Naartjie, Polenta & Almond Syrup Cake

PREP TIME: 40mins


A wonderful moist gluten-free afternoon tea cake.

Mandarins, or naartjies as they are known in South Africa, are the perfect combination of sweet and tangy and in this recipe we are boiling the whole fruit before blitzing them into a purée and folding them into the cake batter. This ensure a very moist cake.

I love the crunch of the drizzle which I made into a syrup using the naartjie/mandarin juice. If you don’t feel like making a syrup you can mix the juice of 1 mandarin with 100g granulated sugar and spread over the cake while the cake is still hot.

Serves 6

Seasonal Swaps: You can use an orange, satsumas or tangerines too.

Serving Suggestion:

I love the cake with some creme fraiche or double thick yogurt on the side.

You can add a drop of orange blossom water to the yogurt or creme fraiche too.

What you'll need:

20cm springform cake tin, food processor and an electric mixer


  • 2 naartjies/mandarins, unpeeled
  • 85g polenta
  • 90g almond flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 organic eggs, at room temperature
  • 110g caster sugar

Naartjie/Mandarin Syrup

  • 150g granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 80ml naartjie/mandarin juice (about 2)


  1. Preheat the oven to 180c and line the 20cm cake tin with non-stick paper.
  2. Place the whole naartjies/mandarins (yes skin and all)  in a small saucepan, cover with water and bring to a simmer. Place a small plate or lid on top of the fruit to submerge them into the water. Cook for 30 minutes or until very soft. Remove and place in a food processor and blitz until a smooth purée forms and no stringy bits of naartjies appear. Set aside.
  3. Whisk the eggs and sugar together in an electric mixer or using a hand mixer and whisk for 10 minutes or until the mixture is pale, thick and triple in volume. It will look mousse like.
  4. Mix the polenta, almond flour and baking powder together in a small bowl.
  5. In two batches, very gently fold the mandarin purée and polenta mixture through the egg mixture.
  6. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 35 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Allow to cool completely in the tin.
  7. Mandarin Syrup: Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan over a medium heat and stir until combined. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook, without stirring the pan, for 5 minutes. The mixture should feel vaseline like when rubbed between two fingers. Carefully stir in the mandarin juice. Cool completely. Crunchy Topping: Mix the sugar with the juice (about 2 naartjies), spoon over the cake while the cake is still warm.
  8. To remove the cake, gently slide a sharp knife down the sides of the tin to make sure the cake does not stick once you release the springform. Spoon over the syrup and serve alongside some creme fraiche. Enjoy!
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