Blood Orange and Polenta Cake (Gluten Free and Vegan)

Veganuary may have been and gone, but I really enjoyed trying my hand at a vegan cake recipe when I made the Pina Colada Upside Down Cake. In fact I’m actually quite enjoying baking in general. Words you would not have heard me say, even six months ago when my only baking was related to my prolific output of Karelia Pies. I think more than anything I enjoy the puzzle, and the chemistry that is involved with coming up with my own recipes. The Pet Finn on the other hand just likes the parade of cakes that he gets to munch his way through. No lies, I also really like eating the cakes too!

There aren’t many things I love about the January-February cusp, it is cold and grey, but not cold enough to enjoy the bleak but pretty snow that I loved seeing growing up in North Yorkshire, and the grey isn’t yet ready to be broken by the first of the spring flowers. There are a few thing about this time of year that I love, pretty pink Yorkshire Rhubarb, and blood oranges, the goth’s citrus of choice. I’ve already waxed more than lyrical about my love of a good upside down cake, and blood oranges lend themselves handsomely to the task. I felt like the unsweetened soya yoghurt would be a good marriage of the polenta, to achieve a cake that had a nicely crumbed texture, but still juicy and moist, without turning into a dry, gritty sand-cake of doom.


  • 2 blood oranges, thinly sliced
  • 3 TBSP of golden granulated sugar (made into a syrup with around 250 ml water)
  • 125g gluten free self raising flour
  • 100g non-dairy butter substitute, make sure it is suitable for baking
  • 75g polenta bramata (course cornmeal)
  • 150g golden granulated sugar
  • 200g natural soya yoghurt
  • the juice of 1 freshly squeezed clementine


  1. Prepare the syrup in a medium sized saucepan, if the pan is too narrow you will beat up the orange slices and your cake won’t be very pretty. Dissolve the 3TBSP of golden granulated sugar in 250ml of water over a medium heat. While the sugar is dissolving slice the blood oranges as thinly as possible, if you have a mandoline then this would be idea, otherwise a small serrated knife that allows you to cut through the orange without squashing down on it and crushing it.
  2. Once the sugar is dissolved, turn the heat down a little and add the sliced blood orange and make sure there is enough liquid to cover the slices, if there is not enough liquid, add a little more. Cook for around 25 minutes until the rinds on the oranges are soft, if you have used a mandoline the orange will be thinner and will need a little less time. Stir the oranges gently, around every 5 minutes.
  3. While the oranges are cooking, preheat your oven to Gas 3 or 165C.
  4. Prepare the cake mix, crumb together 125g gluten free self raising flour with the 100g of vegan butter substitute. Once you have achieved a crumb-like texture, mix well with 75g polenta bramata, followed by 200g natural soya yoghurt, 150g golden granulated sugar and the juice of 1 freshly squeezed clementine, mix until it is all thoroughly combined.
  5. Once the oranges are ready, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate. Reduce the syrup to roughly about a quarter of the original volume, until fairly thick glossy, smelling like marmalade spiked with sloe gin.
  6. Line a baking tin with baking parchment, I used a 7″ (18 cm) square tin, but you could easily substitute for a 7″ or 8″ round tin, if that is what you have. Arrange your blood orange sliced so that it looks relatively attractive, and there are minimal, if any gaps between the slices. Pour over the blood orange syrup and then the cake mix, making sure to level the mix out. Bake in the preheated oven for 50 mins, to check when it is ready you can test with a skewer, if it comes out clean then your cake is done.
  7. Stand the cake for around 10 minutes, and then turn it out carefully onto the serving plate.

If you don’t have blood oranges then normal ones would do, though it won’t be quite so pretty, and the flavour will be slightly different, although as you can see, these weren’t the most ruby-red, ones ever. If you have a bottle on hand, you could add a good slug of cointreau or similar to the poaching syrup. I wouldn’t recommend switching the freshly squeezed clementine for cartoned orange juice as it is a bit too acidic and bitter, and the cake is not overly sweet, rather more fresh and tangy tasting. I used polenta bramata, but any course cornmeal is fine.

I am a big fan of easy cakes, and this one absolutely fits the bill. Minimal fuss, so ideal for the weekend, great with coffee, but even better with red wine… Well, it is friday!

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