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So a Persian Semolina Cake and a Lebanese Semolina Cake walk into a bar…. But seriously, I took two delicious cakes with certain common elements, made some tweaks and came up with this single wonderful Lemon Cardamom Semolina Cake. Bright and lemony with that unique texture that you get with semolina cakes. The finished warm cake is soaked in a simple syrup perfumed with lemon and rose water. This permeates the entire cake, resulting in a dense, moist delicious bite. I topped it off with some lightly toasted pistachios and edible dried rose petals. For utter decadence, I served it with strawberries macerated in a bit of sugar and some lightly sweetened crème fraîche on the side. Do I have your attention yet?
This Lemon Cardamom Semolina Cake should rank right up there with the best of the semolina cakes. And while I admit to tarting it up a bit with strawberries and crème fraîche, it is wonderful all on its own. No embellishments are needed to enjoy this utterly lovely cake.
Middle Eastern semolina cakes, like basbousa are very common – and VERY delicious. They are usually soaked in some kind of simple syrup or a syrup sweetened with honey. Not only does the syrup add wonderful flavor to the cake, but it also makes the cakes able to last longer, particularly in warm climates where refrigeration wasn’t common until relatively recently.
These cakes stay moist for days and the flavors only intensify with each passing day. And as each grain of semolina soaks up the syrup, the cake takes on such a lovely, creamy texture. I find that if possible, I always make semolina cakes one or two days ahead of serving. This allows all of the wonderful flavors and aromas to meld into one delicious bite.
As anyone who reads my blog knows, I love Middle Eastern and South Asian cuisine. and I also love a great dessert. This Lemon Cardamom Semolina Cake is the perfect make-ahead dessert for Shabbat or any special dinner – especially if it has a Middle Eastern/Mediterranean theme.
And because this cake uses olive oil instead of butter or margarine, a whisk and a spatula is really the only equipment needed. There is no heavy creaming of the butter and sugar or tedious beating to incorporate air into the mixture.
But don’t wait for an “occasion” to make this delicious cake. Take it on your next picnic. It will travel well and requires no refrigeration or special treatment.
For more semolina cake recipes:
Yield: About 8 servings
Yield: About 8 servings
For the Cake
1.5 cups almond flour or almond meal
1.5 cups semolina flour
1.25 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon grated/ground nutmeg
1 cup fruity Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Use a Lemon-flavored oil if you can. It will give even more punch to the lemon flavor.)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 lemons, zested
Juice of one lemon (Be sure to zest your lemons first!)
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
1 lemon, juiced (From the 2 lemons zested in the cake)
1 to 2 Tablespoons rosewater (Optional, but desirable, but use a really good quality rose water so it doesn’t taste like pot pourri!) Alternatively you could use Orange Blossom Water.
About 1/3 cup coarsely chopped and lightly toasted pistachios or blanched slivered almonds
about 2 Tablespoons dried, edible rose petals
Preheat your oven to 350 F.
Grease an 8-inch springform pan and line bottom and sides with parchment paper. (You could use a 9-inch pan for a flatter cake. Decrease the baking time by about 10 minutes.) Grease parchment. Whisk together the almond flour, semolina flour, salt, cardamom, nutmeg and baking powder in a medium bowl.
In a large bowl, whisk the oil, sugar, and lemon zest from 2 lemons together until combined. (This can also be done with a hand mixer.) However, you are not trying to beat a lot of air into the mixture. You just want everything well combined.
Then gradually add the eggs, one at a time, beating to incorporate, about 1 minute. Next add the dry ingredients and the juice of 1 of your lemons and whisk just until everything is combined. Do not over-mix. Semolina cakes are meant to be fairly dense.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Place the cake on the middle rack, and bake until golden brown, approximately 45 to 50 minutes. (If you use a 9-inch springform pan, check your cake after 35 minutes.) Ovens really vary, so you can tell the cake is done if you lightly press the top of the cake — it should feel lightly springy when done. (I baked mine a few minutes longer than I should have ideally, although with the syrup it is fine.) Allow to cool for 20 minutes or so in the pan before removing the ring and transferring the cake to a cooling rack.
Using a toothpick, poke holes all over the top of the cake. Spoon or brush ALL of the simple syrup (See below) over the cake. (I like to put a pan covered in foil under the cooling rack to collect the inevitable dribbles and to make clean-up easier.) It might look like a lot of syrup, but it will all get absorbed into the cake after a few minutes. Not only does the syrup add flavor but it is necessary for keeping the cake moist and contributes to the overall texture of the cake.
- In one easy step, combine water, sugar, juice of 1 lemon, and rosewater, if used, in a pot. Cook it over medium-heat until the sugar is fully dissolved, for 4-5 minutes.
- Then continue cooking the syrup on medium-low heat for an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.