Lemon-Pistachio Polenta Cake with Lemon Icing

by Thom & Aimee

To be honest, there is a long list of entries lining up to be written. It doesn’t help that all I want to do these days is snug into bed and watch anime (damn you, Gintama and Shingeki no Kyogin) or tumblr stupid gifs. The procrastination bug has hit me real bad this time.

Back to business: the lemon-pistachio lemon cake is another homage to our trip to Great Britain, and one of our favourite chefs Yotam Ottolenghi. I remembered how knackered we were from all the walking and from the cold, that we decided to do a quick takeaway from one of Ottolenghi’s cafes. Being not unusually greedy, we bought more than our little tummies could handle.

One of the many dishes we brought away was a lemon polenta cake topped with icing and pistachio bits. At first bite, yotam’s cake was slightly stodgy and the icing was dry. We kept half of it for the next morning and strangely it tasted better. The flavour intensified and had more moisture than before. Nevertheless, the cake was gone at the end of the day.

Polenta is one ingredient we’ve not dealt with so far. The Italian cornmeal is usually used as a gluten-free substitute in cakes, which will result in bakes that are moist and dense with a grainy texture. I’m not trying to be biased here, but Ned’s polenta cake turned out better than Yotam’s (blasphemy!!). It had the right amount of tanginess of the fruit and sugary sweetness of the lemon icing. Unlike what we had in London, the cake had good consistency in moisture and texture. It’s a dessert Gin-san would approve. (Good job, Shinpachi.)

Lemon-Pistachio Polenta Cake with Lemon Icing
Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi

Makes a 20cm x 9cm x 7cm cake

150g unsalted butter
105g caster sugar
2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
Zest of 1 lemon
6 teaspoon lemon juice
90g quick-cook polenta
180g ground pistachios
38g plain flour
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 teaspoons salt

For the Glaze
Juice of 1 lemon
2-3 tablespoons caster sugar

For the Lemon Icing
Juice of ½ a lemon
150 g icing sugar
Pistachios, chopped


Pre-heat your oven to 170C. Cream the butter and sugar together, making sure to not add in too much air. Add each egg one at a time and mix to incorporate. Add the lemon zest and lemon juice, polenta and pistachio. Sift your dry ingredients into the mix as well and stir together until just combined. Pour the batter into your cake tin, and level with a knife. Bake for 40-45 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean. Leave to cool for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven to a wire cooling rack, but leave in its tin.

Make the syrup by boiling together the lemon juice and sugar in a smallish saucepan. Once the sugar’s dissolved into the juice, you’re done. Prick the top of the cake all over with a cake tester (a skewer would be too destructive), pour the warm syrup over the cake, and leave to cool before taking it out of its tin.

For the lemon icing, combine lemon juice and icing sugar until smooth and white, add a little more icing sugar if needed. Make sure your cake is completely cool before drizzling with the glaze. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios.