Pistachio-Lime Polenta Cake

This pistachio-lime polenta cake is an easy dessert or snack cake made with ground pistachios, polenta, lime juice and zest, sugar, and a mixture of olive oil and butter. Despite the richness that the nuts, oil, and butter lend to this lightly sweetened cake, it is very light and delicate in texture.

Several plates with slices of pistachio-lime polenta cake topped with confectioners' sugar and chopped pistachios

Adapted from Kathy Kordalis | Rice & Grains | Ryland Peters & Small, 2022

This cake is moist, delicate, light, gently nutty, and zesty all at the same time. It is the perfect tea cake, or serve as a dessert with a dollop of Greek yogurt on the side. The olive oil pairs very well with the lime and pistachio and makes for a very moist crumb.–Kathy Kordalis

Pistachio-Lime Polenta Cake FAQs

Can I find superfine sugar in a grocery store?

In many stores, yes. Superfine sugar also goes by the names: caster, ultrafine, or bar sugar. But, you can also make your own by blitzing granulated sugar in a food processor until finely ground, but not powdery.

Can I substitute regular sugar for superfine?

Always use superfine sugar if a recipe calls for it specifically. There’s probably a good reason. Generally, because the texture of superfine sugar is much finer than regular sugar, it will melt and incorporate itself into batters, sauces, and bases more smoothly and quickly.

What is the best way to store this pistachio-lime polenta cake?

This cake will keep nicely for about four days. Let it cool completely, then place in an airtight container. It should be stored in a cool area (not necessarily a fridge although that’s ok too, but definitely keep it away from heat sources).

Pistachio-Lime Polenta Cake

Several plates with slices of pistachio-lime polenta cake topped with confectioners' sugar and chopped pistachios
This cake is moist, delicate, light, gently nutty, and zesty all at the same time. It is the perfect tea cake, or serve as a dessert with a dollop of Greek yogurt on the side. The olive oil pairs very well with the lime and pistachio and makes for a very moist crumb.
Kathy Kordalis

Prep 30 mins
Cook 50 mins
Total 1 hr 30 mins
Dessert
Mediterranean
8 servings
519 kcal
5 / 2 votes
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Ingredients 

  • 7 tablespoons (3 1/2 oz) unsalted butter plus extra for the pan
  • 1 2/3 cups unsalted pistachio nuts shelled and chopped, plus extra for garnish
  • Scant 1/2 cup unfiltered extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup superfine sugar (or blitz granulated sugar in a food processor until finely ground)
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour sifted
  • 1/3 cup finely ground polenta or cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 3 limes (about 1 tablespoon zest and 1/3 cup juice) preferably organic
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
  • Greek yogurt to serve (optional)

Directions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C) and butter a 9-inch (23-cm) springform cake pan.
  • Put the pistachios in a food processor and pulse until finely ground.
  • In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter gently then combine with the olive oil in a small bowl.
  • Using a handheld mixer, whisk the eggs and sugar together in a mixing bowl until light in color. Turn the mixer to low speed and slowly add the butter and oil mixture into the whisked egg mixture a little at a time, until completely emulsified, 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Whisk the flour, polenta or cornmeal, baking powder, and ground pistachios into the egg mixture. Fold the lime juice and zest into the mixture with a rubber spatula.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan and bake in the middle of the oven until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Leave the cake to rest in the cake pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and let cool completely.
  • Dust with confectioners’ sugar and sprinkle over the chopped pistachios. Serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt on the side, if desired.
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Show Nutrition

Serving: 1sliceCalories: 519kcal (26%)Carbohydrates: 45g (15%)Protein: 9g (18%)Fat: 36g (55%)Saturated Fat: 10g (63%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 6gMonounsaturated Fat: 19gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 96mg (32%)Sodium: 30mg (1%)Potassium: 383mg (11%)Fiber: 4g (17%)Sugar: 27g (30%)Vitamin A: 540IU (11%)Vitamin C: 9mg (11%)Calcium: 72mg (7%)Iron: 2mg (11%)

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

The delicacy of this cake is perfect. It has a light texture it is moist and slightly crumbled. In terms of flavor, lime and pistachio stand out, but the olive oil also gives it a very pleasant aroma, all perfectly balanced.

A wedge of pistachio-lime polenta cake being cut from a whole cake

Being very easy to prepare, it is important that the butter and oil emulsion in the egg and sugar mixture be done carefully, to guarantee a homogeneous dough. Like all cakes where olive oil is used, it also has the advantage of being able to be stored for longer, keeping it light and moist.

I loved the combination of flavors and textures in this pistachio-lime polenta cake. It has a bright, not-too-sweet Middle Eastern dessert vibe that I love (I could picture myself eating this on a summer evening in an olive grove somewhere in Morocco!)

I used a very fruity olive oil and the flavor really shone through. I’m not sure I ground my pistachios quite fine enough; they weren’t truly what I would call “a fine powder”. I actually really liked the texture that the pistachios and polenta added – very toothsome.

I served it dusted with confectioners’ sugar and a nice dollop of plain Greek yogurt to which I added some lime zest, lime juice, and honey – the cake and yogurt made a fabulous combination. Next time I will add a 1/2 teaspoon of Fiori di Sicilia to the cake batter. This is absolutely my kind of dessert – I’ll take this over chocolate any day!

My husband, who told me he doesn’t like pistachios, really enjoyed this cake! It’s a rich cake that tastes quite good unadorned but would likely be very nice with some whipped cream. The cake isn’t one that is spectacular in the way it looks but surprises the eater with some very complex and enjoyable flavors.

I was attracted to this recipe because I had some pistachios to use up and I liked the idea of making a cake with oil and polenta, which sounded quite healthy and Mediterranean.

The batter was quite runny as it went into the tin and I wondered if it would set ok in the oven. My actual oven temperature as measured by oven thermometer was more around 140°C rather than 160°C. The cake took 53 minutes to cook and my cake was nicely golden on top and brown on the sides. The recipe would serve eight people. I served my cake with homemade pistachio ice-cream instead of Greek yogurt. The cake was moist and a nice pistachio green colour. The lime flavour was evident and gave a nice tang to the sweetness of the cake. I would make this cake again and would recommend to others.

All the flavors in this pistachio-lime polenta cake worked really well together. The cake came out moist with a satisfying crumb,  and it was quite delightful with coffee because it wasn’t overly sweet. 

I made a mascarpone whipped cream to dollop on top with some chopped pistachios (mostly because I had some left over and didn’t want it to go bad) and it was a yummy accompaniment.

I’ve been eating the last bite of this cake one crumb at a time because I don’t want it to ever go away. The zing, the crunch, the tenderness, the aroma—everything about this cake is addictive. I want this cake to be baking in my oven around the clock! The cake is all about the clean lime and pistachio flavors, and I love that I’m not distracted by vanilla or too much buttery-ness (Wow, did I just write that?) Sprinkling the finished cake with chopped pistachios is a great idea. I think the taste and aroma of the nuts come through stronger than they would if they had been baked on top of the cake.

Two things to note here: after 10 minutes of cooling in the pan, the cake was still very fragile. So I released it from the ring of the springform pan and waited until the cake was completely cool before removing it from the base. For those who would rather buy shelled pistachios, 1-2/3 cups (200g) shell-on pistachios yielded a scant 1 cup (102g) of shelled nuts.

What to say about a cake when the recipe title alone is a mouthful? In addition, the mouthfeel is both luxurious and grainy? Bring it on. That’s what I say.

This cake behaved like a torte with a bit of attitude. My 3 limes produced 2 packed teaspoons of zest (4 grams) and 75 ml of lime juice. I was certain that these amounts of lime product were going to overwhelm the pistachio flavour. This did not happen.

My only dismay was that my cake had darkened and developed crispy edges. I’m pretty sure this was because I used a 9 1/2 inch dark metal pan and checked the cake at 50 minutes. It probably was perfectly baked at 45 minutes. My other deviation from the recipe was that since I was concerned about turning my pistachios into butter, I pulsed the flour and polenta into the final grinding of the pistachios. I did not mind the slight graininess of the cake crumb but I realize that it’s not for everyone.

I served mine with just a fork, the confectioners’ sugar and some roasted pistachios. We enjoyed it still warm. The following day, I paired a slice with a scoop of olive oil ice cream. The flavour and texture had all the same interest of the freshly baked cake and also warmed well in the microwave. This one will come to grace our table again.

Originally published April 21, 2022

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Comments

  1. I haven’t baked the cake, so cannot review it yet, but: please give measurements in weights, not volume. What is a “scant 1/3 c olive oil?” I can estimate it, but if it were “100 g” or something, I could be more precise.

    Also, I’m going to toast the pistachios and brown the butter. Wish me luck!

    1. Ellen, you can always access the weight measurements by clicking on the metric button next to the word ‘Ingredients’, which allows you to toggle between volume and metric weight measurements.

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