This gluten-free polenta cake has a pop of orange flavor from orange zest. The single layer cake is moist, fluffy and mixes up in one bowl. There’s no almond or almond flour like many other polenta cakes. Top it with a 5-minute, 3-ingredient creamy orange glaze (no powdered sugar). The recipe includes dairy-free options.
Is Polenta Gluten-Free?
Yes! Polenta is made from corn which is naturally gluten-free. However, if you are concerned about cross-contamination, I recommend Nuts.com Polenta which is processed in a gluten-free facility. Bob’s Red Mill, has several polenta options, but only one is processed in their gluten free facility. Look for the one that is clearly labeled gluten-free.
What is Polenta?
Technically polenta is a dish of yellow corn grits cooked with liquid. But the ingredient, yellow corn grits is sometimes labeled as polenta. Yellow corn grits are made from corn and are coarse grained, similar to the texture of steel cut oats. This coarse grained polenta will give the cake what I call “rustic” texture. You’ll notice the polenta in the baked cake.
Some brands will label white corn grits (more commonly used for southern grits) as polenta also. I prefer to use the yellow stuff for actual polenta.
Instant Polenta is much finer grained and is more similar to cornmeal. The cake will not have that rustic grainy texture. If that’s okay with you, then use instant or even cornmeal.
Gluten-free flour – My preferred brand is King Arthur Measure for Measure flour blend. It works consistently well in almost all of my baked goods, it’s certified gluten-free and is the most affordable of the ones I’ve tested.
Many of my readers have used Cup4Cup in my recipes with good results. I do not test with it because it contains milk powder and it’s quite pricey.
Yellow corn grits or “instant polenta” are what you’ll need for this recipe. Do not use a prepared (cooked) polenta. In a pinch, if you can’t find either of those, cornmeal can be used.
Orange zest is an excellent way to add concentrated flavor to baked goods without adding liquid. The zest is the colorful outer layer of citrus peel. For a quick tutorial on how to zest citrus, see my post How to Zest a Lemon.
For an extra kick of orange, this cake recipe has a little bit of orange extract. The small amount is just enough to bring the orange flavor to the forefront. Too much and the orange flavor tastes artificial.
Oil is my preferred way to get moisture into a gluten-free cake. It does a much better job of hydrating the dry ingredients. Also, cakes made with oil stay more moist over a few days than cakes made with butter. Use a neutral flavored oil like avocado, canola sunflower or other vegetable oil.
I also find that yogurt as opposed to milk also makes gluten-free cakes more moist. I have had equally good results with vegan yogurt. My preferred vegan brand is Kite Hill Almond Milk yogurt substitute. Whichever you use, be sure it’s plain unsweetened yogurt (not Greek yogurt).
The rest of the ingredients are just the basics – eggs, sugar, baking powder and salt.
When developing this recipe I wanted to bring orange flavor into whatever topped this cake. I also didn’t want to add something super sweet like a frosting.
The best solution, is to use cream cheese as the base for a glaze. It adds a wonderful slightly sweet, tangy flavor. The easy 5-minute recipe has just 3 ingredients: cream cheese, orange juice and a little bit of sugar. See the recipe here: creamy orange cake glaze.
This cake would also be yummy with my 6-minute creamy rum sauce. I originally developed it for bread pudding but it’s a great all round dessert sauce.
Gluten-Free Orange Polenta Cake (No Almonds)
- Almond Milk Yogurts – Kite Hill Dairy Free Foods dairy-free option
- 2 medium sized oranges
- 3 large eggs
- ½ c oil – avocado, sunflower, canola or other neutral flavored vegetable oil
- ⅓ c plain unsweetened yougurt, not greek yogurt dairy free yogurt subs are ok
- ½ tsp orange extract
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 c sugar
- ½ cup dry polenta (aka yellow corn grits) or instant polenta*
- 1 c gluten-free flour blend – King Arthur Measure for Measure recommended
- 1½ tsp baking powder
Make the Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350℉ and grease and line (with parchment) an 8 or 9 inch round cake pan.
- This cake can be mixed by hand with a whisk or with an electric mixer.
- Use a microplane or the finest side of a grater to zest the oranges into a large mixing bowl. Grate just the thin outer layer. If you go down to the white pith layer it will be bitter. For a quick tutorial on zesting citrus, check out How to Zest a Lemon. Save the oranges for an orange glaze.
- Add the eggs, oil, orange extract and salt and beat thoroughly until smooth.
- Add the sugar and and beat for 15 seconds or until smooth.
- Add the polenta, flour and baking powder and mix until combined – about 20 seconds.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
- Bake 33-38 minutes for a 9" pan and 40-45 minutes for an 8" pan. The cake is done when the top is set and it bounces back from a very gentle tap in the center.
- Cool the cake in the pan for 5 minutes. Then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
- I recommend topping with my 3 ingredient, 5-minute creamy orange cake glaze.