Orange & Hazelnut Cake

I wouldn’t say that I am bloodthirsty. Sure, I like my steak rare, and I can deal with the sight of blood. But sometimes I get upset when I don’t see any, in my blood oranges at least. I was slicing through a batch yesterday, perpetually disappointed to see only occasionally blushes and not enough rushing red. So annoyed was I that I accidentally cut through my own finger in my rush, and yes, there was blood, but not the kind of blood that I was hoping for.

I was on a mission. I love Italian polenta and almond cakes. I had a slice for the first time in Gelupo in London not long after it first opened and it stopped me in my tracks. Literally, I was eating it on the run (it was that kind of day), and I stopped and looked at that simple cake and thought about what a surprise it was. So understated to look at, but bursting with flavour beneath. My kind of flavours, not too sweet and a little crumbly. This is a perfect breakfast cake. It made the cut in my first book as a kind of a muffin. Italians love to have cake for breakfast and they do everything else right so why not?! I have embraced it.

Last week, I spotted a gorgeous version that Kellie from Food to Glow had cooked, an upside down blood orange polenta cake. It got me thinking. I still had wonderful IGP hazelnuts from my last trip to Piedmont that I needed to use. I had a wonderful coarse bright yellow polenta that I had bought in an Italian deli in town. And I had some blood oranges.

This cake is dairy free and gluten free too. Sometimes I mix in some plain flour too to make it a little softer but it isn’t essential and the stoneground polenta I used gave it a brilliant flavour and a coarsely textured crumb which worked very well. Each way is very palatable, go with flour if you fancy something a little less coarse and a bit cake-ier (substitute 75g plain flour for 50g polenta). 

Enjoy, and embrace cake for breakfast. It is a beautiful thing!

Orange and Hazelnut Cake

Preperation Time: 20 minutes

Cooking Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 60 minutes

Orange and Hazelnut Cake

Orange & Hazelnut Cake


  • 150ml rapeseed or olive oil
  • 125g soft brown sugar
  • 150g polenta or cornmeal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 175g ground hazelnuts (I ground whole ones in my food processor)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 oranges - the rind and juice of 2 for the cake, the remaining sliced with the rind & pith removed
  • juice of half a lemon
  • one cake tin approx 20cm or 7/8 inches
  • greaseproof paper / baking parchment


Preheat your oven to 180 deg C.

Mix the oil and the sugar well.

Add the rest of the ingredients, excluding the orange slices for the top of the cake, and mix very well. I use a mixer but a wooden spoon and elbow grease would work very well too. You will end with a wet grainy batter.

Prepare your orange slices by removing the skin and pith with a sharp knife and slicing into narrow slices.

Line your tin with greaseproof paper and arrange the orange slices in a layer.

Pour the batter on top (give it a good mix before you pour it in) and bake it for 35 - 40 minutes until the top is set and gives only a little when you push on it. Don't worry if it has risen unevenly, it will relax as it cools.

Allow to cool and serve sliced with a light dusting of icing sugar on top.

Store any leftovers in an air tight container for a few days.



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