Chef Andrea’s Breakfast Polenta Cake


Preparation info

  • Makes one 8- to 9 inch tube cake; serves

    6 to 8

    • Difficulty


Appears in

Classic Home Desserts

By Richard Sax

Published 1994

  • About

This simple cornmeal butter cake, with the double crunch of cornmeal and chopped almonds, will brighten the morning. For dessert at the restaurant, Andrea served this cake with berries and a touch of whipped cream. “I like it with a glass of milk,” he once told me.


  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup plus ¼ teaspoon sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • Grated zest of ½ orange
  • Grated zest of ½ lemon
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • cup (about 4 ounces) unblanched almonds
  • ¼ cup potato starch or cornstarch
  • ½ cup cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 large egg whites
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for sprinkling


    1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Generously butter an 8- to 9-inch kugelhopf or Bundt pan; set aside. Place the ½ cup butter, the ½ cup sugar, the egg yolks and the orange and lemon zests in a large bowl. If using the vanilla bean, scrape the seeds from the pod into the butter mixture, or add the extract. Beat with an electric mixer until light and creamy; set aside.
    2. In a food processor, combine the almonds, potato starch or cornstarch, cornmeal and baking powder; process until powdery. Sift this mixture onto a sheet of wax paper (if bits of almond remain in the sifter, return them to the mixture); set aside.
    3. In a bowl, beat the egg whites with the remaining ¼ teaspoon sugar until they form soft peaks. Gently fold the dry ingredients and ½ of the beaten egg whites into the butter mixture; fold in the remaining whites just until incorporated. Gently scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
    4. Bake until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean, usually about 40 minutes (the timing can vary with the pan used; do not overbake).
    5. Cool the cake briefly in the pan on a wire rack. Run the tip of a knife around the sides of the cake to loosen it from the pan; invert onto the rack. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and serve lukewarm or at room temperature.