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Manna from Heaven Lemon Polenta Cakes

Manna from Heaven‘s lemony almond, polenta and coconut cakes are one of my favourite cafe treats and probably their most well known creation. I fell in love with them at the first bite and would often have one when I lived across the road from Toby’s. Moist, zesty and topped with a thick drop of lemon icing – who wouldn’t want to be best friends with such tasty little things?

You can imagine my excitement when I came across the original Manna from Heaven recipe in one of the many magazines my flatmate used to bring home from work. Although I cannot recall which mag it was in and the page does not say so I can only say that the recipe is also featured in the Manna from Heaven cookbook written by the bakery’s founder, Rachel Grisewood and published by Allen & Unwin. As I knew the recipe would come in handy once in a while I immediately confiscated the magazine from the house’s archives and added the page to my all time favourite gluten free recipes folder.

When Mr Chipconnoisseur asked me to cater for a gluten, dairy and wheat free lunch last week and I immediately thought of these little cakes. For the most part, it was not hard to adapt the recipe, although I did take a risk with omitting baking powder altogether (even the gluten free version can sometimes contain traces of wheat). The changes didn’t seem to affect the end result at all. The cakes rose and having tasted the real things, I can confidently say this slightly more allergy friendly version was just as delicious. In fact, one of the guests liked them so much, he ended up taking all the leftovers with him all the way back to Brissy. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’d call that a success!

Makes 6

Manna from Heaven lemon polenta cakes (gluten, dairy, wheat free)

Adapted from the  Manna from Heaven cookbook by Rachel Grisewood (Allen & Unwin)

It’s a great recipe if you want to be on a safer side when catering for large groups or kids’ parties. I have also previously posted a recipe for a large gluten free lemon polenta cake.

For the cakes

  • 75g nuttelex // or any other dairy free spread
  • 75g white sugar
  • 35g shredded coconut
  • 35g almond meal
  • 40g quick cook polenta (has to be the 3 min stuff otherwise cakes will be gritty)
  • 1 egg
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

For the icing

  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice

Preheat oven to 150C fan forced (325F, gas mark 3).

To make the cakes, cream nuttelex and sugar until light and fluffy, add egg, keep mixing for another couple of minutes. Add zest, juice and dry ingredients. Fold to combine.

Grease 6-hole muffin tin with nuttelex and divide mixture between them.

Bake at 150C (fan forced) for 40 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and turn onto a wire rack to cool. Use a knife to dislodge cakes away from the sides of the tins, if necessary.

To prepare the icing combine  lemon juice and icing sugar in a bowl. Drop a tablespoon of icing on top of each cake and spread a little to cover.


lawfullyweddedwife April 29, 2011 at 7:48 am

These are beautiful and look delicious! I’m always on the lookout for dairy-free dessert recipes.

Heidi - Apples Under My Bed April 29, 2011 at 9:29 am

They look beautiful! I so heart lemon and polenta :)
Heidi xo

Alison April 29, 2011 at 11:33 am

These look heavenly!! I want!

Daniela April 30, 2011 at 7:56 am

Dairy-free desserts! You have won over my heart!

Wholesome Cook April 30, 2011 at 1:42 pm

Thanks for your lovely comments ladies :-)

Maria @ Scandifoodie May 2, 2011 at 8:36 am

They look so perfect! I can’t wait to try this recipe!

wheat free cakes June 11, 2011 at 5:17 am

Thank you for your nice Information. I like it very much. I will try it at my home.

Lemon polenta cake (gluten free) « Wholesome Cook July 1, 2011 at 7:21 am

[…] love those moist lemon polenta (US: grits) cakes that you can get from some coffee shops (recipe here), so when I came across this recipe (by Grace Cheetham: The best gluten-free, wheat-free & […]

westjuls August 3, 2011 at 10:38 pm

I was making these for morning tea… they taste great but look nothing like the picture..they stuck…then half of them fell apart. I bake every week for school lunch boxes and they are perfect….always the way….maybe it will turn out better next time

Wholesome Cook August 3, 2011 at 11:14 pm

Oh no, I’ve made them again recently, and they turned out really moist and dense… this is strange. Are you saying you’ve made them before and just this batch didn’t turn out? Reasons I can think of:
1. Omitting one of the wet ingredients by chance – happens to all of us
2. I’ve had a similar problem when using polenta that was NOT instant – the cakes would just crumble away… It’s important to look at the packet’s cooking instructions and if it takes 3-5 mintes to cook (instead 15-20), that’s the right polenta.
I’ve sent you an email too with more info – feel free to email me back.

The best chewy flourless chocolate brownies « Wholesome Cook August 18, 2011 at 10:42 pm

[…] friends with a girl, {N}, who is gluten free. She loved my rendition of Manna from Heaven‘s lemon polenta cakes, which we shared over a morning tea one day and so when I popped around her place a week […]

pat February 24, 2012 at 8:18 pm

Hi name is pat cake sounds nice but would omit the lemon I have a problem with tart fruit
but the picture looks nice. if you would like a bread recipe or a cake recipe,, that is wheat
glutin and dairy free, please contact me by my email address, ok thanks pat from S.A.

anni October 30, 2012 at 8:54 am

After an allergy problem I have been trying to cut out wheat, gluten and dairy but was beginning to feel deprived and feared I may not stick to the plan. But I made these cakes for the first time last week and they were sooooo good I made a second batch quickly!! I wanted to make them for a picky friend who doesn’t like coconut or lemon so I switched the coconut for the same quantity of cocoa,ground pecans and walnuts and substituted the lemon juice for one single espresso shot, they were excellent. This recipe will be the basis for so many varieties for my recipe book. Thank you so much.

gerald servera February 2, 2013 at 5:43 am

I ve worked at manna fr heaven and i think these cakes looked more light yellow than yours .it might be a question of baking te


emily March 31, 2014 at 9:01 am

I really want to make these cakes for a friend of mine with an intolerance to egg. What substitute would be best?

Martyna @ Wholesome Cook March 31, 2014 at 6:39 pm

Hi Emily, you could try using some egg replacer or flax seeds (1 egg= 1 tablespoon mixed in with 3 tablespoons warm water, set aside for 10 minutes).

Aymon May 22, 2015 at 12:33 am


I made these for the first time tonight and they came out somewhat dry/crumbly (but still delicious). I was going over the recipe and was wondering if it was meant to be 2 tablespoons of juice in the cake mix and 1 tablespoon of juice for the icing? As it is currently the other way around.

The reason I ask is that I made the icing according to the recipe and it went to more of a syrup than the icing in your photos. I remade the icing but used only 1 tablespoon with instantly better results.

I have made sure to get the quick cook polenta, and kept a fairly watchful eye on them through the door of my temperamental oven (maybe not watchful enough?). This is my first time baking with polenta so I could just need practice, but I wanted to ask just incase.


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