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in the kitchen with: jason gibb’s hazelnut mandarin polenta cake

by Kristina Gill

When life gives you citrus fruit, make a cake. That’s the first thing I thought when I saw this week’s recipe for a Hazelnut, Mandarin Olive Oil and Polenta Cake by Jason Gibb, co-founder of Nudo Italia olive oil. I was introduced to the Nudo Italia brand when I read about a tasting they were having at The Little Owl/The Venue. Loving The Little Owl as I do, I saw that association as a guarantee of Nudo Italia’s quality. I pounced on the chance to get in touch with Jason and see what he had cooking. What a rewarding experience! Jason loves food, knows his recipes inside and out and doesn’t miss a beat. His recipe fits my idea of a perfect cake to a T, and his images are the first we’ve ever used on the column from an iPhone! From his photos, you can tell that his wonderful cake is moist and tall, crunchy on top and soft in the middle. Perfect! If you cannot find Nudo Italia Mandarin Olive Oil where you are, Jason has explained how to make substitutions. — Kristina

About Jason and Nudo Italia: While working in Hollywood as television producers, Jason Gibb and his partner, Cathy, were inspired to embark on their own entrepreneurial adventure by the olive oils they tasted at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market. Ready to trade in the Hollywood Hills for hills of olive trees, the two set off in 2005 to Le Marche region of Italy and began an uphill battle to restore a 21-acre olive grove and make their own label. After tons of hard work, their effort paid off as Nudo olive oil. Nudo is now distributed all over the world. Follow Jason and Cathy on Twitter and Facebook, or read their blog, Dolce Vita Diaries, to find out more about what’s happening at the olive grove and tasty uses for their olive oil. You can also adopt an olive tree through the Nudo adopt a tree program, which allows people all over the world to adopt an Italian olive tree and receive its oil. The program involves a collaboration between a group of small-scale artisanal olive producers in Le Marche and Abruzzo.

Learn how to make Jason’s cake after the jump . . .

Hazelnut, Mandarin Olive Oil and Polenta Cake


*Please note: If you do not have access to Nudo Italian olive oil with mandarins, use a high quality olive oil that you have on hand and add the zest of two oranges or three or four mandarins. This substitution also works for lemons.

  • 7 oz / 200g hazelnuts, ground and blanched
  • 5 tbsp /50g polenta
  • 6 tbsp /50g of 00 flour*
  • 8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil crushed with mandarins
  • 7 tbsp /100g butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup /100g soft brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup /100g granulated (white) sugar
  • mascarpone, a spoonful for each serving

*all-purpose white flour will work fine here


1. If you are starting with whole, unroasted hazelnuts (better), heat the oven to 200°C. Lay out the hazelnuts on the baking tray, no more than a single layer deep, and cook for 5–10 minutes, when the skins should start to peel off. Take them out of the oven, pour onto a clean tea towel and rub to remove the skins. Grind the nuts in a food processor.

2. Turn the oven temperature down to 150°C.

3. Melt the butter in the oven in an ovenproof dish. Remove from oven, cool slightly and add the olive oil.

4. In another mixing bowl, mix together the polenta, flour, baking powder and ground hazelnuts.

5. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until the mixture is pale and creamy. Slowly add the butter/oil mixture, whisking slowly.

6. Add the dry ingredients and stir to blend. The final mixture should be quite runny.

7. Pour into a 23cm medium-depth cake tin lined with baking parchment (or well oiled).

8. Bake at 150°C for 45 minutes. The cake should still be moist in the middle and slightly crunchy on top. Allow it to cool in the tin and then turn it out. Serve warm with ice cream or mascarpone (though this cake is also delicious cold).

Why Jason Loves This Recipe

I’m a big cake fan, but I’m also pretty health conscious, so I try to replace some of the butter in cakes I make with olive oil. I also find that it gives it a richer flavour. In this cake, I use olive oil with mandarins, which gives it a really fresh citrus flavour. And if you grind the hazelnuts yourself, the texture of the cake is wonderful.

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  • @ANN – I am SO SORRY for this glaring omission!!! I will fix it within the hour. In the meantime, as a reference, I always use the calculator at Gourmet Sleuth!

  • Wow. I bought a Nudo olive tree adoption for my mother-in-law for her birthday two years ago and we always joked about visiting “her” olive tree. As it turns out I spent the first three months of this year teaching in Civitanova – one of the cities with groves sourced by Nudo. Can’t believe I may have missed my chance!

    Nevertheless, I’ve been looking for a good olive oil cake recipe and I think we may still have some of the mandarin oil left. Thanks!

  • This looks so delicious plus it looks promising as something easy to convert to gluten-free as so little wheat flour is needed. Thanks!

  • I was so excited to read the recipe, getting really excited about the nuts and polenta, until I saw that it contained 1.3 cups of wheat flour. Please let me know if there are any wheat-free substitutes for the all-purpose flour part. Would quinoa flour or almond flour work?

  • Hi Pamphilia,

    Very sorry for the confusion. The amount was 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon, but I think it was a bit messy with all of the punctuation, so it wasn’t very clear. Thank you for letting us know! To make it easier, I have translated it into tablespoons. Ground almonds are actually the largest part of the structure of this cake, with only a small amount of polenta and a small amount of flour. Given the small quantity of wheat flour, I think you should feel safe using whatever flour you would normally use in baking. If you have any more questions, please do share them with us here and hopefully we can answer them all.


  • Hello, I think your website may be having internet browser compatibility problems.

    Whenever I look at your website in Safari, it looks fine but when opening in IE, it’s got some overlapping issues. I simply wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Aside from that, fantastic site!

  • Is the polenta in the recipe course ground (ie- corn grits) or fine ? Waiting for your answer so that I can start baking… :)

  • Over a year later this is still my favouite cake to bake my brother I can make it gluten and dairy free for him which is amazing !!! and with almonds in replacement of hazelnuts is also delicious and any citrus in season!