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
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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