A great recipe full of herb and zing from Rachel's Cake Diaries series


  • 225 g (8oz) fine polenta
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 450 g (1lb) butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
  • 450 g (1lb) caster sugar
  • 450 g (1lb) ground almonds
  • 6 eggs
  • finely grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 3 tsp finely chopped rosemary leaves, plus sprigs of rosemary to decorate
  • for the syrup
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 large sprigs of rosemary
  • 100 g (31/2 oz) caster sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F/Gas 3), then butter the sides of the cake tin and line the base with a disc of baking parchment.
  2. Mix the polenta and baking powder together in a bowl. In a separate large bowl or in an electric food mixer, cream the butter until soft.
  3. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, then beat in the ground almonds. Whisk the eggs together in a small bowl for a few seconds or just until mixed, then gradually add them to the creamed butter mixture, beating all the time.
  4. Add the lemon zest and chopped rosemary, then gently fold in the polenta and baking powder to combine.
  5. Tip the batter into the prepared tin (25cm or 10' diameter cake tin) and bake on the lowest shelf of the oven for between 1 hour 15 minutes and 1 hour 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. The cake will cook to a deep golden-brown colour and may dip a little in the middle.
  6. While the cake is cooking, make the syrup. Place all the ingredients in a saucepan, along with 50ml (2fl oz) of water.
  7. Place the saucepan on the hob, and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Boil for 3–4 minutes until ever so slightly thickened, then remove from the heat and discard the rosemary sprigs.
  8. When the cake is cooked, take it out of the oven and let it sit in the tin for 10 minutes. Loosen around the edges using a small, sharp knife, then carefully remove the cake from the tin and transfer to a serving plate (see page 334).
  9. Reheat the syrup and pour over the cake, then leave the cake to cool down completely before serving. I like to decorate the centre with a few flowering sprigs of rosemary.