Semolina Almond Cake
It is a delightful Sephardi/Moroccan dessert classic made from semolina and almonds, and soaked in a lemon syrup. It goes by some other, fun names in Sephardi Kitchens: Basbusa, Tishpishti. The idea is the same in all variations: a dense semolina- and nut-base cake soaked in fragrant honey lemon syrup. A wonderful lineup of our beloved Sephardi flavors!
As rich and dense as a confection. Small servings please. This improbable ingredient combination results in an incredibly moist and fragrant cake. It will last several days in the refrigerator, so you might not need to freeze leftovers.
Getting Fancy? Add on Garnishes!
Before baking, score the cake into 2×2” servings, and add a blanched almond in the center of each scored piece. Or simply sprinkle crushed or sliced almonds on top of the cake (in this case, no scoring necessary)
Olive Oil in Semolina Almond Cake?
It sounds a little funky, doesn’t it? But it works beautifully in this dessert, and its earthy robust flavor is a great counterpoint to the more delicate almond and lemon flavors. I have a couple other cake recipes made with olive oil: take a look at my Chestnut Chocolate Cake, and my orange almond wine cake!
For this cake it is important to use a shallow-ish mold, like a pie plate, round or square. Pour the batter no deeper than 2 inches high, so the syrup that is poured at the end of baking reaches evenly and uniformly all the way to the bottom.
We want unpeeled almonds in semolina almond cake, for the full almond flavor effect. You can grind the almonds in a food processor, but I think you will be just as happy with unblanched ground almonds. Store the bag in the refrigerator or freezer after opening for maximum freshness. You will find dozens of uses for them.
Gluten-Free Semolina Almond Cake
That is very easily done: Just use fine cornmeal instead of semolina. Just like semolina, fine cornmeal imparts that gritty and mealy texture we are after in this dessert.
- 3 eggs whites
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3 egg yolks
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 ½ cups finely ground almonds (use a food processor) or use store-bought unblanched ground almonds.
- 1 cup vegan sour cream or plain yogurt
- 1 cup fine semolina flour (Gluten-free: Use fine cornmeal)
- 1/3 cup flour, any flour including gluten-free
- Optional: 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 3/4 cup honey
- Juice and zest of 2 lemons
- 2 tablespoons orange blossom water
Heat the ingredients over a very low flame until just warm (or microwave 30 seconds to 1 minute)
Preheat the oven to 325 °F
With an electric mixer, whip the egg whites and salt at high speed until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually and whip until stiff. Switch to low speed, and allowing only enough time to combine the ingredients, beating in one ingredient at a time, just a few seconds each time, the yolks, then the oil, etc… until all ingredients are incorporated.
See pictures in intro.
Before baking, score the cake into 2x2” servings, and add a blanched almond in the center of each scored piece. Or simply sprinkle crushed or sliced almonds on top of the cake (in this case, no scoring necessary)
Pour the batter into a greased 10 inch round or square baking pan. Bake 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Immediately poke the cake all over with a toothpick or skewer, and pour the syrup (recipe above) all over the cake.