grapefruit upside down polenta cake

grapefruit upside down polenta cake


‘Tis the season not for apple pie and spiced wine, but for bright citrus and the fruits of summer. After all, what screams summer more than the vibrancy of citrus fruits. Nobody ever refused a glass of ice-cold lemonade on a hot summer’s day, after all. But upside down cake in summer? I know, it seems a bit strange. But this cake isn’t your typical upside-down cake, heavy and drenched in caramel. This cake is fresh and bright; it’s a great everyday cake; one that isn’t too fussy, but still manages to be a showstopper as it emerges from the pan.

The coarse ground polenta offers some crunch, and transforms an average cake into an interesting one. I guess you could substitute an equal weight of finely ground cornmeal, but I think the crunch is what makes this cake special. The polenta’s really just there for texture, as the grapefruit’s bitter flavor tends to overpower the mild polenta.

I used grapefruits in this cake, but the reason this isn’t called an “upside down grapefruit polenta cake” is that any citrus will work well. I think candied lemons would be magical, in fact.

This is a perfect cake, easy and gorgeous, for a summer gathering; you should definitely try it out!

upside down citrus polenta cake

adapted from the new york times

Servings 16 squares


  • 1-2 grapefruits
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) turbinado sugar
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp grapefruit zest
  • 1/4 cup grapefruit juice
  • 2/3 cup (146 g) oil of choice i used olive
  • 1/2 cup (70 g) coarsely ground polenta
  • 1 1/4 cups (150 g) all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350℉. Grease and line base of a 9 in square baking pan with parchment paper. Sprinkle the 1/4 cup of turbinado sugar evenly over the paper.

  2. Peel the grapefruits, removing as much of the white pith as possible, and slice into 1/4 in slices. Layer the slices in the baking pan (you can follow my design, or create your own!). Juice the remaining grapefruit.

  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, granulated sugar, and grapefruit zest until pale and frothy. Add in the oil and grapefruit juice, and whisk to combine. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet until combined, then pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan.

  4. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until browned on top and a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes, then inert carefully onto a serving plate and peel off parchment.

Recipe Notes

i used grapefruit, but any citrus fruit (oranges, pomelo, etc.) will work.

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