What’s baking this AirFryday: Sticky mandarin polenta cake

What’s baking this AirFryday: Sticky mandarin polenta cake

With the price of electricity these days (and the unreliable supply), oven-baking is just about a luxury. Since they first came onto the market, air fryers have changed the game, because they are so inexpensive to operate. 

It’s for this reason that I rarely use my oven any longer – it’s more convenient and cheaper to pop foods into the air fryer. Granted, not everything works in the air fryer though, especially when you need to bake big dishes. 

One of my most recent ventures has been baking in my air fryer, which (barring a couple of miscalculations) has so far yielded good results.

This gluten-free polenta cake, which I’ve adapted slightly from John Torode’s recipe, is made with ripe mandarin oranges. It’s lovely served plain or with a dollop of cream to offset the sticky sweetness. 

Sticky mandarin polenta cake 

(Makes about 8 cakes)


2 mandarin oranges

2 lemons

180g blanched almonds

4 eggs

1 pinch of salt

170g of caster sugar

80ml of extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing

150g of polenta

10g of baking powder

Preheat the air fryer to 180°C. Depending on the size of your appliance, grease either a 23cm springform cake tin or another oven-proof dish. I used mini cocottes.

Put an orange and a lemon in a large pan, cover with water, and place a circle of greaseproof paper over the top so the fruit sits under the water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. Take off the heat.

Toast the blanched almonds in a dry frying pan, then blitz in a food processor until finely ground. 

Take the cooked mandarin orange and lemon out of the pan. Halve them and pick out the seeds. Juice the other fresh orange and lemon (throw away the shells). Put the cooked fruit (skins and all) and extra freshly squeezed juice in the food processor and blend to make a paste.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the salt until foaming. Add the sugar and beat again, then add the orange paste, almonds and olive oil. Beat again.

In a separate bowl, mix the polenta and baking powder, then gently fold this into the orange mixture until it is all mixed together.

Pour the mixture into the greased tin and bake for about 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. 


Put the orange juice and sugar in a pan and simmer over low heat until the syrup is glossy. 

Turn the cake out of the tin onto a serving plate and pour the syrup over it while it’s warm, or, if you’re using a mini cocotte, pour the syrup over the cake.

Torode suggests wrapping the cake without its syrup in a sheet of greaseproof paper and a clean tea towel to keep it moist. It will become even stickier and last for about a week. DM

Read more in Daily Maverick: Air fryer recipes 

Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks.


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