Samali is an old-fashioned semolina cake with its origins in Damaskus. It's so fragrant and sweet that still remains a very famous delicacy in many Eastern countries.
What makes it stand out, is its strong Mastic flavor and its perfectly crumbly yet soft syrup-soaked texture. Samali is so tasty, aromatic, and even refreshing. It almost feels appetizing when you eat it cold from the fridge. Even though it is made with semolina which is in fact very filling.
Ingredients You Need To Make Samali
This semolina cake doesn't require many ingredients. You basically need some water, sugar, a cinnamon stick, and fresh lemon (juice + peel) for the syrup. Plus coarse semolina, Greek yogurt, mastic, baking soda, sugar, vanilla powder (or Vanillina), lemon zest, and a bit of melted butter for the cake.
How To Make Samali Cake
The most important step in making Samali is to let the semolina cake batter set for about 2 hours at room temperature. This step is very important as it enables the semolina to absorb all of the required moisture and bake nicely afterward. This way the cake forms a nice crumb in the middle.
The second most important thing to pay attention to is to use the right amount of Mastic. If you use too much it will make the cake taste bitter.
This recipe calls for ⅔ of a teaspoon of Mastic tears. Use no more than that.
To grind the Mastic into a fine powder, add it together with some sugar in a small food processor and blend. Another way to do this is to use a grinder if you have one. But always grind the Mastic together with sugar otherwise it will get sticky.
Thirdly, transfer the cake mixture to a lightly greased baking pan. And bake for about 40-45 minutes.
Lastly, 20 minutes before you take the cake out of the oven make the syrup. As both the syrup and the cake need to be really hot for the syrup to be absorbed properly. The syrup takes 6 minutes at a medium temperature. And make sure you don't stir the syrup. Just let the sugar dissolve on its own to avoid sugar crystals from forming.
And once you have poured the hot syrup over the hot cake it is time to practice PATIENCE.
This cake needs to cool down slowly. And the best way to do this is to leave it inside the oven with the door of the oven open. It will absorb every bit of the syrup and the cake will set nicely this way. Once it has cooled to room temperature you can cover the pan with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge ideally overnight.
Yes, I know it's such a long time to wait and enjoy your efforts. And I know you will take a small bite (like I did) when it's still hot. Even out of curiosity. But once it will get really cold, and every little crumble of semolina sets together with the syrup it will have worth all the waiting.
Pan Size :
For this recipe, I used a 12-inch (31 cm) round non-stick pan. I like cutting this cake into rhombus shapes as I find it gives it a more vintage look (or so I think 😁). If you want to use a rectangular pan and cut the cake into square pieces which is easier, you can use a 13 x 9-inch (33 x 23 cm) pan.
Cutting The Cake
Samali needs to be cut and divided into pieces halfway through baking. This is done because coarse semolina will produce a cake that is hard to cut after it gets thoroughly baked.
Therefore, you need to cut it while its surface is still soft. So after the first 20 minutes of baking, when the cake has gotten a deep golden colour all over, take it out of the oven, and cut it all the way through into pieces. Then add it back to the oven and bake until it gets a nice warm honey-brown colour on top. Once you pour the hot syrup the cake will soften and because the cake is cut it will absorb it easily.
Samali - Semolina Syrup Cake With Mastic
- 1 x 12-inch (32 cm pan)
For The Cake:
- 350 grams / 12.3 ounce Greek yogurt 5% fat (or more)
- 270 grams / 9.5 ounce sugar
- ⅔ teaspoon Mastic tears (Mastiha Hios)
- 1 + ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ lemon zested
- ½ teaspoon vanilla powder or 1 Vanillina
- 150 ml water
- 500 grams / 17.6 ounce coarse semolina
- 50 grams / 1.7 ounce butter melted
- 1 teaspoon butter at room temperature
For The Syrup:
- 500 grams (2 ½ cups) sugar
- 500 ml (2 cups + 2 tbsp) water
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice fresh
- 1 small peel of lemon
- 1 small stick of cinnamon
For The Cake:
- Powder The Mastic. Take 2 tablespoons out of the 270 grams of sugar and place it in a small food processor together with the Mastic tears. Blend until Mastic turns into powder. Alternatively, you may use a pestle to powder the Mastic again together with the 2 tablespoons of sugar.
- In a mixing bowl whisk together the Greek yogurt, water, and sugar until smooth.
- Add the lemon zest, vanilla, baking soda, and ground Mastic. Stir well to combine. The baking soda will turn the mixture foamy.
- Gradually mix in the semolina. Whisk until fully combined and thickened.
- Mix in the melted butter as well.
- Cover and rest at room temperature for 2 hours. For the semolina to get nice and fluffy.
- Preheat the oven to 175°C / 350°F.
- Grease a 12-inch (31 cm) round baking pan with 1 teaspoon of butter.
- Transfer the cake mixture to the pan. Spread it evenly. Then with a tablespoon dipping it in cold water smoothen the top a bit.
- Bake the semolina cake for 20 minutes on the lowest rack of your oven. Then take the pan out of the oven and cut the cake into rhombus-shaped or square pieces. At this point start to make the syrup (see below).
- Place the pan back in the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes more. The surface of the cake should get a warm honey brown color.
For The Syrup:
- Add all of the ingredients for the syrup to a small cooking pot. Without stirring bring to a boil over high heat.
- Cook the syrup for 6-7 minutes from the time it starts to boil and bubble. It will thicken slightly but not too much.
- Ladle the hot syrup all over the hot cake. Let the cake cool down inside the oven for a couple of hours with the door of the oven open. This will make the cake cool down slowly giving it time to absorb all of the syrup. (see Note 1 below)
- Once the cake gets to room temperature place it in the fridge. Refrigerate, ideally overnight.
- Serve on its own or with whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
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