Monday, 26 July 2010

Polenta More Where This Came From: A Guest Post for Wheat Surrender by Lucy Bannister

There are many things you can learn to live without if you put your mind to it. The problem is that giving up a food stuff as ubiquitous as wheat is fraught with potholes; wheat pops up in the most unexpected of places, you have to be constantly vigilant in spotting its floury presence.

So you have spent all your energy reading the back of packets, jars, questioning your waiter on what is REALLY in your food, or explaining that, yes, there is wheat in pita bread, or fish batter, or beef burgers. And then desert appears. Oh my, this tests you to the limit. Beautiful profiteroles, biscuits, cheese cake, chocolate gateaux, carrot cake… need I go on? When you find out that ice cream can even have wheat in it, it’s time to put your head in your hands and sneak that secret chocolate stash out of your bag!

But don’t fear I have a wonderful recipe for a wheat free (gluten free, actually), totally indulgent chocolate polenta cake. If you count calories, look away now, if you feel it is time to treat your weary wheat-free self, then read on and get baking!

Serves six to eight

11oz (325g) butter
11oz (325g) caster sugar
10oz (300g) ground almonds
1 oz (35g) cocoa powder (or replace with juice of three lemons)
4 eggs
5 oz (160g) fine yellow polenta
1 tsp baking powder
(1tsp almond essence, optional as it makes the almond flavour very strong)
(200g of chocolate if you want to make a lemon and chocolate chunks cake)

Eight inch cake tin

Preheat oven to 160c or Gas Mark 3

Line the cake tin with baking parchment (greasproof paper). The easiest way to do this is to cut the paper to size and then smear it in a thin layer of butter, then place it butter side down, so it sticks to the sides and base of the tin.

Cream the butter and sugar until pale.

Use a hand wisk or food mixer as it is can be really quite tiring.

The butter should be soft so if you just got it out the fridge, pop it in the microwave for a few seconds to soften it up. Be careful you don’t melt it though, it only takes a few seconds!

Stir in the ground almonds and cocoa powder (or lemon juice).

Beat the eggs into the mixture one at a time.

Then fold in the polenta and baking powder. I also add a bar or two of chocolate broken into chunks at this stage if I’m making the lemon and chocolate chunks version.

Transfer the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 1 hour.

It is REALLY important to pay attention to the temperature of the oven as the cake burns easily. I check the cake every 30 minutes, and switch the oven off after an hour, leaving the cake to cook slowly in the cooling oven.

You know when the cake is cooked as the surface starts to crack and a knife or skewer in the centre comes out clean.

I then dust the cake with a natural unrefined icing sugar and it’s really good with ice cream or crème fraiche and strawberries.


Based in Bradford but born in Leeds, Lucy is definitely a Yorkshire lass despite studying at Glasgow School of Art and subsequently falling in love with Scotland. She has spent much of her time in the last ten years being an artist and curator and is now editor of the Dialogue contemporary art webzine on Axis ( She has diversified from visual art of late, getting passionate about sound art, music, yoga, sustainability, gardening and her local community. She has been wheat free for nearly a year (having been gluten free in the past as well). She tries to keep a blog about interesting things at, her artwork has a home at and she contributes blogs to Culture Vulture

She also loves Twitter. You can follow her witterings on @luluartist

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