Blueberries, polenta and wine. In a cake.

This month’s Random Recipes challenge has been combined with Tea Time Treats, a blog challenge hosted by Kate at What Cake Baked and Karen at Lavender and Lovage, and the theme is (you guessed it!) “tea time random recipes” – a recipe either from a book or the section of a book that covers tea time treats.  I decided to use randomly pick a recipe from my A Treasury of New Zealand Baking book, which is full of baking recipes (shocking, I know) that are definitely tea time appropriate.  The random number generator on my calculator directed me to page 216, a recipe for blueberry polenta upside-down cake, which also calls for white wine and olive oil in the ingredients list.  Polenta, white wine, olive oil and blueberries?  In a cake?  Intriguing.  And an excellent excuse to clear out some of the frozen blueberry reserves currently taking up space in my freezer.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t too convinced and wasn’t sure what to expect.  As curious as I was, if it hadn’t been for Random Recipes, I might not have tried it at all and gone for a “safer” cake option.  By “safer” I mean a recipe that I was fairly sure what the results would be.  You see, I’ve never cooked with polenta before (never mind baked), so I really wasn’t too sure.  But rules are rules.  So off I went on a mission to find some instant polenta.  I wasn’t expecting it to be particularly difficult since after all the recipe book was written in NZ by Kiwi chefs, so all the ingredients must be available here…  But it turned out that my mission required a trip to the big slightly-out-of-the-way supermarket, which (thankfully) did have instant polenta squirrelled away in the international food section.

So, with all the ingredients assembled, time to try out the actual recipe…  I really wasn’t too sure about the whole cake until I was able to try some.  But thankfully my doubts were misplaced.  The top of the cake has a little crunch from the sugar that started off underneath the blueberries (it’s an upside-down cake remember), the blueberries come out slightly mushy and all juicy since they’ve been cooked, and as for the actual cake part, I’d describe it as slightly denser than a sponge cake in texture, which I guess probably comes from the polenta, but not particularly heavy.  The citrus zest, white wine and the olive oil add a distinct fruity flavour which goes wonderfully with the blueberries, although one might not necessarily be able to fully pin down the flavour combination if you didn’t know that wine is one of the ingredients.  I probably wouldn’t have been able to guess.  So if you’re looking for something a little different (and there aren’t any kids involved) I’d definitely suggest giving this a whirl.

Blueberry polenta upside-down cake

Makes 16 slices
Adapted from A Treasury of New Zealand Baking

Since blueberries are out of season at the moment I used frozen ones, which worked wonderfully, but fresh will also work (just be sure to pat them dry after rinsing).  If using frozen blueberries, there’s no need to thaw them first.  I used a very fruity NZ Sauvignon Blanc.  The cake will keep for up to three days if stored in the fridge, but make sure to bring to room temperature before serving.


75g light brown sugar
300g blueberries (fresh or frozen)
185g all-purpose flour
1½ tsp baking powder
85g instant polenta
200g caster sugar
2 large eggs
Zest of 1 orange
Zest of 1 lemon
165 ml fruity dry white wine
165 ml olive oil
1 tsp vanilla extract


1.  Line a 28 x 18 cm rectangular baking tin with baking paper.  Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C.

2.  Sprinkle the light brown sugar evenly across the lined baking tin.  Evenly cover with the blueberries.

3.  Sift the flour and baking powder together into a medium bowl.  Add the polenta, stir together and set aside.

4.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the caster sugar, eggs, lemon and orange zests using an electric whisk until pale and very thick.  Gently whisk in the wine, oil and vanilla.  Fold in the flour and polenta mixture and then gently pour over the blueberries in the prepared cake tin (trying to avoid dislodging the blueberries).  Carefully smooth the top if necessary.

5.  Bake in the oven for 60-70 mins until golden and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for 5 mins before inverting onto a serving plate.  Carefully peel off the baking paper, taking care to leave the blueberry topping undisturbed.  Allow to cool fully before slicing into 16 pieces and serving.



Filed under Recipes, Sweet Foods

15 responses to “Blueberries, polenta and wine. In a cake.

  1. This is so pretty, I’ve never seen a cake with wine in it!! Lovely!!

  2. Looks lovely! Frozen blueberries (and rasps and mangoes) are such a great find, my freezer is packed full of bags from sainsburys to see us through winter.

    • Mel

      Thanks! Frozen forest fruit are definitely a fabulous thing – I always have plenty in my (tiny) freezer throughout the winter months. They just freeze so well and are so versatile! I’ve never tried freezing mango though (or seen it… I don’t think) – I’ll have to try that out.

  3. WELL DONE for making that random tea time recipe and it DOES look lovely actually, but then I am a lover of blueberries and polenta! I always have some frozen fruit ticked away in the freezer, it is so handy….a GREAT recipe for the combined RR and TTT challenge, thanks! Karen

    • Mel

      Thank you Karen! I’m definitely glad that the combined RR and TTT challenge made me try this! A supply of frozen fruit is always useful to have, and so easy to bake with as well.

  4. belleaukitchen

    I cooked with polenta for the first time this year too and the results were good. I quite like the crumbly texture it gives. I must say the random recipe is really making you work for your money but I’m glad you persevered as this does look so stunning. Must try some wine cake soon! Thanks for taking part x

    • Mel

      I enjoyed Random Recipes, as ever – definitely an interesting one this month! I enjoyed my first foray into using polenta, I’ll be trying it again – I like the texture as well.

  5. I love polenta as a savory side but I’ve never baked with it before. I am a big fan of the traditional pineapple upside down cake but I never thought to use a different kind of fruit. Altogether, this cake is a revelation of possibilities! Love it!

    • Mel

      Thanks Stacy! This is the first time I’d ever used polenta, so I’ve actually yet to try it in a savoury dish (it’s on my list of things to make!). I’d definitely recommend trying upside down cakes with different fruit – the possibilities are truly endless and delicious!

  6. Pingback: The Big Tea Time Random Recipes Round-Up! Cakes, Pies and Biscuits.......

  7. This cake looks very similar to ones made here in New England during the high blueberry season … I love the idea of working with polenta, as I like the coarser grind over the more traditional cornmeal we find in use here in New England. Am impressed at just how beautifully that parchment paper came away from the berries too! Great job!

    • Mel

      Thank you! I’ve heard of blueberry cornbread (I’m not sure if that’s what you make in New England?), but never tried it. I always thought that US cornmeal was more or less the same as polenta, I didn’t know that they are ground differently – you learn something new every day! I must admit that the baking paper required some very careful peeling and a fair bit of patience to come off without half the berries still attached.

  8. This looks amazing! I’ve got some polenta in the cupboard – might have to go hunt out some blueberries and give it a whirl!!!

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