Upside-Down Lemon Polenta Cake – Recipe! Image 1
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Upside-Down Lemon Polenta Cake – Recipe!

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Lemons come is many different varieties and do vary in flavor.  Meyer Lemons, which are my favorite, are a hybrid of lemon, orange and mandarin and have a thin-skin and taste a tiny bit sweeter than their counterparts.  These lemons are a sought after fruit at farmer’s markets and fine grocery because they are harder to grow, so they do tend to cost just a little more, but I think – well worth it.

I have a few Meyer Lemon trees in my yard and at the moment they are flourishing with fruit.  Over the holidays, I made a Citrus Pomegranate Punch and utilized as many as I could, so my guests could enjoy their uniqueness in drink form.  Some of us added a little Tequila Blanco to our punch, while others enjoyed it straight – it was a big hit.

Baking with lemons, especially a whole lemon – skin and all, can be tricky.  I find that some palates find the bitterness of the skin and pith difficult to enjoy.  However, if you haven’t tried a baked good with whole lemon, you don’t know what you’re missing because it brings the citrus fruit to the forefront of the dessert.

Slicing lemons wafer thin is the first step to a successful lemon dessert, especially in this upside down cake recipe.  The thin slices of lemon rest in a pool of dark brown sugar and butter before baking, and a batter of polenta (fine cornmeal) and semolina (super fine cornmeal) is combined with a few ingredients to create a moist batter that tops the lemons.  After inverting the cake out of the pan the sugar-glazed lemons rest on top of a corn-crumb pedestal like a subtle volcano before it erupts.

The taste is lemony to say the least, but it’s a sophisticated lemon – not a sugary lemon.  I think it gets better after resting in the refrigerator before serving.  You can even bake it a day ahead, which makes it great for a party or brunch the next day.

Upside-Down Lemon Polenta Cake – Recipe! Image 2



1 cup dark brown sugar

4 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 Meyer Lemons


8 tablespoons butter, room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

zest of 1 Meyer Lemon

2 eggs

1 cup all-purpose flour

2/3 cup polenta or cornmeal

1/4 cup semolina

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

1/3 cup sour cream

(Makes 9-inch Cake)

Upside-Down Lemon Polenta Cake – Recipe! Image 3

Upside-Down Lemon Polenta Cake – Recipe! Image 4

To Prepare:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour pan, set aside.  In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and dark brown sugar, stir.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Pour into prepared pan.
  2. Slice lemons using a mandoline or sharp knife wafer thin, about 1/8 inch thick and remove seeds.  Starting in center of pan place lemons in a concentric circle.  Set aside.
  3. In a stand mixer or large bowl, cream together butter, sugar and lemon zest for 3 minutes.  Scrape down sides of bowl and add eggs one at a time.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, polenta, semolina, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  5. While mixer is running, slowly add half of dry ingredients alternating with milk.  Add sour cream and mix on low for 30 seconds.
  6. Remove bowl from stand and stir.  Spoon batter on top of lemons and spread out evenly.  Bake in oven for 35-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes clean.
  7. Remove from oven and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.  Loosen perimeter with knife and invert on plate or cake stand.  Serve immediately or wrap in plastic and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.  Enjoy!

Upside-Down Lemon Polenta Cake – Recipe! Image 5

Upside-Down Lemon Polenta Cake – Recipe! Image 6





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