Upside-Down Blood Orange Polenta Cake Recipe (dairy-free/gluten-free)

Heavenly, soft naturally gluten-free blood orange polenta cake brightens up a cold winter's day. And you can mix it all up in one bowl too. Easy and colourful baking that the kids can help with too.

You could be forgiven for thinking that the only cake I know how to do is a polenta one. I do do others, but it is hard to get past the fact that polenta cakes are stupidly easy to make, easily gluten-free, keep phenomenally well and are extremely versatile.

Matcha tea and passion fruit? Yep. Vanilla and turmeric? You bet. Lemon and berries? Of course. Figs and walnuts? Obviously. Even Christmas gets a look in with mincemeat (which is not meat!), pear & almond.

You get the gist.

Today I am adding one of my most favourite fruits, one more tantalising because of its fleetingly brief season – the blood orange. Or rather oranges, plural; sliced and covered with scented cake batter.

Nature is most surprising. At a time when nothing much is ready to eat in the spring garden (at least here in the UK), some of the brightest, most nutritious fruits are at their peak. Throughout the bleak winter months, with root crops and cold-stored orchard fruits doing their best to sustain us, citrus is one of two bright spots, the other being pomegranates. A bowl of these bold and voluptuous fruits on the coffee table not only cheers, it restores and nourishes too.blood-orange.jpg

And now, within kissing distance of March, and spring warmth looming tantalisingly close, Spanish imports of oranges are still plentiful and cheap. All eating oranges are pretty special, but the jewels in the citrus crown are sparkling, fragrant blood oranges, with the lustiest specimens coming from their native Italy. Be quick though, they will be gone before you know it. The best ones are in the shops right now, picked when the winter chill has done the necessary task of producing the characteristic blood-red pigment (cancer-fighting anthocyanins). If you don’t see them in your supermarket, try smaller independents and farmer’s markets.

I am buying blood oranges every few days, boxing and coxing between supermarket (Lidl and Waitrose) and small corner shop, playing a happy roulette: will that mottled ruby flesh reveal a crimson, dripping interior or standard – but still beautiful – orange? Other than the arresting colour, it is the surprising overtones – not even hint: actual overtones – of ripe raspberries. Irresistible. Utterly irresistible. Get them while you can. Or, if you are in the US, California provides your blood orange fix from May to November. You lucky so and so’s.

Heavenly, soft naturally gluten-free blood orange polenta cake brightens up a cold winter's day. And you can mix it all up in one bowl too. Easy and colourful baking that the kids can help with too.

Upside-Down Blood Orange Polenta Cake

  • Servings: 12-16
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

This is pretty healthy for a cake – no butter, no flour, and a relatively small amount of sugar for a cake. However, it goes without saying that for most of us (she says patting her belly) this is for an occasional treat, not everyday munching. We like this quite puddingy and a bit squidgy: if you like a firmer cake, leave it in a little longer. It will still be lovely and soft. This polenta cake keeps beautifully too. x

Blood oranges – about 5 (some for the cake batter and some for the tin itself)

1/2 lemon, juiced

150ml light rapeseed oil/light olive oil/melted virgin coconut oil

125g  unrefined caster sugar OR coconut palm sugar + 2 tbsp for optional glaze

100 g fine or regular polenta/maizemeal (available in the Asian section at most supermarkets)

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp turmeric (optional)

175 g ground almonds

1 tsp good quality vanilla extract

3 medium eggs or equivalent vegan eggs (e.g. 3 tbsp ground chia seeds mixed with 6 tbsp water); I haven’t tried it with aquafaba but I’m sure this vegan technique would work well.

1. Oil and baseline an 11 x 7 inch/27.5 x 18cm (approx) pan. Preheat oven to 180 C/160 C fan/350F. Have your baking paper reach up from two sides so that you can pull the cake out easily when cool. Or use a loose-bottomed tin.

2. First of all, the blood oranges. Wash and zest one of the oranges; set aside or zest straight into a food mixer or bowl. Juice the zested orange and one other; add in the lemon juice and set it aside. Now peel the remaining oranges and slice no thinner than 1/2 cm. Keep the peel if it looks juicy – this is to help make the optional glaze. Lay the best slices over the bottom of the prepared tin, and eat the rest!

3. Beat together the oil and sugar. I use a stand-mixer and let it rip for about 3-4 minutes. Pour in the polenta, baking powder, turmeric (if using), almonds, orange zest and juice, vanilla and eggs. Mix well and pour into the prepared tin. Although I use a stand mixer for this, strong arms or electric beaters are fine.blood-orange-polenta-cake

4, Bake in the middle of the oven for 25-30 minutes, checking at 20 minutes and perhaps covering with foil to prevent burning. I usually take it out at 25 for a slightly softer cake. You can also make this in a well-greased muffin tin (uses 9-10 holes); bake these for about 20 minutes, but check at 15. The top of the cake or muffins should be lightly golden brown in patches and just starting to pull away from the sides of the tin. Lightly press the top of the cake, if it leaves a small dent it is perfect – not too cooked (as for cornbread).DSC_0669

5. While the cake is baking, put the 2 tablespoons of sugar in a small pan, squeeze the blood orange peels of their juice and enough water, or water and lemon juice, to make a light syrup; heat just enough to melt the sugar.

6. After the cake has cooled for about 20 minutes, lift it from the pan, peel away the paper, carefully upend it onto a plate and brush the blood orange syrup over the upside-down cake. TIP: If the cake looks very pale on the bottom, carefully transfer it onto a tray and pop under the grill for a short spell – watching it like a hawk – then brush over the syrup.

Serve with berries, coconut yogurt, creme fraiche, fruit compote or just on its own with a cup of tea. Enjoy.

Heavenly, soft naturally gluten-free blood orange polenta cake brightens up a cold winter's day. And you can mix it all up in one bowl too. Easy and colourful baking that the kids can help with too.

More blood orange recipes from Food To Glow:

Matcha & Blood Orange Breakfast Bowl

Blood Orange & Berry Smoothie

Vanilla Rhubarb with Blood Oranges

I also like to pop them in the freezer, pull them out when I get peckish, peel one and eat it as an instant blood orange sorbet! It sounds strange, but it is a great almost creamy texture. Strangely addictive.🙂

Blood orange recipes from some great websites:

Massaged Kale & Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Blood Orange & Tahini Dressing

Kale and Blood Orange Cake

Blood Oranges with Fennel, Watercress, Olives & Burrata

Sugar-Free Blood Orange Cake

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