Make Ahead

Amor Polenta (Italian Polenta Cake)

July 25, 2017
2 Ratings
Photo by Emiko
  • Serves 8
Author Notes

Amor polenta (also known as dolce varese) is a traditional recipe from northern Italy, made with polenta, almond meal and flour. It is usually made in a specially designed, ridged pan, but you can use a regular loaf tin as well. I love this recipe so much I have also used it in a round cake tin or even as muffins. It is easily made gluten-free by substituting the flour for half the weight of potato starch, and you can use hazelnuts instead of the almonds for a deeper, nutty flavour.

This recipe is inspired by the first amor polenta recipe I ever tried, which I found in Gourmet Traveler a number of years ago by Italian-Australian chef Stefano de Pieri. He serves his cake with poached pears, which is not traditional but certainly a nice idea. More traditional would be to have it on its own, with espresso for breakfast or a glass of wine for a snack, or dressed up with some fresh fruit and whipped cream. —Emiko

What You'll Need
  • 3/4 cup (100 grams) fine cornmeal (polenta)
  • 2/3 cup (80 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2/3 cup (60 grams) almond meal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup (125 grams) softened butter, plus more for greasing
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 vanilla pod, seeds scraped
  • 1 splash of rum or Strega, optional
  • powdered sugar, for serving
  1. Combine the flour, polenta, almond meal, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the yolks and eggs one at a time, along with the vanilla and rum, if using, beating well until pale and fluffy. Add the dry ingredients, folding through carefully,
  3. Grease the cake tin well with butter, then dust entirely with flour, tipping the tin upside down to remove any excess. Pour the batter in and smooth the top over.
  4. Bake at 350F (180C) for about 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and springy. Remove from the oven and immediately place top-down on a cake rack. Leave until cool enough to touch the pan before removing carefully. Serve dusting with powdered sugar.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • elfinpdx
  • MJ
  • dinner at ten
    dinner at ten
  • Emiko
  • Lena Boiani
    Lena Boiani

12 Reviews

Kaye E. September 19, 2020
I made this recipe exactly to proportions and ingredients. The batter was very stiff. It baked up very dry and the polenta is still gritty. Something is wrong with this recipe. Is there a missing liquid ingredient that would help it be moist? GOing to have to throw I think in the trash. Please respond.
Emiko September 20, 2020
I'm so sorry to hear this; this is a cake that I make over and over again and is a very traditional recipe with these kind of proportions. I have not come across this problem, but I wonder if the issue is the quality of the polenta - it shouldn't be gritty at all, but it will give a nice crumb with a little bit of tooth to it. It shouldn't be a moist cake, more crumbly and one that you would usually have with coffee, for breakfast, in Italy. I wouldn't throw away cake! You could always do as in the introduction and serve it with poached pears (with some of the pear juices drizzled over it) and whipped cream.
elfinpdx June 6, 2019
what is the size of the cake pan used in this recipe? The instructions just say "butter the cake pan." Thanks
Erna August 12, 2017
I tried this recipe and the batter was so dry I had to add 1 cup of milk. The batter was still very stiff and did not rise properly. Did you forget to put the liquid ingredients in the recipe?
Erna August 12, 2017
I tried this recipe and the batter was so dry I had to add 1 cup of milk. The batter was still very stiff and did not rise properly. Did you forget to put the liquid ingredients in the recipe?
Emiko August 13, 2017
No, the recipe is correct as you see it here (there should be plenty of liquid between the whole eggs, the yolks, the butter compared to the relatively small amount of dry ingredients). For me, this batter (which I make regularly) "pours", but depending on the polenta used, it can be stiffer, like a cake batter that you have to level off and smooth over with the back of a spoon before popping in the oven.
MJ August 12, 2017
What are the dimensions of the pan you used? I have two sizes in my loaf pans. Not sure which to use. Thanks!
amy August 6, 2017
This sounds perfect! Have you ever made it in advance and frozen it? I volunteered to make ten different things for an open house (OK, I'm crazy) so putting one more in the freezer would be terrific. Thanks!
Emiko August 9, 2017
I have not tried to freeze this particular cake, no, but I often freeze cakes and in general find that they are all the more delicious and moist from it!
Lena B. November 7, 2019
Sorry for my englisch, I always make 2/3 cake and I froze that they are very succesfully , rimangono perfetti.
Bel Blog
dinner A. August 1, 2017
This cake sounds very good -- but the measure of sugar is left out of the list of ingredients (although it does appear in the instructions).
Emiko August 1, 2017
Thank you for pointing this out, it's been corrected.