Lemon and almond polenta cake

Springy almond sponge with zesty lemon icing from Comptoir Gourmand

Three of the four words in the title of this week’s Friday treat had us drooling: ‘lemon’, ‘almond’, and ‘cake’. But polenta? Unless you’re coeliac, call us traditionalists, but shouldn’t cake be made with good old fashioned white flour? It’s a tale as old as, well, the prevailing gluten-free trend—or at least it is in the UK. For while maize-based cakes are only now increasing in popularity on our shores, they’ve been tried and tested in Europe and the Middle East for centuries. 

“We came up with the recipe a few years’ ago, as all our patisserie at the time contained flour and a lot of our customers were asking for something as good as our cakes, but without gluten,” Tony explains.

But what started as a way of catering to their gluten-free customers, soon became a Comptoir Gourmand stalwart—and is every bit as delicious as our wheat-tastic favourites, if not particularly French in origin. “Sebastien had just got back from a short trip to Italy and had fallen in love with polenta. With his love of almonds, he just had to do something that combines both.”

Hint of zesty lemon
He did so with finesse: the sponge is springy, slightly grainy in texture—“a result of using polenta, rather than flour. It is very interesting, you wouldn’t find it in any other cake”—and satisfyingly almondy; no sign of marzipan-like essence here. Just a hint of zesty lemon cuts through the sweetness without being overwhelming, with a dollop of delicious lemon icing in the centre that’s as rewarding as that found atop the iced buns we all loved as children—and, let’s face it, are just as excited by as adults.

“It goes perfectly with hot drinks—coffee or tea,” Tony continues. “This is one of Sebastien’s all-time favourite tea cakes”—and decidedly, one of ours, too. Which, as anyone who’s been to Comptoir Gourmand will know, is no mean feat.