Orange & Hazelnut Cake (Gluten & Dairy Free & Joy Full!)

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
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Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook 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.



    Written by Niamh
    Cooking and travelling, and sharing it all with you.