ORANGE, POLENTA & FENNEL CAKE + The Homemade Table Cookbook

September 8th, 2022


I have a delicious while different cake recipe to share today… but first, the exciting news is that my new cookbook is almost here (4 1/2 weeks and counting).

The Homemade Table – Seasonal Recipes, Preserves & Sourdough

I am so happy to (finally) share details of my new cookbook – The Homemade Table. A book that took three years to write, research and photograph, with over 170 recipes inside 380 pages. If you enjoyed cooking from my last cookbook, Homegrown Kitchen, I am sure you will love this one too.

The Homemade Table is released on Monday 10th October 2022. Books can also be ordered from local bookstores around New Zealand.

More Details + Order The Homemade Table

+ Nelson Book Launch/Signing Event

If you are in the Nelson area, save the date for a book signing/launch event in central Nelson on Monday 10th October 2022 – details to come.

Find details about the contents of The Homemade Table HERE. 

And now to the recipe…

How lovely it is to see the sun again. After weeks, in fact, it feels like months of rain, the sun is like a salve to the soul. I feel my mood and energy lifting with the warmth and extra light.

Citrus is on my mind as we flow into the first weeks of spring. The wintered-over evergreen citrus trees have golden orbs hanging from their branches begging to be used. Oranges, in particular, are ripe and ready, and at their best at the moment (in my cooler valley garden anyway).

They have gone from the tart sweetness of wintertime, to sweet and juicy in a matter of weeks. Our tree, which tends towards one year on one year off, is well and truly “on” this year. Baskets of oranges are juiced into glasses, wedged into school lunches, and used in cooking all over the show. Here is a sweet delight to bring some (extra) sunshine to these early spring days.

Orange, Polenta & Fennel Cake with a Yoghurt Glaze

This naturally gluten-free cake is a one-bowl affair so it comes together in no time. The hardest part is waiting for the cake to cool for glazing. You can also skip the sweet glaze, increasing the sugar in the cake to ½ cup (or not, if like me you like your sweet recipes not too sweet). Instant or “quick cook” polenta is used in this cake adding a light texture and gentle chew to the crumb. Only a small amount of polenta is needed as it absorbs a lot of moisture - about 3-4 times its weight. Finally, I have added fennel seeds to complement the orange. My garden begins to explode into fennel flowers in spring from the (florence fennel) bulbs I leave to flower and self-seed. Once they set seed I gather them in a jar for use in the kitchen. Fennel has a strong aniseed flavour, if this is not favoured then simply leave them out.
Servings 10
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes


  • cup (180ml) unsweetened natural yoghurt
  • 100 g melted butter or 100ml olive oil
  • 3 eggs
  • Zest and juice of 2 oranges, using 1/2 cup juice
  • cup sugar or honey
  • cup (60g) fine polenta (instant or quick cook)
  • ½ cup (60g) ground almonds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp ground fennel seeds optional
  • Pinch salt

Yoghurt glaze:

  • 1 tbsp unsweetened natural yoghurt
  • ½ cup (80g) icing sugar
  • Fennel flowers for decorating optional


  • Preheat the oven to 170ºC (fan 150ºC). Grease a 22cm round bundt tin, or grease and line a 20cm cake tin.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the yoghurt, melted butter/olive oil, eggs, zest and 1/2 cup orange juice, and sugar/honey.
  • Add the remaining dry ingredients and continue to whisk until smooth. The batter will be very wet and runny, this is fine as the polenta will soak it up during cooking.
  • Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 30-35 minutes until golden on the surface and an inserted skewer comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes then invert onto a cooling rack.
  • Make the yoghurt glaze if using. Combine the yoghurt and icing sugar in a bowl until smooth, taking your time to remove any lumps. Spoon over the cool cake and leave to set for an hour. Decorate with fennel flowers and serve cake wedges with a dollop of yoghurt.
  • Store the cake in a sealed container and consume within 3 days.

Join the Conversation

  1. Hi Nicola, looks amazing! is it possible to replace the polenta with your GF flour?

    1. Hi Prisca, I developed this recipe to be made with polenta for the lovely texture it gives the cake. Polenta absorbs more moisture than flour and I haven’t tested it using flour, GF or otherwise. As a general rule you need 3-4 times the amount of flour to polenta but again as I haven’t made it I can’t be certain how this would come out. It might be best to try another recipe that uses flour rather than polenta if you would prefer not to use it. Other citrus cake recipes I have include Orange and Hazelnut or Boiled Mandarin Cakes (that can be made as a cake too).
      Happy cooking, Nicola

  2. Kia ora Nicola, I made this cake and really enjoyed the flavours. Thought I’d leave a comment though as mine turned out quite soggy. I think I may have used very juicy oranges and so too much liquid! The bottom layer was almost like a custard. I wonder if it might be a good idea to have an approx measure of orange juice in the recipe? Your orange and citrus trees sound amazing! Nicky x

    1. Thanks for the feedback Nicky, it is a moist cake but it shouldn’t be soggy or have a custard layer. Orange size and juiciness can definitely vary, per orange I would expect a maximum of 1/4 cup juice, so for the recipe up to 1/2 cup juice. I’ll add this to the recipe now.
      Thanks again for highlighting this, I suppose it could almost be a pudding from the sounds of it.

  3. Hi Nicola!
    I would like to ask if you think it’s possible to make this cake vegan? For the cake itself we would only need to find a substitute for the eggs, perhaps chia seeds?

    I am looking forward to hearing what you think!

    Best wishes,

    1. Absolutely give it a go, but I haven’t made it vegan or without eggs so can’t be sure how it will turn out. Chia egg replacement or even aquafaba (liquid from chickpeas) could work but as it relies on eggs for binding the cake it may not hold together well without it.

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