchen.
  9. Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 20 minutes, the gently remove and place on a serving plate. Do not place on a wire rack as this will allow all of the syrup to escape. Because there is no gluten in this cake, it is very delicate so move as carefully as you can and as little as possible. 
  10. If you are icing the cake, leave to cool completely.
  11. To make the icing, place the icing sugar, honey and zest in a bowl. Add the orange juice a little at a time, mixing as you go. The icing should have a thick but still gloopy consistency. 
  12. When the cake is cool, carefully spoon the icing over the cake and use the back of a clean spoon to smooth it out. This cake is very delicate, so be careful not to tear up the top. 


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