Lemon and Saffron Semolina Cake

I don’t know about you but I can’t get used to these early evenings especially after the gorgeous summer we’ve had. As much as I love cold weather cooking I am finding myself drawn to sunny colours and citrus flavours in an effort to stretch out that summer feeling. Sunshine and light in a slice is what this Lemon and Saffron Semolina Cake is and long may it shine!

Lemon Saffron and Semolina Cake

Lemon Saffron and Semolina Cake

It is a damp, dense, sticky cake redolent with intense lemon and warm saffron flavours. Don’t be put off by the soaking-it-in-syrup stage – it is supremely easy and lends itself to all sorts of riffs (a dash of limoncello or amaretto or some thyme leaves…)  and is just utterly delicious! I tend to have a little bag of fine semolina in the cupboards for dusting when I make pasta. It is really easy to find in even the smallest of ethnic (Indian or Mediterranean) food provision shops. This could also be made with 1 large juicy orange instead of 2 lemons.

To make it gluten free, use fine polenta or cornmeal instead of semolina and a gluten free baking powder too.

It is not a difficult cake to make and because of it’s weighty ingredients is quite forgiving.

Lemon Saffron and Semolina Cake

Beat the butter and sugar until it is light and fluffy

Lemon Saffron and Semolina Cake

Soak the saffron threads in a tablespoon of kettle hot water

Lemon Saffron and Semolina Cake

Zest the unwaxed lemons finely

Lemon Saffron and Semolina Cake

Syrup soaked cake

Lemon Saffron and Semolina Cake

Lemon Saffron and Semolina Cake

Lemon Saffron and Semolina Cake

Lemon Saffron and Semolina Cake

Lemon Saffron and Semolina Cake

Lemon Saffron and Semolina Cake

Lemon Saffron and Semolina Cake

Lemon Saffron and Semolina Cake

Lemon Saffron and Semolina Cake

Lemon Saffron and Semolina Cake

Lemon and Saffron Semolina Cake

  • Servings: 12 slices
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Lemon and Polenta Cake

INGREDIENTS

For the cake:

  • 200 g soft preferably unsalted butter (and a little smidgen  for greasing)
  • 200 g caster sugar
  • 200 g ground almonds
  • 100 g fine semolina  polenta or cornmeal will make it gluten free)
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • zest of 2 unwaxed lemons (save lemons to juice for the syrup)
  • pinch of saffron threads dissolved in 1 Tbsp of hot water

For the syrup:

  • juice of 2 lemons (put the whole, zested lemons in a microwave for about 75-90 seconds to maximise the juice output!)
  • 125 grams icing sugar

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/ 350°F and put the kettle on.
  2. In a little bowl/saucer (I used one one those tiny soy dipping dishes) place the saffron threads giving them a bit of a rub together as you do so. Pour over about 1 Tbsp of hot water from the kettle and leave to steep while you get on with the rest of the recipe.
  3. Line the base of a 23cm / 9inch springform cake tin with a circle of baking paper and grease its sides lightly with butter.
  4. Beat the butter and sugar till light and fluffy – this will take about 5 minutes depending on how soft the butter is. Don’t skimp on this step as this not only helps to aerate but also serves to somewhat dissolve the sugar.
  5. Mix together the almonds, semolina and baking powder in a medium sized bowl and beat 2 heaped Tbsp of it into the butter-sugar mixture, followed by 1 egg. Then alternate with ⅓ of the dry ingredients and the 2 remaining eggs, finishing with the dry ingredients. Beat well after each addition.
  6. Beat in the lemon zest and saffron water and threads.
  7. Scrape the thick batter into the prepared tin and smooth it out evenly.
  8. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes, checking after 30. Mine was done at 30 minutes but I have a very hot oven. The cake is done when a cake tester  comes out quite clean and the edges of the cake have begun to shrink away from the sides of the tin even if it seems a bit tender.
  9. Place onto a wire cooling rack, but leave it in its tin.
  10. Make the syrup by boiling together the lemon juice and icing sugar in a small saucepan. When the icing sugar’s dissolved into the juice, it’s ready. Let it cool for 5 minutes or so.
  11. Prick the top of the warm cake all over with a cake tester or toothpick – don’t use anything too big like a skewer as it will punch too-large holes in the cake.
  12. Slowly pour the warm syrup over the cake, and leave to cool before taking it out of its tin.
  13. Eat as is or serve as a pudding with a spoonful of creme fraiche and a pretty dusting of icing sugar.
© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2013, 2014. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to

Lemon Saffron and Semolina Cake

Lemon Saffron and Semolina Cake

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38 thoughts on “Lemon and Saffron Semolina Cake

  1. You are doing a great job with the iPhone photos. I particularly like the shot with all the crumbs. You are doing just fine. Keep up the good work. (BTW: when I first started using my iPhone for photos, UGG! You are not alone. It’s a process. Take lots of photos. )

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    • Thank you Shanna, you are too, too kind. I have become mildly obsessed with props and can’t pass a thrift store without checking out their china. It’s amazing what you can find when you only need one piece! Cake does taste rather good…x

      Like

      • Selma… Okay, you are officially my advisor on props – china, tablecloths, placemats, etc.! We currently live in a 1950’s leased house – my husband will only be at this hospital for another 1.5 years. My kitchen is old and – oh my – PINK… and my props are non-existent. A little challenging! So, maybe I need to hit up some vintage stores? Your blog is fantastic… and gives me guidance and inspiration. Your recipes are soulful. Keep it up, chica. :-) Shanna

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        • Shanna, your kitchen sounds gorgeous – love the retro vibe of it being pink! If you still have another year and a half there, I would say definitely hit the vintage shops and scour Craig’s List and eBay too. It is so much fun! Set yourself a spending limit so if you are outbid, you can step away – that is really important…

          I attended a really good network event last night where the guest speaker is a food and lifestyle photographer. She suggested using textured or coloured wrapping paper as a base for the food – genius and yet another reason to go shopping!

          Can’t wait to see what you find! xx

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          • Hi, Selma… This is all really good advice. Thank you! Your event sounds awesome. The textured, colored wrapping paper is an awesome idea. I will definitely look more at what you are doing at Selma’s Table for ideas and hit up some shops this weekend! Ebay is a nice idea, as well. Thanks, Selma! – Shanna

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  2. Thanks for this recipe Selma! Went down a treat at a dinner party last night (and have directed a couple of people to your blog who asked for the recipe). I made it with coarse semolina (what I had in the cupboard left over from roast potatoes one Christmas) and it worked very well regardless. And any excuse to use my microplane!

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    • Erin, I am so thrilled that the recipe was a success! Thank you for letting me (and the twittersphere) know. Must say that it is good to know that coarse semolina works just as well as the fine – I love it as well for roast potatoes and also use couscous to get a similar effect on the roasties. Whoever thought up microplanes is a genius – I use it for everything! I have just replaced mine as I had worn it out…x

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  3. Mmmm! I love lemon in desserts! This cake looks better than my lemon yoghurt cake w/ syrup! I’ve never really used saffron in cooking (not savoury not sweet) so perhaps this is a good way to introduce it into my kitchen :)

    Like

    • Thanks so much for stopping by Fati! Saffron is such a lovely flavour – it is wonderful with seafood, rice, lamb as well as milky puddings and citrusy bakes. I always start with a small amount before adding any more as it can overwhelm a dish. I must take a look at your cake – it sounds lovely :)

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  4. selma, i just discovered you on food52 (i commented on the chicken one pot recipe) and now i see here that I KNEW I liked you!! this is super and i will make it soon. you prob alrdy know this, but it reminds me of Revani (Greek dessert)- you might enjoy exploring that. Also, I had a 52Community Pick with a ‘cookie’ version of this cake!(but no saffron):
    http://food52.com/recipes/15709-lemon-almond-cornmeal-diamonds

    Thanks for all your joy-filled inspiration!

    Like

    • Mindy, I am so sorry for the late reply – I have only just seen your lovely comment. You are not going to believe this but I recently saved your recipe on F52!!! How spooky is that?!! It is just my sort of thing and obviously yours too! I will look up Revani to see what it is all about – thanks for the heads up. Let me know what you think of this if you make it – we love the moist, dense, slightly gritty, sweet and sharp flavour of this cake!

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