Polenta is a golden-yellow Italian cornmeal made from dried, ground maize. It is the kind of flour that people look at, want and often don’t have a clue how to use. Despite being called polenta it is actually cornmeal, it only becomes polenta once it has been cooked.

Polenta has been cooked since Roman times, when it was known as pulmentum. But it was not used for making cornmeal, it was made with flour such as chestnut flour, faro and millet and made into porridge. Cornmeal was introduced in the 16th century with the discovery of the Americas. The porridge is made by mixing cornmeal with water and simmering and stirring until it thickens and is still today one of the staple dishes of northern Italy. There are different grades of Polenta from ground coarse to fine, and as we’ve looked at various suppliers we’ve found that the quality can really vary.

To find out more about how to use polenta, I asked Vanessa, our baking expert for a recipe to show it at its best. As usual, she has done just that, see below.

View the recipe below or on our blog

For baking purposes polenta adds superb texture to everyday bread. The easiest way to incorporate polenta into your bread is to substitute 10% of the flour in your usual recipe to get a superb crustiness to your usual loaf. It makes a superb base to bake your bread on. It’s like millions of tiny marbles under your loaf, so it is great under pizzas or stone-baked bread to give that really authentic finish.

Polenta also makes exceedingly good cake, and once you have tried this orange polenta cake you will make it over and over again but, as with any recipe, the quality of your flour determines how your cake with turn out, so it is best to use a good quality fine organic polenta.

View the recipe below or on our blog


Tiptree’s Orange Marmalade

Organic Polenta

Maize polenta flour, organic and stone-ground from "Ottofile" and "Marano" varieties for polenta, puddings and biscuits.

Arancio Extra Calabria - Orange Essence

Here the essential oil of sweet oranges gives an intense sweet boost to any cakes, sweets and desserts that contain orange zest or candied peel. Paired with dark chocolate, mixed with fruit mincemeat, or added to water icing brushed over warm muffins.

Organic baking powder

Organic baking powder, made in Germany for a high-performance alternative to the non-organic supermarket varieties.

8 inch springform cake tin

Heavy gauge springform cake tin, 8" or 20cm in diameter and 2.5" or 6cm high. Made in UK by George Wilkinson, this tin has a lifetime guarantee.

Vanessa’s Italian Orange Polenta Cake Recipe

This golden, moist, deliciously orangey cake is quick to make and tastes even better the following day.

• 250g soft unsalted butter (plus extra for greasing)
• 250g fairtrade caster sugar
• I tsp Arancio Extra Calabria - Orange Essence
• 250g ground almonds
• 125g Mulino Marino organic fine polenta
• 2tsp organic baking powder
• a pinch of salt
• 4 eggs

for the syrup:

• 75g fine cut Tiptree marmalade
• 12g water
• Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4/ 350°F.

Line the bottom of an 8” / 20cm springform cake tin with baking parchment, grease lightly with butter and dust with flour.

Beat the butter sugar and Arancio Extra Calabria - orange essence until fluffy.

Mix together the almonds, polenta the baking powder and salt, and add a third into the butter-sugar mixture and 1 of the eggs. Mix, before adding the remaining two thirds and the three remaining eggs. Beat well, then spoon the mixture into your prepared tin and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes with a piece of brown paper over the top to stop it from catching turn the oven down to 140°C and bake for a further 15 minutes.

When the cake is cooked, a cake skewer will come out clean and you will see that the edges of the cake will have somewhat shrunk away from the sides of the tin.

Leave it in its tin to cool.

To make the syrup, boil the marmalade and water for thirty seconds in a small pan.

Prick the top of the cake all over with a skewer, pour the syrup whilst still warm over the cake, and leave to cool. Once fully cool remove from the tin.

• Orange and cardamom - Add a tiny pinch of cardamom (about ¼ tsp) at Christmas to turn this into a very festive cake.

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