David Lebovitz's Polenta Cake with Olive Oil and Rosemary

Caroline Russock

Ever since my first batch of olive oil gelato was churned in my ice cream maker I've had olive oil-based desserts on the brain. This Polenta Cake with Olive Oil and Rosemary from Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz was next on my list.

Olive oil, rosemary, and polenta are natural partners in, say, a rosemary braised lamb shank served over creamy polenta, but aren't usually the ingredients in a post-dinner sweet. I've made plenty of polenta cakes and olive oil cakes in the past but never thought to use both in the same recipe, and the rosemary? Well, there was no question in my mind that it would be a happy addition.


Lebovitz's version is an eggy, moist, and light. The cake itself takes on a golden yellow hue from the eggs, polenta and olive oil, and the little minced pieces of rosemary speckle it with green-black flecks. In the tradition of Italian cakes, it's not overly sweet and would be the ideal accompaniment for a glass of Marsala or sherry to end a meal, or as a little mid-afternoon pick-me-up.

Or you could go the all olive oil route by matching a slice of the Polenta Cake with Olive Oil and Rosemary with a scoop of olive oil gelato, and finish it with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt and rosemary.

Polenta Cake with Olive Oil and Rosemary

- makes one 10-inch cake (10 to 12 servings) -

Adapted from Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz.

Recipe Facts

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 40 mins
Cooling Time:: 30 mins
Total: 90 mins
Serves: 10 to 12 servings

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  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 2 teaspoons plus 4 teaspoons finely minced fresh rosemary leaves

  • 2 tablespoons plus 3/4 cup polenta, or 1 cup stone-ground corn meal

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 cup olive oil

  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature

  • 2 large egg yolks

  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1 1/3 cups sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).

  2. Smear 1 tablespoon butter all over the inside of a 10-cup (2.5-liter) Bundt cake or tube pan. Sprinkle the 2 teaspoons of rosemary evenly into the pan, then dust with the 2 tablespoons (20 g) of polenta, tilting the pan to coat the sides.

  3. To make the cake, in a small bowl, sift together the flour, 3/4 cup (130 g) polenta, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk the olive oil, eggs, egg yolks, and almond or vanilla extract.

  4. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a bowl by hand), beat together 1/2 cup (4 ounces/115 g) butter and the sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. With the mixer running, slowly dribble in the egg mixture, a little at a time, until completely incorporated. Stir in the flour mixture along with the 4 teaspoons of rosemary until just incorporated. Don't over mix.

  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Let cool for about 30 minutes, then invert the cake onto a serving plate.

  6. Storage: The cake will keep at room temperature for up to 4 days, well wrapped. It can be frozen for up to 2 months.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
379 Calories
22g Fat
40g Carbs
6g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 10 to 12
Amount per serving
Calories 379
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 22g 28%
Saturated Fat 8g 41%
Cholesterol 149mg 50%
Sodium 359mg 16%
Total Carbohydrate 40g 15%
Dietary Fiber 1g 5%
Total Sugars 22g
Protein 6g
Vitamin C 0mg 1%
Calcium 78mg 6%
Iron 2mg 9%
Potassium 98mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)