Photo by Holland Reid

Chef Nick Leahy of Saltyard’s Lemon Polenta Cake is bright from the addition of fresh lemon zest and a lemon caramel glaze that he drizzles over the top of the warm cake.

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12 cupcakes or 1 (8- to 10-inch) cake

  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup finely ground polenta or cornmeal
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 2¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Lemon Caramel Sauce (recipe follows)
  • Lemon Caramel Sauce
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 12 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus zest
  • 1 vanilla bean, split
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small saucepan, warm buttermilk over low heat until bubbles form around edges of the pan, then pour over polenta or cornmeal in a small bowl. Let stand for 1 hour to soften.
  2. In stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla and beat until blended.
  3. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to a separate bowl and whisk to combine.
  4. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture, alternating with buttermilk mixture. Mix until combined. Add batter to prepared pan and smooth cake surface.
  5. Pour batter into prepared cupcake or cake pan and place pan in a water bath. Bake until a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.
  6. Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes. While cake is still warm, drizzle with lemon caramel sauce.

 Lemon Caramel Sauce

  1. Pour sugar into center of a deep saucepan, and add water.
  2. Bring to a full boil a over high heat, and cook without stirring until sugar is amber-colored caramel, about 10 to 15 minutes. Swirl mixture occasionally to even out color.
  3. Carefully add lemon juice and vanilla and wait for caramel to bubble and subside. Finish with butter.
  • From chef Nick Leahy of Saltyard in Atlanta, Georgia

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