Orange Polenta and Syrup Breakfast Cake

  • Time: 30 minutes plus baking time
  • Serves: 8
  • Level: easy

‘Now this sounds like a good idea… cake… for breakfast! Well it sure does beat the pricey muffins and pastries London coffee chains have to offer. Dad’s yummy Latin American inspired breakfast Cake hits the spot. Enjoyed with a homemade coffee in your trusty Bialetti – weekends become much more satisfying!’

'After Dad's little chat with Diana in the Le Creuset store on New Cavendish Street, he was inspired by her recipe cards and made his own version of a Latin American breakfast cake.'

What you need

Zest and juice from one large orange

150g caster sugar

125g double cream

100g butter

150g polenta (non-instant type) or corn meal

200g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

4 large eggs

1/4 tsp vanilla

pinch of salt


For the syrup

Juice of one large orange

50g caster sugar



24cm stainless steel frying pan (oven safe) with beveled edges or 20cm baking tin


Dad's Recipe Tales

This cake was inspired by walking down and around Marylebone High Street on one of my foodie forays for Time Out. On New Cavendish Street (just off the High Street) is a Le Creuset showroom and shop. For a foodie this is a must-go to destination – if only to browse and plan your next purchase. Eventually, Diana – the store manager – and I started talking and I explained what I was doing. She was very enthusiastic and we had a good conversation about the quality of Le Creuset. At one stage we got bogged-down talking about whether Teflon must be used at medium heat. It was a similar ‘Teflon debate’ together with consultations with professional chefs that led Le Creuset to develop a new stainless steel range with an anodised exterior and un-coated stainless steel interior. The pans are now on my wish list.

I was about to head off when Diana said she would give me some recipe cards, including a colourful brochure featuring their new Brazilian range. She also gave me the nod, saying that it would include a recipe for making a cake in a pan (a Le Creuset, of course). The recipe here is inspired by Le Crueset’s Brazilian Breakfast Cake. As the brochure explains, throughout Latin America, sweet cakes and breads are eaten in the morning along with a cup of strong coffee.

I started thinking about making my own version of the Brazilian cake and the idea of eating cakes for breakfast. The muffin is a cake by any other name and becoming popular – I find a blueberry muffin is just about palatable at breakfast. Cakes and buns with struesel topping, cinnamon and syrup are very American. They follow the coffee cake and cinnamon bun model, also eaten in the morning. The cinnamon bun is not very different from some Danish pastries. So it would seem a denser, syrupy cake might hit the mark.

Corn is a staple in Latin America, so I have developed a recipe based on polenta. It is drizzled with syrup, and flavoured with orange and has a some of the sweet and bitter appeal of marmalade. As with so many Latin American pudding and cake recipes, the Brazilian recipe uses condensed milk – but I used my own version by heated cream, butter and sugar. I have also used the blender method of mixing described in the original recipe – it may feel counter intuitive, but it certainly saves time (and dishes).

How Dad Cooked It

Throughout Latin America, sweet cakes and breads are eaten in the morning along with a cup of strong coffee. This recipe is inspired by Le Crueset’s Brazilian Breakfast Cake  and is made in a Le Creuset pan. This is my version of a breakfast cake made in a pan.

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C, Gas 5
  2. Butter the inside of the pan or baking tin
  3. Heat the butter, cream and 150g of sugar in a separate sauce pan. Stir in the grated zest of orange and bring to a very gently simmer and heat for 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and salt, stir and allow to cool slightly.
  4. Add the contents of the pan to a blender or processor or use a bowl and electric beater. Add the orange juice, eggs and polenta and blend, blitz or beat for several minutes until well combined. Pour into a large mixing bowl.
  5. Mix the flour and baking powder together and add to the wet mix in the bowl. Using a whisk quickly mix until smooth and pour into the pan or tin and place in the oven.
  6. Cook for 40 -50 minutes. See note 7 below: Check at 40 minutes – it should spring back to touch and a skewer should come out clean.Take out of the oven when done.
  7. NB: Do be careful using a pan in the oven – we are not professional cooks and this use of a hob pan can trick the mind into thinking the handle is safe. Always use kitchen cloves and cover the handle so others do not touch it.
  8. Make a syrup by heating the juice of the orange and the sugar. Let it boil for a minute to reduce slightly. Whilst the cake is still hot, prod the cake – in the pan/tin – with a skewer and then pour the syrup evenly over the cake. Allow to settle until warm enough to handle.
  9. Use a knife to loosen the cakes sides, then carefully turn it over and sprinkle generously with icing sugar.
  10. Serve whilst still warm with a strong cup of coffee.

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