Lemon and Berry Polenta Cake (Gluten Free)

Zesty, lemon sugar syrup the slight crunch of polenta coupled with juicy berries gives a refreshingly different dessert cake.  Serve with oodles more berries and cream and you have yourself a mighty fine pudding. This cake uses fine grained polenta (quick cook) which as an added bonus makes it a gluten-free cake so you get all the taste but without the gluten gunk.  I have not said I love you to a cake yet but this is a surprising contender and definitely on my bake again list.

Four lemons go into the cake and the juice – yes four of them!  So expect a citrus hit which is great as I love lemons but it is not too sour just right in my opinion.  In my tutor group leavers speech I told them ‘If life gives you free lemons – say hey – free lemons!’ OK so they did not get my meaning either but maybe one day they will realise that free lemons = great cake. Nom nom.

I added berries for more flavour and texture.  Yes I admit they were frozen ones as we are not quite in strawberry and blueberry season yet but don’t knock frozen fruit as it tastes better than some of the out of season water filled varieties.

Do you know why I like this cake so much? 

Quite simply it was quick to make, simple, tasted great and when I went to take the photographs it was about to rain as the dark grey clouds were gathering.  This meant instead of spending countless hours getting the pictures right to fulfil the perfectionist streak in me I was challenged to just shoot the images as it was.  I love the pictures  and just like the cake they were no fuss but a great result.  Finally something that required not much effort!

Lemon Berry Polenta Cake

I took this cake as part of a set of gluten-free goodies to a university reunion and it was very happily received so I promised my newly diagnosed coeliac friend that I would do a post on gluten-free baking – more on that to follow.

What surprised me the most about our PGCE gathering (teaching qualification) was that I am the only person still in teaching!  What does that say about the profession I wonder?  Also on a sadder note apparently I am only a quarter of the bubbly person I used to be perhaps that is the result of still being in teaching I wonder.  Cue mid-life crisis….

Recipe (adapted from Doves Farm)

150g soft room temperature butter
150g caster sugar
3 eggs (room temperature)
75g ground almonds
1/s tsp gluten-free baking powder
4 lemons – grated rind and juice
75g Polenta (quick cook fine grain variety)
50g granulated sugar ( for the sugar syrup)
200g berries of your choice


1. Preheat oven to 170°C/Fan150°/325°F/Gas 3
2. Grease a 20cm/8”cake tin and line with baking parchment or greaseproof.
3. Beat butter and 150g sugar together until pale and light(about 5 mins).
4. Beat in eggs, one at a time.
5. Mix in the ground almonds and baking powder until fully combined.
6. Stir in all the grated lemon rind and juice of two lemons – reserve the rest for the sugar syrup.
7. Stir in the polenta and then the berries.
8. Spoon mixture into cake tin.
9. Bake for approx 40/45 minutes on the middle shelf
10. Allow to cool in the tin.
11. Add the juice of the remaining 2 lemons into a saucepan with 50g sugar.
12. Boil gently, stirring regularly, for 5 minutes to form a thick syrup.
13. Make holes in the cake with the cake tester or a skewer and pour syrup over the cake
14. Allow to cool before removing from the tin.


This cake is very moist and will last in an airtight container for up to 3 days.  Generally gluten free cakes do not last as long as regular cakes – so more excuse to get one and eat it!

Enjoy!   Coming up next – 7 tips on gluten free baking and the turkish temptress layer cake (pay day cake 3!)

Lemon Meringue Roulade

This dessert is not a smack it in your face and make it screw up with the power of unadulterated lemon zest like you get sometimes with a tart au citron or Lemon meringue pie. This dessert is lemon meringue with finesse as it draws you in with clouds of soft sweet meringue, caresses you with the taste of italian sunshine and finishes with tangy limoncello soaked berries. If you use half fat cream it is also good for fitting in those summer short you were avoiding putting on this week.

As Marks and Spencer’s would say this is not just any old meringue this is lemon meringue roulade and quite simply you do not want your portion to end. Don’t be fooled by its cracked exterior and dodgy rolling as you should never judge a dessert purely by its looks or you will miss out.

Avoidance Tactics
Some people go to extraordinary lengths to avoid things, people or events.  Those moments in life where if given the opportunity to cross over to the other side of the street or just ignore it, you grasp the opportunity and break into a sprint even in stiletto heels as long as it is far in the opposite direction.   My Mum’s favourite pudding is Lemon Meringue Pie but the thought of making a pastry tart filled with me with anxiety, gave me pastry related nightmares even though my berry palmiers with macron icecream turned out with gentle puffed layers of butter I still fear it.  As a result out tumbled the A team (A for avoidance) to my rescue.  For once I am proud of my dithering tactics as this turned out better than I hoped, no guilt was felt afterwards and my feet do not have blisters on them.  However this dessert probably took longer in internet searching and planning than if I had just got on with the pie in the first place but that is the downside of avoidance.

Meringue Roulade
Make the lemon mousse and soak the berries in Limoncello (optional) the night before to give them time to chill fully

Lemon Mousse Ingredients (adapted from BBC good food online)
284ml Elmlea double cream (half fat alternative but you can use full fat double cream)
Zest of 1 lemon and juice
60g caster sugar
2 egg whites (room temperature)

Mousse Instructions
1. Add cream, zest, and sugar to a bowl and whisk until it starts to thicken
2. Add lemon juice and whisk again – whisk until thick but not too stiff that you can not add whisked egg whites to the mixture
3. Clean the bowl you wish to whisk the egg whites in with the rind of the lemon (left over from juicing) to ensure it has no grease
4. Whisk the egg whites until soft peak stage (if you go to tip the bowl the mixture will slide around – so don’t put it over your head this time)
5. Fold the egg whites into the lemon mixture until it is combined
6. Pour mousse into a container and chill until ready to use.

Limoncello soaked berries
200g fresh or frozen berries of your choice ( I used Sainsbury’s frozen blueberries and strawberries)
50ml of limoncello (I must post the recipe as I make my own and it is as simple as making vanilla essence and a delight after dessert to cleanse the palette)

1. Add the limoncello to your chosen fruits and leave to soak covered in the fridge overnight whilst your mousse is chilling.
2. When you are ready to make the roulade – strain off the juice into shot glasses and enjoy later – it is so good and a reward for your baking efforts.

Meringue Roulade (taken from Mary Berry Recipe for Raspberry Meringue Roulade – The Ultimate Cake Book)

Roulade Ingredients
5 egg whites (room temperature)
275g caster sugar
1/2 jar of lemon curd for the filling ( I used Sainsburys taste the difference)

Roulade Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 200C / 400F / Gas 6 / 180 Fan.
2. Line a 13×9 inch tin (33×23 cm) which is a swiss roll tin with baking parchment (including up the sides for easy removal).
3. Wipe the bowl you will use to whisk the eggs whites in with a slice of lemon to degrease it and ensure perfect peaks.
4. Pour the eggs whites into the clean bowl and whisk on high speed until the egg whites form very stiff peaks (you can turn the bowl upside down and the eggs will not move an inch).
5. Add caster sugar one teaspoon at a time to the egg mixture whilst still beating and ensure all sugar is combined before adding the next (I count to 5 between spoonfuls).
6. The mixture will be very stiff once all the sugar has been included (so much so the blades of my mixer started to struggle but it is a 1950’s Kenwood Chef).
7. Pour the mixture into the lined tin and use a pallet knife to spread the meringue
8. Put the tin near the top of the oven and bake for 8 mins.
8. Turn down the temperature to 160C/ 325F/ Gas 3/ 140 Fan and bake for a further 15 mins until it lightly golden and the meringue is firm to the touch.
9. Cut a further piece of baking parchment the same size as the tin.
10. Turn out the meringue onto the baking parchment so that it is upside down and then remove the baking parchment. Leave to cool for 10 minutes.


1. Smooth the lemon curd onto the roulade.
2. Smooth the mousse over the top and scatter with the berries.
3. Keep the meringue on the baking parchment to make rolling it easier.
4. Start at one of the longest edges of the meringue. Fold the edge of the meringue inwards and begin to roll it up like a swiss roll.
5. It will crack and feel like it will never work but use the baking parchment to help you roll it and be gentle (ish) with your touch get the parchment to do the work.
6. It may not look brilliant at this point and the filling is likely to squirt out but you can lick the work surface later.
7. Once rolled use the baking parchment to transfer it to a plate (it is quite long so you may wish to cut into two depending on your serving plate size). If you wish you can have the joy of removing the baking parchment which is a little like trying to pull out a tablecloth whilst plates are still on it but if it is for family tea – just cut it on the paper and get over the need to be perfect (says the one who did the pulling off of the paper).

Enjoy- love you Mum!

Rule of three : Palmiers, Berries and Macaron Ice-cream

My thought are working towards Valentine’ Day particularly with my once a year competition for Valentine crafts and baking.  This inspired these delicate heart-shaped pastry palmiers with a mixed berry compote and custard served with vanilla, macaron and berry swirl ice-cream.  I originally got the presentation inspiration from Canelle et Vanille which I spotted on foodgawker. I wanted to enter the monthly tea time treats competition hosted this month by Karen at Lavender and Lovage and next month it will be held by What Kate Baked

As you bite into these you get gentle waves of flavour as this is no ordinary dough this uses the base Danish pastry dough by Paul Hollywood’s and I just added my own twist. The taste experience starts with the sweetness of caramelised sugar, followed by little pockets of butter,  blast of juicy berries, hints of vanilla and that’s just the Palmiers.  This is truly the serendipitous moment of my baking journey so far.  I write this while listening to January rain by David Gray from the film Serendipity – listen along if you wish I just love to look at John Cusack (sigh).

As you get to the ice-cream you hit a wave of cool vanilla, melt in the mouth  pieces of vanilla macaron and swirls of berry tingling all over your tongue. Now I am glad my macarons were a disaster they have truly been reborn.  Now every macaron has an ice-cream silver lining when it cracks.

Then you return to warm buttery sugar land and sigh with heavenly delight.

Everything I bake has a story behind it and if you have stopped looking at the imagery above you now have three options: leave; stay and laugh at my story behind the baking; go back to the pictures and drool longer as it won’t melt. It is truly up to you of but of course there is a fourth alternative and that’s bookmarking this for another day to make them. If you want the recipe get ready to scroll past the funny little story (lots)


The Rule of Three
I believe in the rule of three as life incidents seem to happen in threes , fours if you are really unlucky and if you get sets of 5 or more than your life must really suck. Lets start with an example of the rule of three: when the cooker breaks another precious item in your life that you can not possibly live without will say ‘hasta la vista baby’ without coming back and the pet / child / spouse / friend will throw something all across your new / carpet / clothes / sofa. Life makes sure that anything from odd moments to unexpected bills will always come in a series of three in Harry Potter howler fashion landing with an ominous thud on the door mat echoing doom across your existence. My journey to pick blackberries in this recipe also happened to be a ‘rule of three’ experience.

Incident One: Fire Fire
As I made the compote I thought back to the day my son and I picked these on a warm September afternoon. I know it was September as it was warm and this only happens as ‘weather law’ clearly states this can only occur once children have gone back to school as a British summer consists of rain, freak weather and gales to be enjoyed across campsites across the land. In a moment of ‘Come on, let’s do something’ Mother / Son bonding madness I dragged him off the sofa and forced him to cycle to a local village to feed the ducks. We crossed a big bridge which is the kind you can cycle up and down or in reality it’s a half cycle followed by walk and pant the rest of the way up. As we glided around the corner we sailed past two youths when something struck me as odd. My legs were still in their automatic cycle mode and as my son came alongside me I asked him if he saw anything odd? He shrugged but my inner alert system was going into beepity beep overdrive and instinctively my feet stuck themselves out towards the ground and my bike slowed to a stop. I turned around to see smoke rising from the hedges and the two youths running across the bridge.

Doesn’t eveyone have a superhero costume?
As a good citizen I whirled into my fire-fighter superwoman costume I carry for such occasions and returned to the hedges with my son following my dusty trail made from my superfast got to stand and cycle strides. As I screeched up alongside the hedge I could see it was alight and I grabbed my rather large water bottle from my bike. I was now armed with a super soaker water pistol so I took aim at the base of the flames and squeezed. Two water bottles later the fire was out and the World was back to normal again. Phew!

Incident Two : A thorn in my side
On our way back from our ride I spotted blackberry bushes and I got a warm fuzzy feeling about picking blackberries with my Mum as a child because we would do it every year. So with a smile I called across to my son and told him we were going to stop. He was a good sport and we picked quite a few. The juiciest berries were at the top of the bush just out of reach of course. On tip toe I reached and stretched with my hand waving madly at the prized fruit that was so nearly in my anticipative grasp. I reached the prized black jewel and plucked it right from its thorny surroundings and smiled.

The Sataric Laugh of the Blackberry Gods
Just as the corners of my mouth went into an upward motion (which is a bit out of character to be honest) the Gods of blackberry bushes looked down on me and laughed satirically. At that moment my once perfectly poised balance did a quick U-turn and I started to sway like a drunk woman desperately trying to grab onto something other than thorns. This resulted in a frenzied thorn dance before a resounding thud! The prized blackberries in my hand were squished hard as the thorns hit my backside with razor like quality and the quiet lane was filled with all sorts of expletives I am sure my son has never heard me say before. I scrabbled upwards and fell over and thorns embedded themselves in my knee and to make matters worse I was covered in blue stains in places you do not want blue stains. It took about ten minutes for my son and I to pull out the thorns from various body parts before getting on our bikes and let’s just say I didn’t sit down all the way home. At this point whilst writing I am listening to scar tissue by the Red Hot Chilli’s (obviously!)

Incident Three : Nice puppy
During my standing cycle home it occurred to me that I was experiencing the rule of three and I was now a bit suspicious of life ahead. My thoughts were running away with me and I was distracted by a very cute puppy being walked by its owner (who wasn’t cute). The corners of my mouth started their upward motion again and I should know better, really I should but it was such as cute puppy. The owner of the puppy turned around and I gave him the benefit of my ‘your puppy is so cute’ smile and then realised I was supposed to be turning left as my son had zipped ahead of me. I squeezed the right brake and immediately launched into the sky, did a dazzling 360 turn in the air before propelling towards the ground in that slow motion way that only happens during times of trauma and tat’s when I I saw the bike hurtling towards me. ‘This is going to hurt’ I think for a nano second before the bike lands on me and I am led sprawled out on the ground with a bike on top for decoration and the wheel in a very unfortunate place to accompany my blue stains. The man hearing the crash turns back around and politely asks me if I need any help. I groan ‘yes’ as I felt like I was a bike stand at that precise moment in time. Needless to say I didn’t get back on my bike that day I just hobbled back down my street with a wonky twisted wheel and a cowboy walk with my pride well and truly dented.  All said and done after eating one of these I have now been rewarded for my rule of three day.  I hope you enjoy them.

Pastry Ingredients (finally)
This recipe comes from Paul Hollywood and has been adapted from here.

625 g strong bread flour, plus extra for dusting
12 g salt (personally I just used salted butter)
15 g dried yeast
500 g butter (cold)
75 g caster sugar
Water to mix

100g Mixed berries
2 tbsp of corn flour (starch)
30g vanilla sugar
½ tin of custard

Day 1 Instructions
1. Add some body temperature water to the dried yeast
2. Place the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a large mixing bowl.
3. Add in small amounts of warm water until the dough becomes pliable and will stick together in a ball
4. Place the dough on a floured surface and knead well until it feels elastic. (see below).
5. Return the dough to the bowl and leave in the fridge for 1 hour.

What exactly is elastic dough?
As a pastry novice when I read recipes that say knead until elastic what does this mean? Do I assume the dough is ready to use when I can use it as a catapult or is it more like an old pair of underwear that does not want to stay up type of elastic? Paul recommends kneading for 10 minutes. So as I am not a very good kneader I did 20 minutes to be on the safe side. After 10 minutes my muscles were starting to bulge and my by 20 I was as pumped as a bodybuilder. If my elastic had failed at this point there was no way my arms would be able to get straight enough or have the strength to pull them up.

5. Put the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and roll into a rectangle shape measuring 60 x 30cm.
6. Flatten your butter. I stacked my butter and measured and marked 1 cm intervals on it . Cut these 1 cm intervals and lay the butter onto clingfilm in a puzzle type butter layer. Add a top layer of cling film and roll out as this is so much easier! The butter only has to cover 2/3 of the dough.
7. Fold the unbuttered layer of dough 1/3 of the way over the buttered dough. Then fold the remaining one-third of the dough over. Once you have 3 layers folded it is time to put the dough in the fridge to chill for 1 hour.
8. Roll out the dough to the same sized rectangle as before on a floured surface. Repeat the folding process, one side on top of the other, and place the dough back in the fridge for another hour.
9. Here is the killer you have to repeat this another 2 times at hourly intervals! Then you get to warp you dough with exhaustion cling film and put it in the fridge to sleep overnight. Collapse now and leave the surfaces as you will only make them dirty again in the morning.

Making the Compote (do this during one of your hour waits)
Put your fruit in a small pan and add the sugar. Leave on a low heat and cook until the sugar has dissolved and it is bubbling. Ad the two tablespoons of corn flour and stir.  Cook for one further minute until it thickens.  Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Making the Ice-cream
Leave store brought ice-cream to soften slightly (you did enough work with the rolling!) but not to the stage you can drink it, you just need to be able to get a spoon through it easily. Crush disastrous and dodgy looking macarons with your hands over the ice cream and stir. Add 4-5 tablespoon sized dollops of compote (leaving some for the plalmiers filling tomorrow) and swirl about slightly but not vigorously that you end up with a pink mush. Return to freezer for a good few hours until frozen.

Day 2 : Make and Bake
1. Preheat the oven to 400F. 200C/ 180 Fan/ Gas 6 and line two baking trays
2. Put the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and roll into a rectangle shape measuring 60 x 30cm.
3. Cut into 3 sections – I used one for small palmiers (as pictured) and a batch of larger palmier style pastries. I then wrapped the remaining two sheets of pastry in clingfilm and placed on a baking tray to freeze for use another day.
4. With the section you are using cover it in custard to which I added an extra teaspoon of my own vanilla essence.

5. Place spoonfuls of the berry compote across the pastry and swirl around to mix with the custard.

6. Measure half way along your pastry and place your rolling pin there as a marker. Now roll each side to that point so they meet in the middle. Roll one side on top of the other and then cover your pastry in clingfilm and put in the fridge for 30 mins or longer.

7. Take the dough out of the fridge and slice into 1.5cm slices for palmiers or 3 cm for larger Danish pastry style.

8. Sprinkle with vanilla sugar

These are the larger version

9. Place palmiers on a lined baking tray in the oven for approx 10 mins on one side and then turn over and bake for further 3-4 minutes
10. Place danish style pastries on a lined baking tray in the oven for approx 15 -20 mins until golden
11. Brush both with warmed apricot jam and when cooler drizzle a water icing over the top if you wish

Water Icing
3 Tbsp of icing sugar
¾ tbsp of water

1. Mix the icing sugar mixture until it coats the back of the spoon and then drizzle over the top of the Palmiers if you wish – but only when they are cool to touch ( not like me who was a bit hasty).

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