Lemon Lavender Polenta Cake

May  3, 2021
11 Ratings
Photo by Bobbi Lin
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Serves 8
Author Notes

This is one of my favorite recipes using lavender—particularly in the springtime when we are looking for fresh and light flavors. Thanks to the polenta/cornmeal used in the recipe, this is a super moist cake, and with a deep lemony flavor and a beautiful hint of lavender that complements the lemon perfectly. Great for spring and summertime get-togethers.

Pairing: Pairs well with Argentine Torrontés, sparkling wines, Champagne with a nice citrus or floral flavor profile, or sherry. —Chrissie

Test Kitchen Notes

WHO: Chrissie, from Mendoza, Argentina, is the author of a food blog
WHAT: A moist lemony cake with a bright hint of lavender.
HOW: Beat together butter and sugar, then add flour, polenta, baking powder, and an egg. Beat in lemon zest and juice and dried lavender, then bake for 40 minutes. Boil lemon juice and sugar to make a syrup, then pour the syrup over the cake. Sprinkle icing sugar over top, and serve.
WHY WE LOVE IT: As if we weren't already ready for warm weather, this cake has us dreaming of picnics and summertime dinners with friends. While moist and dense, the addition of the lemon and lavender gives the cake a lightness that makes it ideal for rounding out a large meal. Consider adding some extra lavender if you're looking for even more of a floral kick. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • For the cake
  • 200 grams unsalted butter, softened, plus some to grease the cake pan
  • 170 grams caster or natural cane sugar
  • 100 grams cake flour (all-purpose flour also works)
  • 200 grams instant polenta or cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 2 lemons, zest of
  • 1 lemon, juice of
  • 1 teaspoon dried lavender
  • For the syrup
  • 2 lemons, juice of
  • 125 grams caster sugar
  • 1/4 cup icing sugar, for serving
  1. Line the base of a 23-centimeter (9-inch) springform cake tin (a slightly smaller one will work as well) with baking parchment and grease sides lightly with butter.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C).
  3. Beat the butter and sugar till pale and whipped, 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, polenta, and baking powder, then beat some of this into the butter/sugar mixture, followed by one egg. Alternate adding dry ingredients and eggs, beating all the while.
  5. Finally, beat in the lemon zest, lemon juice, and lavender. Then pour, spoon, or scrape the mixture into your prepared tin and bake in the oven, between 45-60 minutes depending on your oven.
  6. Test the cake with a cake tester. (I actually just use a slender paring knife.) If it comes out clean, the cake is ready. Transfer it from oven to a wire cooling rack, but leave in its tin.
  7. Make the syrup by boiling together the lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan.
  8. Once the sugar has dissolved into the juice, leave it for about one minute more and then you’re done.
  9. Prick the top of the cake all over with a cake tester, fork, or skewer. Be careful not to tear the cake too much if using a fork or a skewer, as it is delicate. Pour the warm syrup over the cake, and leave to cool before taking it out of its tin.
  10. Before serving, sprinkle icing sugar (using a sieve) over the top of the cake. Then slice and serve.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Änneken
  • Gina Hemmings
    Gina Hemmings
  • AntoniaJames
  • Chrissie
  • karmaya

51 Reviews

Foodie207 May 3, 2021
I made this for the first time after researching a few recipes, and it turned out delicious! Super fresh and springy. Definitely use instant polenta!
Chrissie May 30, 2021
Glad you liked it!
EmmaKts October 20, 2020
I make this cake regularly and it always gets rave reviews. Thanks for sharing your recipe, it's one of my favourites!
Chrissie October 20, 2020
Oh I am so thrilled to hear that! Glad you like it and hope it keeps making people happy, it is one of my favourites too :)
Änneken May 23, 2018
I wanted to like this but it was so unbearably dry it stuck to the roof of my mouth. Also, the lemon syrup overpowered the lavender (though I should add that I used four drops of lavender essential oil instead of dried lavender). I did like the hint of corn flavor though. I used corn meal and liked the subtle crunch it added.
Gina H. April 29, 2018
I was so excited to make this cake and it didn't disappoint. I followed the reader tips and parboiled the polenta and doubled the lavender. I took it to a dinner party and it got rave reviews. One friend thought it was a cheesecake! I made this at altitude in Denver with no adjustments. I'll be making this again and featuring it on my business social media account, @mossflowercolorado.
Chrissie April 29, 2018
So happy it worked out for you :)
Sarah M. May 7, 2016
About to make this cake and just realized it doesn't call for any salt. I find that most baked goods need a little salt to round out the sweetness. Should I add a pinch, or is it really just great without it?? Thanks in advance for any tips :)
Chrissie May 8, 2016
Hi Sarah! Yes, adding a pinch in would be a great idea. I find that despite the lack of salt the flavours still come through very well in this recipe but adding salt is always going to make them pop in a good way :)
Regan March 28, 2016
Sounds fantastic! Can't wait to make it this spring.
Stéphanie C. March 24, 2015
People, USE INSTANT POLENTA. Not regular polenta - because it won't have time to cook through and will have a funky texture.
sticksnscones February 22, 2015
I'm thinking of making this to serve my bookgroup for a French-themed book. Can it be made ahead & perhaps does the flavor/texture improve?
Chrissie February 22, 2015
Yes, you can make it up to two days in advance. I just leave it in the refrigerator. It definitely does improve the flavour as it gives it time to integrate. But I wouldn't do more than 2 days as it is a moist cake has a shorter shelf life than most. :) 24 hours is usually best.
Anthony February 16, 2015
I made this recipe over the weekend and I found it a bit gritty - like the polenta needed to be hydrated - it did not seem to soften in the oven. Not sure if I did something wrong - baked for about 35 minutes. Flavor is amazing and my girlfriend loved it so I'll definitely try it again. Any suggestions on fixing the texture would be appreciated.
Chrissie February 16, 2015
Did you use instant polenta or regular? That might make a difference. I should note that in the recipe, thanks for bringing it up! That being said mine usually have a bit of the grittiness which I like :) But an idea would be too cook the polenta a bit first if it is not instant polenta. That should get rid of the grittiness.
Anthony February 16, 2015
I just used Bob's Red Mill polenta - so that makes sense. I'll par cook it next time or look for instant. Thanks so much - like I said the flavor is amazing. Definitely looking forward to perfecting it. Last night we topped it with a little coconut milk whipped cream - so good.
Chrissie February 17, 2015
I would love to know how it turns out if you par cook it, if you can send me a quick note here that would be fabulous. Coconut milk whipped cream is a great addition! I will have to try that :)
Christopher February 17, 2015
Chrissie, I also used the Bob's Red Mill polenta, and couldn't figure out where I'd gone wrong. The texture was fairly crunchy, but the flavor was outstanding. To salvage the cake, I actually ended up steaming some of it in a rice cooker, which resulted in a denser cake, yet remedied the crunchiness. I will definitely make this again with some instant polenta. Thanks for the recipe!
Chrissie February 17, 2015
Thanks Christopher! I will definitely note in the recipe to use instant polenta or if not to pre cook it. :)
Margaret N. August 22, 2015
YES YOU SHOULD REALLY UPDATE IT IN THE RECIPE. Christ. There is a huge difference between instant and regular polenta.
Aleksandar February 14, 2015
Simply brilliant. It's a cliché, I know, but the tastes just explode in your mouth. I used lime instead of lemon and it might have done something to it. Something really good.
Chrissie February 14, 2015
Glad you liked it!!
AntoniaJames February 9, 2015
Have you ever actually made this with basil? I don't care for lavender, and saw your note below about what other herbs would work. I'm wondering if these suggestions are based on having tested them in this cake. Really looking forward to trying this, modified. ;o)
Chrissie February 10, 2015
I haven't made this particular cake with basil, but I have made a lemon basil pound cake. What I did was take the sugar and fresh basil and put them in a food processor. Then put that mixture into the bowl. It would be worth experimenting with this recipe as I think it would work well. I am not sure about quantity of basil. I usually just "eye" that kind of thing, but I would imagine at least a tablespoon of fresh basil would work well.
AntoniaJames February 10, 2015
Chrissie, thank you. Did blitzing the basil in the sugar result in a green cake? I suppose some green flecks would be expected. I'm not sure a uniform light green crumb would be attractive, however. Were there milk or another liquid in the cake, one might infuse it with basil, but that's not much of an option here. I don't think I'd want to try to infuse the lemon juice, as I'd want the lemon flavor to come through clearly. I suppose you could infuse the syrup, perhaps using water instead of juice and then adding some lemon zest. I'm intrigued by the lemon + basil, as no doubt you can tell. ;o)
Chrissie February 10, 2015
Haha, nope. No green cake :) There wasn't enough basil to turn it green. There will definitely be green flecks. I think it would be worth trying. However, you could definitely use it in the syrup. Instead of using the syrup I listed you could do something like this: Then turn any leftover syrup into lemonade. I usually do some lemon basil lemonade in the summertime, very refreshing.
alison February 7, 2015
If I don't have lavender flowers, can I use a bit of lavender oil?
Chrissie February 8, 2015
you could use lavender oil, but a very tiny amount as lavender oil is super strong :) I would experiment with just a few drops first and see how it goes.
alison February 9, 2015
This recipe sounds so delightful that I'm anxious to try it. I should probably wait until fresh lavender flowers are bloomed and dried, but thanks for telling me it's ok to try eentsie, weentsie bit of oil.
Chrissie February 1, 2015
Yes! That is a great idea! You can definitely sub in honey and that one would work very well in the recipe.
Connie B. February 1, 2015
Have any of you discovered Lavender honey? Not infused honey, but true bee-collected lavender honey? It is so wonderful if you can find it.....produced by a small beekeeping company in Santa Rosa, CA:, but sometimes you can find it at Whole Foods. Expensive, but so worth it! I'm thinking it could be incorporated in this recipe to replace some of the sugar.
karmaya January 30, 2015
what about lemon verbena instead of lavender ? i have dried crushed leaves of organically grown lemon verbena in the pantry -- but my lavender is under a foot of snow!!
Chrissie January 30, 2015
you could sub in the lemon verbena, it will make it more lemony though, so keep that in mind. Although that is not a bad thing :) Some other herbs that would go well are basil, thyme and mint.
Deborah J. January 29, 2015
Please make sure you're using a Culinary Lavender for an enjoyable flavor, not just any Lavender will have a pleasant taste. If you have Angustifolia's in your garden, also known as English Lavender, those would be the best choice.
Deborah, Owner of Applegate Valley Lavender Farm.
Larissa T. January 28, 2015
I want to make this this wkend but I want to use whole wheat flour. should i change anything?
Chrissie January 28, 2015
SInce the quantity of flour is minimal you should be fine using the same amount for whole wheat flour. I would try it and see. Unless anyone else has any experience with whole wheat flour? The only thing I can think of is that it may be a bit more dense. Try using 2.5 tsp baking powder as well. That may help in terms of denseness. I don't use whole wheat flour a lot in cakes so I would be curious to see if anyone has any comments on this one...
Larissa T. January 28, 2015
Hi chrissie,

thank you for the reply. I'll give it a try this wkend and write about it later.
girlwithaknife January 28, 2015
How do I convert grams to cups if I don't have a scale?
Chrissie January 28, 2015
I use this converter: You will see on the right hand side the different ingredient converters such as flour etc. This one is butter.
Dave R. February 2, 2015
Ticketytwo January 28, 2015
I made this today and I like the texture, not quite cake. Unless I made it wrong. Lol. I probably would use a bit more lavender next time
Chrissie January 28, 2015
It is a super moist cake, so it may not come out like a traditional cake that you are used to. The polenta is more moist which is why. If you do want a more dry version you can always add a bit more flour and a little less polenta. :)
Joel J. January 27, 2015
Do you use lavender leaves or flowers?
sraymond54 January 28, 2015
The flowers.
Joel J. January 28, 2015