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Orange Polenta Cake – Malai dulce

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Romanian orange polenta cake or malai dulce soaked with syrup: so soft, so moist, so delicious! Definitely the best sweet polenta cake I have ever had!

Sweet Polenta Cake

sweet polenta cake with fresh oranges

This orange polenta cake could be the end of a long quest – the quest after a cake made with cornmeal that I actually like. I’ve made many polenta cakes over the years, searching for the one, the one I would like, the one I imagined so many times when reading some recipes.

And every one of them was so disappointing! Like really really disappointing, so disappointing that they were all either unceremoniously thrown away after trying one slice or were fed to my friend’s chickens.

So I had actually given up already. But then I found this sweet polenta cake recipe scribbled in my recipe notebook, something I wrote down quite a while ago under the name of malai dulce (sweet cornmeal).

Polenta Orange Cake – Malai dulce

It seemed too simple, all the other recipes contained more exciting ingredients like fruits or dried fruits or whatever. This one was very plain in comparison. But then it was easy to make so I thought – one last try!

I feared the grittiness of the cake as I don’t like biting on that half-cooked cornmeal, so I decided to take the recipe one step further and soak it with some leftover orange syrup I still had in the fridge after making my beloved Orange Tiramisu last weekend. And EUREKA!

I had found my sweet polenta cake at last! It was exactly the way it was supposed to be: soft – no trace of grittiness although the cornmeal was not cooked before, incredibly moist due to the syrup, tasting sweet and comforting, and of orange. So good! You really have to try it!

Polenta Orange Cake

Tips to make sweet polenta cake

Cornmeal and semolina type:

  • I used medium cornmeal or polenta with short cooking time, the instructions on the package indicated 10 minutes of cooking time.
  • Choosing a cornmeal type that doesn’t need to be cooked for a long time helps against that annoying grittiness you might otherwise experience.
  • For the same reason, I chose a fine/ soft semolina kind.
  • In Germany, there are two sorts of semolina: the coarse/hard one that I use for making dumplings for the soup and the fine/soft kind used for making semolina porridge or semolina desserts, for instance.

Orange peel:

  • The orange peel is optional, only use it if you like it.
  • I mention that because many people don’t like it in anything, so you decide.


  • You might not need all the syrup to soak the cake, I used about ¾ of it about 75 ml/ 2.5 oz/ 1/3 cup.
  • Soak the cake with this amount first and only add more if necessary.
  • You might like to add a bit more around the edges, should they be drier than the rest of the polenta dessert.
Polenta Orange Cake – Malai dulce

More Romanian malai (cornmeal) recipes?

How to Cook Basic Polenta or Mamaliga

Roasted Green Onions (Roasted Scallions) – Incredibly flavorsome roasted green onions or roasted scallions on a bed of creamy polenta with cheese and a drizzle of cream on top!

Polenta Chicken – A simple recipe for stewed chicken and polenta with garlic, a delicious polenta dish, full of comfort and flavor.

Romanian Polenta Souffle – Fluffy Romanian souffle served with a delicious garlic yogurt sauce.

Polenta Chips – Crispy, spicy, low-fat, gluten-free, and utterly delicious.

Polenta Orange Cake – Malai dulce

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yellow cake with orange slices on top
sweet polenta cake with fresh oranges

Orange Polenta Cake – Malai dulce

Romanian sweet polenta cake or malai dulce soaked with orange syrup: so soft, so moist, so delicious! Definitely the best polenta dessert I have ever had!
5 from 5 votes
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Course: Romanian Cakes and Desserts
Cuisine: Romanian
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings: 12
Calories: 238kcal
Author: Adina


  • Casserole dish, 28x18 cm/ 11x7 inches


  • 150 g medium cornmeal/polenta 5.3 oz/ 1 cup, (Note 2)
  • 50 g fine soft semolina 1.8 oz/ ¼ cup
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange peel optional (Note 3)
  • 3 eggs
  • 125 g granulated sugar 4.4 oz/ 2/3 cup
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla sugar or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 450 g Greek yogurt 1 lb/ 1 ¾ cup, divided
  • 100 ml vegetable oil 3.4 fl.oz/ scant ½ cup
  • 50 ml milk 1.7 fl.oz/ scant ¼ cup
  • icing sugar to dust
  • 1 orange to decorate optional
  • For the orange syrup:
  • the juice of 2-3 oranges about 100 ml/ 3.4 fl.oz/ scant ½ cup juice
  • 50 g granulated sugar 1.7 oz/ ¼ cup
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice


Sweet polenta cake:

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius/ 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a casserole dish, 28x18 cm/ 11x7 inches.
  • Mix the cornmeal, semolina, baking powder, and grated orange peel in a bowl. Set aside.
  • Separate the eggs. Beat the egg whites until stiff and set aside.
  • Mix wet ingredients: In a larger bowl, beat the egg yolks, sugar, vanilla sugar, or vanilla extract, and 50 g/ 1.7 oz/ scant ¼ cup of the yogurt until pale and thick. Add the vegetable oil in a slow stream while beating all the time. Add the rest of the yogurt and beat for about 1 minute. Add the milk and mix shortly.
  • Slowly add the cornmeal – semolina mixture mixing with a regular egg beater/whisk this time.
  • Fold in the egg whites carefully.
  • Bake: Pour the mixture into the prepared dish and bake for about 45 minutes or until the cake is golden and a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Orange syrup:

  • In the meantime, make the orange syrup.
  • Juice the oranges until you have about 100 ml/ ½ cup juice. Sieve the juice into a small pot, add the sugar and the lemon juice. When it starts to boil, remove it immediately, you should have a relatively thin syrup.
  • Prick cake: When baked, take the cake out of the oven and prick it all over with a toothpick.
  • Soak cake: Pour about ¾ of the syrup all over the cake and let the cake cool completely in the dish. I only needed about 75 ml/ 2.5 oz/ 1/3 cup to soak the cake.
    Tip: Measure this quantity first, use it and take more only if you find it necessary; you might like to add a bit more around the edges, should they be drier than the rest of the cake.
  • Cut cake: When cool, cut the cake into squares, remove carefully from the baking dish and sprinkle with icing sugar. Decorate with orange wedges if you wish.


  1. Always use a digital kitchen scale in baking; it ensures the best results (Amazon affiliate link).
  2. Look for a sort polenta with a short cooking time – mine needed only 10 minutes.
  3. From an organic, unwaxed orange.


Serving: 1square | Calories: 238kcal | Carbohydrates: 32g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 49mg | Sodium: 120mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 18g
Keyword: orange polenta cake, polenta cake, polenta cake recipe, polenta dessert, sweet polenta
Recipe Rating


Monday 18th of January 2021

I hate to leave a comment that’s not positive as I appreciate all the recipes people take the time to post but this was so unbearably dry I’m going to have to just use it for corn bread stuffing as not to waste food. Absolutely no orange taste at all. Used the zest of three oranges just to make sure. Not sure if this is a difference in cultural expectations but can’t see where I went wrong following recipe as written. Thanks anyway.


Tuesday 19th of January 2021

Hi Josephine. I am really surprised to read this as I am making this recipe regularly and it is always super moist. It stays in mind as one of the recipes I tried the most versions of just to be sure it is just the way I wanted it. If you followed all the steps I can only imagine it has something to do with the polenta itself, maybe we are using different sorts of it, they can differ when it comes to coarseness and cooking times. I am sorry it didn't work for you.


Thursday 2nd of February 2017

Adina, you are amazing! You should write a book about polenta! Your recipes are so creative! I love this orange cake idea as much as savoury dishes.

Laura Dembowski

Wednesday 1st of February 2017

Cornmeal can definitely add that grit to cakes that is just unpleasant. I always use superfine and make sure there isn't too much in a recipe. The best thing I made with cornmeal was a blackberry buckle. Oh, man, was it good.

Kathryn @ Family Food on the Table

Monday 30th of January 2017

Doesn't it feel so good to finally find the recipe you love?! Sounds like it was a lot of testing and a lot of hard work to bring us this cake - and it looks SO worth it in my opinion! Looks so light and fresh and that orange syrup? Oh yum!!! Way to stick with it - you found a winner for sure! ???


Monday 30th of January 2017

this cake looks to have an amazing texture! i think cornmeal is very underused as a dessert ingredient. :)