Polenta Dolce

Cornmeal Sponge Cake

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Appears in

Great Italian Desserts

By Nick Malgieri

Published 1990

  • About

Though this cake exists in many forms, this version is one I worked out several years ago and have used many times with great success. Use it on its own or serve it with berries. It forms an important part of Polenta ed Osei, from Bergamo.


  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup corn flour, or cornmeal finely ground in a blender or coffee grinder
  • Pinch salt


Butter a 10-inch × 2-inch-deep cake pan and line the bottom with a piece of parchment or wax paper, cut to fit.

Place the egg yolks in a bowl and whisk to liquefy. Whisk in half the sugar and the 1 teaspoon lemon zest and continue whisking, either by hand, with a hand mixer set at medium speed, or in a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the whip.

Combine the flour and corn flour or ground cornmeal in a small bowl and stir well to mix. Set aside.

In a clean, dry bowl, whip the egg whites with the salt and continue whipping until the whites hold a very soft peak. Increase the speed of whipping and whip in the remaining sugar in a slow stream. Continue whipping until the egg whites hold a soft peak.

Fold the yolk mixture into the whites, then fold in the flour mixture, sifting it over the egg mixture in 3 or 4 additions. Be careful to fold gently to avoid deflating the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake the cake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes, until it is a light golden color and firm in the center. Remove from the pan immediately by inverting onto a rack. Lift off the pan and reinvert onto a rack to cool completely. Store the cake tightly wrapped in plastic at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

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