Saturday, July 7, 2012

Nigel Slater's Rhubarb Cinnamon Polenta Cake

The other day I found what must have been the last stalks of rhubarb available anywhere and when I saw them I remembered that I had been planning to bake Nigel Slater´s Rhubarb Cinnamon Polenta Cake one more time before all of the rhubarb has completely disappeared from the markets and I have to wait until next spring to be able to buy some more.

Rhubarb Cinnamon Polenta Cake
(as adapted from Nigel Slater's column in The Observer Magazine and “Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard”, published April 10, 2012)

Ingredients for the Rhubarb Filling
500g (1 pound) rhubarb
50g (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
4 tbsp water

Ingredients for the Cake 

125g (1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp) medium or coarse cornmeal/polenta
200g (1 1/3 cups) AP flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, from Ceylon, if possible
150g (3/4 cup) superfine sugar
grated zest of a small organic orange
150 g (1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp) unsalted butter, diced
1 egg, L
2-4 tbsp milk
1 tbsp coarse sugar mixed together with some pure vanilla sugar

For Serving (optional)
Vanilla ice cream, whipped cream (that´s what the kids liked) or crème fraîche
A dusting of confectioner`s sugar


1. Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F and grease a 20cm / 8in cake pan, preferably loose-bottomed or springform.
2. Trim the rhubarb and cut into pieces a couple of inches long. Put them in a baking dish with the sugar and water and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the rhubarb is soft but still retains its shape.
3. Drain the fruit and set aside. Reserve the juice to serve with the cake.
4. Put the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, cinnamon and sugar in a large bowl, or in the bowl of a food processor.
5. Add the grated orange zest and the butter. If using your hands, rub the butter in as if making pastry - until the mixture resembles large crumbs. If you are using a food processor you just need to process for a few seconds.
6. Break the egg into a small bowl and mix with the milk. Now add slowly to the crumble mix, stopping as soon as everything has come together to form a soft, sticky dough. You may not need all the liquid, or you may need a little more milk to get the right consistency.
7. Press about two thirds of the crumble mixture into the bottom of the cake pan, pushing the dough a bit up the sides of the pan. Place the rhubarb on top, being careful to leave a small rim around the edges uncovered.
8. Crumble the rest of the mixture over the fruit using your fingers - don't worry if the fruit isn't all covered. Scatter over the sugar/vanilla sugar mixture.
9. Bake the cake for about 40 to 45 minutes.
10. Cool the cake a few minutes before removing from the pan.
11. Dust with confectioner´s sugar (optinal).
12. Serve the cake with some whipped cream, crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream and the reserved rhubarb juice.

This simple little cake has a nice crunchy texture and is certainly not overly sweet. The kids liked it with some sweetened whipped cream, my husband and I preferred the crème fraîche/rhubarb juice version. If you like cornmeal and rhubarb, this is a good comfort food style of cake.


  1. Ooooo…This cake looks so incredibly yummy! Simply beautiful!! This is my kind of cake…perfect to have with a cup of tea! I have rhubarb in my garden now that needs to be picked…I see this in my future!
    Have a great weekend, Andrea!

    1. Kathy, I wish I could find some more rhubarb here - every spring I look forward to it finally appearing in the markets!

  2. oh my, this cakes looks delicious! I love when cakes have a crunch to them, and aren't to sweet so it sounds like it's right up my ally! THanks for the yummy recipe! Lovin' your blog btw!

    Aarean (come on over and follow along...I think you'll enjoy the colorful inspiration!)

  3. We still have rhubarb in the markets. Think I'll try this with crème fraîche. Exactly the kind of cake I like, not too sweet. Plus, I think I see it as a morning coffee cake. Looked delicious.

    1. Mary, I am sure you (and your guests) would love this cake!

  4. Hi Andrea! So happy to find your blog (thanks for stopping by mine!). I love that this cake is not as sweet and rhubarb in it! You know I don't bake much but I always choose any baked goods that have rhubarb in it. What a lovely cake for breakfast with coffee and tea time! Your cake with Creme faiche and rhubarb juice sounds excellent!

    1. Thank you, Nami! Loved your blog too and I will be looking for some wonderful recipes there!

  5. Excellent cake, and I think it would work with many fruits. I love baking with cornmeal so this goes into my list (which keeps getting longer!). Hope things are back to normal around there.

    1. Yes, thank you for asking - things are back to "normal" here, although, sometimes I believe "normal" does not seem to really exist...seriously, all is well and we are all happy that it is!

  6. This cake looks amazing! I can't eat eggs, but I could try it with egg replacer. I wonder if that would work?

    1. Sorry, I have no personal experience whatsoever baking with egg replacer but I looked it up and here is what I found: " just about any recipe that calls for eggs can be made vegan by using the proper egg substitute, there's no single answer to what the best substitute will be. Eggs perform a different function, depending on what you're making, so you may also need a different egg substitute, depending on the dish." (

      There is a lot more info there, hope that will help.