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Nigella Lawson’s Vegan Lemon Polenta Cake

In this vegan recipe, Nigella revisits an old favourite, her lemon polenta cake, and reimagines it with plant-based ingredients and without any compromise on taste or texture.

From the book

Nigella Lawson


I’d been trying for a while to come up with a vegan version of my Lemon Polenta Cake, an old and particular favourite, as I’ve had so many requests from people who love it as much as I do, but who can no longer eat the original, with its butter and eggs, or have children who are vegan.

My experiments were successful, in that I had a recipe that worked, but not good enough in terms of recreating its glorious texture, that cornmeal-grainy custardiness, that makes it taste like lemon curd solidified – but only just – into cake.

As it so happens, the stars aligned, and just as I was about to give up, I saw, posted, a photograph of just such a vegan version by Katy Morgan, author of the Oat Milk & Cookies blog and who often posts with the hashtag #veganisingnigella. I asked her how she’d adapted it, she told me, I tried it and loved it. So here, with much gratitude, and only a little tinkering, it is. This is the story of the cross-pollination and creative collaboration that underpins cooking and the evolution of recipes.

You can never have too many lemon cakes in my book – which, after all, this is – and this one must surely be a near-universal pleaser, being dairy-free, egg-free and gluten-free; I dare say those who must also exclude nuts (what a cruel world this is) could replace the ground almonds with rice flour. If you need the cake to be gluten-free then do check that all of the ingredients are labelled gluten-free – brands can vary.

I should also say that I haven’t had much success with it when I’ve used purer plant-based yogurts, delicious though they are; a standard commercial type seems to be necessary for the cake’s structure. Soya milk is the one foodstuff I truly cannot get on with but its flavour is not detectable in the cake with the almond-soy yogurt I propose here.

I daresay you could replace the syrup with the lemon and elderflower drizzle on p.76, if you felt so minded.

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150g ground almonds
150g fine polenta (not instant)
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (gluten-free if necessary)
¼ tsp fine sea salt
100ml light olive oil, plus a little extra for greasing the tin
200g caster sugar
2 large lemons, at room temperature
250ml almond-milk plain soy yogurt, at room temperature
75g icing sugar
To serve:
berries of your choice (optional)

Essential kit

You will need: a 20cm springform cake tin.


1. Heat the oven to 180ºC/160ºC Fan, and line and lightly grease the sides of a 20cm springform cake tin. Measure the ground almonds and polenta into a bowl, add the baking powder, bicarb, and salt, and fork to mix.

2. Pour the oil into a wide-necked large measuring jug, add the sugar and finely grate the zest of the 2 lemons on top. Stir together for a minute, then beat in the yogurt until completely incorporated. Then simply pour your jug of wet ingredients into your bowl of dry ingredients, making sure everything is completely mixed.

3. Scrape into the prepared tin, and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes, until the cake is beginning to nudge away from the sides of the tin, and a cake tester comes out clean. Make the syrup, though, as soon as the cake goes in the oven.

4. Put the icing sugar into a small saucepan and add 75ml of juice from your zested lemons. Heat, whisking gently to beat out any lumps, just until the sugar’s dissolved into the juice, and pour straightaway into a little jug to cool.

5. When the cake’s cooked, transfer it to a wire rack and, with your cake tester, prick it all over, going in deep, to help the syrup run down into the cake. Pour or spoon the syrup over, trying to be patient, so the syrup doesn’t just make a large pond on top.

6. Leave the cake, drenched with its syrup, to cool and, before unclipping, run a slim palette knife round the edges to help dislodge it where the syrup has stuck it to the tin. If you don’t feel confident of getting the cake off the base in one piece, don’t worry. Serve the cake plain, or with berries of your choice.


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From the book: Cook, Eat, Repeat

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