The first cookbook I owned was Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes. My siblings and I cooked every recipe in that book, each more brilliant and imaginative than the last. But the one we made over and over again was Bruce Bogtrotter’s Chocolate Cake from the pages of Matilda. A nearly-flourless cake with egg whites, it was most definitely a technical challenge, and my siblings and I destroyed the kitchen in the process, using every available bowl and utensil.

In spite of the chaos, we were learning the basics of baking: separating eggs, whipping the whites into a flurry, and gently folding them into a batter. It also planted the seeds of learning how to be a good host, the glittering feeling it gave us to delight our birthday-party guests with a decadent cake.

This cake would be sure to tempt Bruce Bogtrotter. It’s somehow airy and light and rich and pudding-like all at once, with a little extra texture courtesy of the softened polenta.–Emma Zimmerman

Chocolate Polenta Cake FAQs

What is polenta?

Polenta is basically a cornmeal mash. It can be made from any type of cornmeal and can be ground course, medium, or fine. Polenta is commonly used in Italian cooking.

Are grits and polenta the same thing?

Yes…and no. Polenta and grits are made from ground corn. The difference between them is the type of corn. Polenta is made from yellow corn, while grits are made from white corn. Grits are a staple in the southern United States.

Can I make this recipe dairy free?

You can. Instead of using butter, find a plant-based alternative that’s recommended for cooking and baking. There are several avocado-oil butter alternatives available that would substitute well flavor-wise, but you may see a slight textural difference in your final results.

Can I use instant polenta for this polenta cake?

Yes. Our testers had success making this pudding cake with instant polenta. Simply reduce the polenta cooking time according to package directions.

☞ Like polenta cakes? Try these:

A round chocolate polenta pudding cake on a white plate with one slice cut from it on an orange plate nearby.

Chocolate Polenta Pudding Cake

5 / 6 votes
This chocolatey polenta cake cleverly swaps in cornmeal for flour to make this rich, chocolatey dessert gluten-free.
David Leite
Servings10 servings
Calories472 kcal
Prep Time35 minutes
Cook Time55 minutes
Total Time13 hours 30 minutes


  • Oil, for the pan
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup polenta
  • 2 sticks (8 oz) cold unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces dark chocolate (70%), roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting


  • Lightly oil a 9-inch (23 cm) springform cake pan and line the base with parchment paper.

    ☞ TESTER TIP: To prevent any leaking from your pan, tightly wrap the bottom in aluminum foil.

  • Pour 2 cups water into a medium saucepan, add the salt, and bring to a boil over a medium-high heat. Add the polenta, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring frequently to prevent it from sticking to the base of the pan, until most of the water has been absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
  • Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter and chocolate. Allow to sit for about 5 minutes, then stir until melted and well combined. Mix in the cocoa powder.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the eggs and sugar on high speed until tripled in volume, 4 to 8 minutes. Gently fold half the mixture into the chocolate polenta, then fold in the rest just until no traces of egg are visible, taking care not to overmix. Pour in the vanilla and give the mixture a quick stir to incorporate.
  • Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Bake until the top is dry and somewhat souffléd, with a bit of a jiggle in the center, 30 to 40 minutes.
  • Remove the cake from the oven and run a thin paring knife around the inside of the pan, then allow to cool completely at room temperature. The cake will sink slightly in the center as it cools.
  • Place the cake in the fridge overnight before releasing the side and removing it from the pan. Use a sharp thin-bladed knife to cut the cake into slices, wiping the blade between cuts for a clean finish.
  • Finish with a light dusting of confectioners’ sugar and serve. The cake will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
The Miller's Daughter Cookbook

Adapted From

The Miller’s Daughter

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Serving: 1 sliceCalories: 472 kcalCarbohydrates: 43 gProtein: 7 gFat: 31 gSaturated Fat: 18 gMonounsaturated Fat: 9 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 161 mgSodium: 285 mgFiber: 3 gSugar: 31 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2022 Emma Zimmerman. Photo © 2022 David Alvarado. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Chocolate, pudding, and cake–what’s not to love? This chocolate pudding cake is so rich, so creamy–just waves of chocolate intensity. I’ve had other polenta cakes but none that have this ethereal pudding-like texture.

A round chocolate polenta pudding cake on a white plate, garnished with flowering thyme with one third cut from it.

Bake this for chocoholics, special occasions, or more simply, as a project for a rainy day. Another bonus for those serving gluten-free eaters–it’s flourless. It’s also forgiving of mistakes.

Unbeknownst to me, I used instant polenta, which cooked up in 1 minute instead of the prescribed 20 minutes. I also forgot the vanilla. The final cake wasn’t adversely affected. It looked beautiful.

I dusted the top lightly with powdered sugar and garnished it with lavender sprigs cut from my garden.

Chocolate dessert lovers, this chocolate polenta pudding cake is for you! We enjoyed every rich morsel of this bittersweet treat.

A round chocolate polenta pudding cake on a white plate with one slice cut from it.

While the oven was on, the chocolatey aroma permeated our entire house. So you can just imagine how difficult it was to wait for the cake to set overnight before we could dig in. Let me tell you, it was well worth the wait!

This chocolate polenta cake recipe instantly appealed to me because it reminded me of a delicious Sicilian chocolate wheat-berry dish (cuccia) that my aunt would make every year for the feast of St. Lucy.

This decadent flourless dessert received an overwhelming endorsement from my family and has been inducted into the special dessert section of my three-ring recipe binder.

Dear Merriam-Webster, please put a photo of this chocolate polenta pudding cake in your dictionary beside the word “decadent.” The first bite made me think a bit because I’m not familiar with the texture of polenta in a sweet dish. This recipe definitely delivers on its pudding-like promise, because it’s ultra moist, but the mouthfeel is more interesting than run-of-the-mill pudding, and that’s down to the clever way polenta is incorporated.

A round chocolate polenta pudding cake on a white plate with one slice cut from it on a plate nearby.

And then there’s the deep dark chocolate flavor that would have made me feel guilty, but thank goodness I convinced myself that all that butter and sugar are offset by the lack of gluten. Phew!

This is the type of recipe you want in your back pocket for occasions when you really want to impress people with how fancy you are. But don’t be like me and get caught without a raspberry coulis, a dry white, or something–anything–tart to balance how rich this dish is.

Hot tip: the leftovers store perfectly on a plate in the fridge under a dry tea towel or one of those microwave splatter lids.

I was intrigued by this polenta cake and truly didn’t know what to expect from the finished product. It turned out to be a huge hit!

A slice of chocolate polenta pudding cake on a pink plate.

The recipe is adamant about refrigerating the cake overnight before cutting into it. But there was zero percent chance I was going to pack that cake away before trying it. And I am so glad I did!

It was absolutely heavenly while warm: light and airy yet somehow pudding-like. I think it would make a terrific warm cast-iron skillet cake!

After spending one night in the refrigerator, the cake was still delicious; I served it to my mom and her friend, and they were bowled over. They described it as “soufflé-like, rich and creamy yet light in texture”; it was the perfect ending to a meal. The texture is definitely a bit different from most cakes, but we all agreed that it was not problematic. It’s a terrific gluten-free option as well!

I would like to try it with instant polenta next time because the only time-consuming part of the whole recipe was stirring the polenta for 20 minutes. I served this with lightly sweetened whip cream and coffee. Love, love, love it!

I confess. I’m not really a pudding or a mousse person; I prefer pie to cake. But I do love polenta and fudgy-type brownies, so I decided to give this chocolate polenta pudding cake recipe a test drive. I’m glad I did. It was a home run for me and my family tasters.

It was a cinch to make. And quick! The polenta came together as it should, although it took a bit longer on my finicky propane cooktop.

I was unsure about the baking instructions…how much jiggle to accept. Too much jiggle at 30 minutes. I pulled the cake out at 40 minutes and let it sit for a while. In hindsight, another 5 minutes wouldn’t have hurt, but that depends on how mousse-y you want the center.

Final result: great taste and a good balance of textures. It’s rich. I didn’t dust it with confectioner’s sugar because I liked the look of the slightly crusty top. I didn’t serve it with anything, although a fruit compote (summer berries or orange) would be a nice complement.

My only caution: Don’t let it sit around too long at room temperature; the center will start to weep. But if you have any size crowd at hand, this won’t be an issue, as it will disappear in a flash. We didn’t have a crowd, and it kept nicely in the fridge for several days.

I really enjoyed this fairly simple and quite decadent chocolate polenta cake. As the author so correctly states, it’s “airy and light and pudding-like all at once, with a little extra texture courtesy of the softened polenta.”

Other than the time spent initially cooking the polenta, the process was fairly effortless.

I did have the unfortunate experience of batter leaking out of the bottom of my springform pan while in the oven.

The cake baked to a slight jiggle with a somewhat-dry top in about 40 minutes. It was refrigerated overnight and easily released from the pan. It was dusted with the confectioners’ sugar and served plain.

The taste, however, was anything but plain. An overall wonderful, deeply-rich chocolate flavor with an interesting “little extra texture” from the polenta. And an intermittent pudding-like smoothness, similar to a molten cake, which was very pleasing. An interesting, delicious chocolate cake. One that I will clearly be baking again.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. Hey, everything I make from Leite’s is brilliant — I am constantly sending your recipes to my friends 🙂

    Thank you …


  2. 5 stars
    Wow this looks great. I was eating orange polenta cake on Sunday and love the texture of the polenta and the moistness of the cake. This takes it to a new level, thank you!

      1. 5 stars
        This was a HUGE hit at my block party yesterday, where I served it with mascarpone and raspberry/Grand Marnier coulis! In fact, it went so fast I didn’t even get a chance to try it — thank god my pan was small so I had to bake the leftover batter in a small pyrex (which I saved for myself).

        1. I am so pleased everyone enjoyed this, Heidi! What a great way to celebrate your community and I love that you had your own serving waiting at home. Please let us know what you make next.