Polenta Cake with Apples and Cherry Compote

  • Prep-time: / Ready In:
  • Makes one 9-inch cake + 1¼ cups compote
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Applesauce and polenta form the base of this naturally sweet and perfectly moist vegan cake, which makes a gorgeous addition to any Thanksgiving or holiday spread. A homemade cherry compote with autumnal spices adds extra sweetness and a hint of tanginess. This recipe is gluten-free if you use gluten-free oat flour, and can be baked up to two days in advance. The cake tastes best served warm: If you make it ahead of time, place it on an oven-safe platter and warm in a 350°F oven for about 20 minutes.


  • 1½ cups frozen cherries
  • 2 cups unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 whole star anise (optional)
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
  • 1 cup dry polenta
  • 1 cup unsweetened, unflavored plant-based milk
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup oat flour
  • ¼ cup almond flour
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 medium unpeeled apples


  • Make Cherry Compote: In a small saucepan combine cherries, 1 cup of the applesauce, the cinnamon, star anise (if using), cloves, and 1 cup water. mix well. Cook over medium-low about 20 minutes or until thick and syrupy, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; discard star anise. Use a potato masher to crush cherries to a pulp. Cool and chill until ready to serve.
  • In a large mixing bowl stir together the remaining 1 cup applesauce, the polenta, plant milk, maple syrup, vinegar, and vanilla. Let stand 20 minutes. In a small bowl whisk together the next five ingredients (through baking soda).
  • Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment paper.
  • Core apples and slice into ¼-inch-thick wedges. Arrange apple slices in rows or a spiral pattern in the cake pan, working from the center outward to completely cover the base of pan.
  • Add the flour mixture to the milk mixture, stirring well. Pour batter over apples, spreading evenly.
  • Bake about 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan at least 30 minutes. Invert onto a serving platter. Serve warm with Cherry Compote.

Comments (50)

(5 from 20 votes)

Recipe Rating

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I probably should have figured this out but by the way, to make the compote, cook with the lid off. Very yummy. The cake is sweet but the compote is a little sour and they are a nice combo. Love the cake.


This is so fabulous I make it once a week. A commenter recommended cutting up an apple and I do that instead of slices. The apple flavor is throughout. I use a square 8-inch Pyrex pan. Simply wonderful recipe. I do not add the cherry compote but may just heat up frozen cherries and place on a slice in the future.

Frances S

I made for a Christmas Eve gathering. Really like it. Cooked it in a 9" semi-square heavy dish as don't have cake tins. Came out fine but only cooked 45 min on fan bake. Tested with toothpick. Nice and moist. Used the cherry compote on the bottom so could see the nice apple on top. Watched Chef AJ make it https://www.forksoverknives.com/webinar/chef-aj-prepares-whole-food-plant-based-thanksgiving-menu/


I used quick grits and date syrup. The cake is not sweet at all (which was good for me) but my non SOS family, not so much. The Cherry compote made the cake.

Anne in Tucson

This was such a treat! It really is best to eat it when it's nice and warm. I may let the wet ingredients soak a bit longer before cooking next time just because the grits were still a bit hard in some bites. I had three pieces in one sitting - absolutely delicious! I didn't make the cherry topping. The apples were perfect on their own as a topping.


Instead of putting the apple slices on the bottom of the cake pan, I added them to the batter. Stirred them right in there! It makes the cake even more moist! With every bite, you taste the apple. This is a wonderful recipe. I had already made a plum jelly with only one quart of the required amount of sugar. Therefore it is more runny. But still, yummy as a sauce on this cake. My husband is lactose intolerant and has multiple issues with his stomach. He therefore follows a FODMAP diet to avoid fructans and excessive (animal) fat. And since we hardly ever eat meat or chicken - maybe twice a year, just because there is this craving - we eat way less animal fat. But because of avoiding the fructans, we don't eat garlic, pepper or onions and have to watch how much he consumes per meal of other food. If he stacks too many different ingredients that have only a bit of fructans in them, he still can get too many fructans altogether and gets terrible pain. It makes it difficult to eat tasty, spicy, hearty meals. All is so bland. But hey, no stomach pain. So, I am always looking for recipes that work well and taste good and 'just hit the right spot'. This is one of them.


I made this cake twice so far and we gobbled it up both times! The second time I didn’t bother with the sauce. I actually like the cake better without it so you really taste the apples. Thanks for this recipe - it’s a keeper!


I wish you would include the nutritional analysis--carbs, protein, fat gms --with your recipes. Some people have diabetes and need to know the # of carb gms. Thanks.

Courtney Davison

Hi Rick, Thank you for your feedback. We hear you, and we are currently working on adding nutritional information to all our recipes and anticipate for this feature to be live on the website by the end of the year. Please stay tuned for updates! Warmly, Courtney Editor, Forks Over Knives


An excellent cake enjoyed by vegans. cherry topping compliments the cake.

Yvonne Renoult

Im sorry that my comment doesn’t relate to this particular recipe, but I don’t know where to post this question. I have noticed in some forks over knives recipes the use of aluminum/tin foil. My understanding is that tin foil is not a safe material to use in cooking. Why is it being used by FOK?

William Callaghan

I think that foil is safe to use, if the food is not acidic. I would avoid using it with BBQ sauce or anything that has vinegar or citrus juice in it.


Is this recipe asking for cooked polenta or dry cornmeal? Polenta is boiled cornmeal.


I wondered that too but I just used dry because the recipe indicated "dry."


The recipe says dry polenta, so I will use uncooked. Polenta is much more coarsely ground than cornmeal. While you could probably use cornmeal, the finer grind will probably give the cake a different texture, possibly pasty.


Please, how I instead use maple syrup? with date paste? Thanks.

Lynsey Harper

Try making a stock syrup, steep it with some date puree, and pass through a fine chinois, or keep the maple in and do 50/50 apple sauce and date puree Hope that helps


Delicious. I didn’t make the compote, but that didn’t stop me from eating half the cake in one evening. Not sweet at all, and very delicious

Lisa B.

A nice way to use polenta, but I would make some changes. The tbs of cinnamon in the cherry compote overwhelms it, I would not use that much again. I would probably try to add a bit of salt. The cake came out moist, but a little tasteless. I have made the FoK Peach Upside Down Cake many times, which has not dissimilar ingredients, and it's a huge hit. Not sure why this one seemed so lacking in flavor. Definitely one hour is overcooking it.


I make this without the cherry compote or any substitute. I find the cake so tasty that it barely lasts till the next day!

Deb K

I’m sure you can. With the frozen cherries you are just making a compote. Swap whatever berry you want

Kate Odell

Can you use cornmeal in place of polenta?


I did. I think they’re basically the same. It came out fine

C.A. Pacheco

While fresh cherries taste wonderful, I loathe cooked cherry anything. Can you substitute mashed frozen stawberries, raspberries, or some other frozen fruit?

Lucy C

Amazing - such a good cake, thank you! This will become a regular

Janet Hawkins

This cake is moist and delicious! Baked it 50 min. I substituted homemade pearsauce for the applesauce, mango for the cherries in the compote, (and left out cinnamon and anise). Substituted 1 t. ground bourbon vanilla beans for the liquid vanilla because it was all I had! Added 2 t. cinnamon and 1/2 t. cardamom to the cake, but might use slightly less cardamom next time though everyone loved it! I plan to use the basis of the cake and change it up to create different cakes like adding lemon zest and juice to create a lemon cake, etc.


I just tried baking this tonight and I can't wait for the results. Can you please provide the nutrition value?

pamela jense

It looks delicious! I want to trait asap! I love plant based recipes!


This looks really delicious, but I don't see the nutrition value. Can you please provide? Do you recipes have the nutrition value?

Dana Abetti

I just made this and love it, will make it again when I’m ready for my occasional treat. My husband (pure epicurean foodie, not WFPB) even loved it.

Christa Vroegh

I replaced the oat-and almond flour with brown rice flour and it turned out great! Never baked with polenta before, but this is one of my favourites now!


Has anyone tried making this in a cast iron skillet? Any tips for oven temperature or other changes?

Judit Hernadi

Can I use pre-cooked polenta? If yes, measurements? Thanks.


Hi Julie. Step 6 says to invert.

Jean M Clark



This looks wonderful! The apple slices that show on the top - were these put there after pouring the mixture into the pan (recipe doesn't say, but I like the look) or was the cake inverted after cooking and these are the ones from the bottom? Thank you!


Step 5 Pour batter over apples, spreading evenly

Jan S

I’m supposed to avoid corn and corn products. Can this be made with flour (GF or regular) instead of polenta?

Jamie P

Any tips for making this the day before? Fridge over night then bake for 20 minutes or is there something crucial I should do?


Has anyone tried using another nut flour, instead of almonds, to make this cake?

Sandy Handsher

I love this polenta cake and make it all the time. But I leave off the cherry sauce.

Lucy C

Me too Sandy, I don't think it needs the cherry sauce. I really love this cake

Sandy Handsher

I love this cake and make it all the time, but I leave off the cherry sauce.


Darshana you have done it again. This cake, although quite sweet, is delicious and extremely moist. The recipe made 10 ample sized slices. Serving it warm makes it like a winter pudding. A winner with the family. Thank you


I used homemade applesauce and fresh cherries This is delicious and not dry at all Baked for 50 minutes instead of 60


I also made my own oat flour I. Food processor


Can you use Bob's Red Mill corn meal or corn flour?


Just ok. Not as moist as I hoped it would be.


What is dry polenta? Cornmeal? Cannot make it unless I know the answer.


Yes. An example is Bob's Red Mill yellow corn grits polenta

About the Author

Headshot of Darshana Thacker

About the Author

Darshana Thacker Wendel

Darshana Thacker Wendel is a whole-food, plant-based chef and former culinary projects manager for Forks Over Knives. A graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute, she is the author of Forks Over Knives: Flavor! She created the recipes for Forks Over Knives Family and was a lead recipe contributor to the New York Times bestseller The Forks Over Knives Plan. Her recipes have been published in The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook, Forks Over Knives—The Cookbook, Forks Over Knives: The Plant-Based Way to Health, and LA Yoga magazine online. Visit DarshanasKitchen.com and follow her on Instagram for more.
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