Polenta cake with nuts crumbly and rustic

My grandmother came from a little village in the countryside, in a place where you would only see the odd tractor passing by every 3 hours or so.

She was very advanced for those days, in the 70s, when less people knew about healthy eating. She fully embraced a macrobiotic diet to survive her serious chronic gut problems and she was successful. Even her dog was given potatoes with vegetables, meat and polenta for lunch which she would cook up for him. That dog lived until he was 16. We thought granny was kind of batty and too fixated with her diets but we also felt this was part of her charm. Despite her weak constitution she peacefully died aged 90 with no signs of dementia whatsoever.

She just sprang to my mind today when her handwritten recipe just magically fell from a book whilst I was tidying up. It was her polenta cake with nuts which so must reminds me of my time with her.

This cake resembles very much the Italian Sbrisolona cake but as this was her own recipe and slightly different from the original I won’t call it like that.

Whatever the name if you make this you will enjoy it. It is rustic, crumbly and moreish, one of those wholesome rustic cakes which “taste” of grandma!

  • Prep Time : 20 minutes
  • Cook Time : 40 minutes


  • yellow corn meal (polenta flour) – 120 g – just over 1 cup
  • plain flour – 100 g – slightly less than 1 cup
  • baking powder – 2 tsp
  • butter – 130 g – 1/2 cup
  • caster sugar – 100 g – 1/2 cup
  • vanilla essence – 1 tsp
  • egg – 1
  • mixed nuts of your choice (halzenuts, wholenuts, almonds, macademia nuts..) – 100 g – 2/3 cup
  • powdered (icing sugar) – to sprinkle
  • a few extra nuts for the topping


Take the butter out of the fridge to soften a little. Grind the nuts using a food processor.

Corn flour has a more rustic and heavier consistency than ordinary wheat flour. This will give the cake a very interesting texture.

In a bowl work the butter with the sugar, the egg, the ground nuts and the vanilla until soft and creamy.

Add the polenta and the plain flour with the baking powder and mix well.

Put the mixture on a round baking tin (26 cm or 10 inch diameter) covered with parchment paper. Use your hands to spread it well and evenly on your tin.

Gently press a handful of whole nuts on top and cook at 180C – 350F for 40 minutes.

When the cake has cooled down sprinkle it with a little powdered sugar.


20 thoughts on “Polenta cake with nuts crumbly and rustic

  1. Simply beautiful recipe from a very special lady. It must have meant so much baking this cake recently. What a lovely post ….


  2. Ciao, Alida…
    Your words that you describe your granny and this cake are so beautiful. I could just see what your granny must have looked like…God bless her..I can understand how precious she must have been to you and your family. Strange that this recipe came floating down from a book up above…It was like her telling you that this was a recipe she wanted you to share. I love this and I feel how you feel as my grandmother was special to me as well…
    Never had a cake like this and it really looks so tempting..I have to try this one…One question, in the recipe you mention caster sugar, is that like regular granulated sugar that we use in the states or is it a special type of sugar? Thanks for sharing, a very inviting cake…
    Hugs dear friend Dottie 🙂


    1. Hi Dottie, I am pleased you like the recipe. Caster sugar is finer than granulated and it dissolves more easily, making it ideal for cakes but you can use ordinary granulated if you like. I am only using caster because it is available in most supermarkets in the UK. Ciao!


  3. that sounds like the village I live in! Glorious life and a glorious cake. I love the idea of the polenta in this, it’s beautiful x


    1. I agree. A very sweet “liquor type” of wine like Vin Santo or Marsala would go heavenly with this cake.


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