Blood Orange Polenta Cake

Blood oranges are in season, and I never tire of cutting into them to see that gorgeous inside. When I saw a bag on sale at Trader Joe’s I knew I wanted to bake something that showed off the beautiful color, so I cobbled together some recipe ideas from online to come up with this– a moist, dense cake that emphasizes the oranges themselves.

I’ll start off by admitting that this cake, while impressive to look at and tasty to eat, was not my favorite dessert in the world. It was pleasantly rustic and lasted forever without going stale, but it wasn’t quite sweet enough for me (I think I over-caramelized the sugar, making the caramel a touch bitter) and not as moist as I’d hoped. It did display my blood oranges nicely, though, so props for that! I think this works better as a breakfast-style cake, served with some vanilla yogurt or sweetened ricotta on the side, rather than a real dessert. That being said, it would make a fabulous addition to your brunch table, so feel free to give it a shot if you like bitter orange!


  • 2 medium blood oranges
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • Grease 9-inch round cake pan, line with parchment paper, then grease parchment.
  • In a medium saucepan, heat sugar until it melts, then caramelizes, stirring infrequently to keep the heat evenly distributed. Don’t worry if it starts to clump, just keep stirring and breaking up the crystals, and it’ll eventually smooth out.
  • Once the caramel is a nice toasty brown (or perhaps pale amber), remove from heat and stir in all of the butter and salt. It won’t want to combine, but keep stirring until it comes together. Pour into prepared pan and spread out to cover the bottom.
  • Cut away peel and pith from oranges, then slice crosswise into ⅛-inch-thick slices. Arrange orange slices in single layer over caramel. Set aside.


  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (nonfat is fine)
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 3 eggs 
  • 1 orange (zest and juice – about 3 tbsp juice) 
  • ½ cup sugar 
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour 
  • ¾ cup polenta/cornmeal
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together yogurt, olive oil, eggs, orange juice, and orange zest.
  • Add remaining ingredients and whisk together– mixture will be thick.
  • Spoon into orange-lined pan and smooth.
  • Bake for about 30 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean.
  • Let cool for about 10 minutes in the pan, then carefully turn out onto a platter.

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