Sooo airy and feathery. Loaded with almonds and lightly soaked in syrup this Semolina Cake can be served both as a dessert or serve with your cup of coffee!
Unlike other semolina cakes that are dense, such as Basbousa for example, this one is very very soft and airy. The reason for this is for one, the fact that it's made with yogurt and for two, the addition of meringue into the cake batter.
The addition of yogurt and especially full-fat, strained Greek yogurt makes a cake so soft. From the moment I tried a yogurt cake, I just can't find myself going back to making a cake using butter. Seriously it's that good!
Another thing that makes a cake really feathery and airy, like this one, is to beat the eggs separately, creating a foamy yolk mixture and a thick meringue. Therefore, locking more air into the cake batter. This method is used mostly to make sponge cakes, like it's done in my Vanilla Almond Torte Recipe.
This cake comes with a refined flavor of cinnamon and mahlep powder as a background to the profound taste of almonds. With just a hint of lemon acidity from the light syrup. And this is one of the things you will love most about this cake. The perfect balance of flavors!
Wondering what mahlep is? Is the powder derivative of a ground cherry species that grows in Eastern countries. Its aroma is nutty and sweet that's why it goes so nicely in this cake. Mahlep is used a lot in traditional holiday recipes like the Greek Easter Cookies, or Sweet Easter Bread (Tsoureki).
You can buy it online here, or substitute it with nutmeg in this recipe. They're not that similar in flavor, but nutmeg goes well with all the other flavors in this cake.
How To Make A Semolina Cake
First of all, prepare the almonds. Use raw almonds (skin on) and blend in a blender very finely but not too powdery. Then using your electric mixer beat the egg whites along with sugar into a very thick meringue. And the egg yolks with sugar until they get whitish in color and really foamy. Incorporate slowly the yogurt into yolks, then the semolina, soda, almonds, and flavorings.
To incorporate the meringue into the cake batter, you will have to use a pastry spatula or a slotted spoon. To help keep the air into the batter (and the meringue) stir gently the meringue in bits at a time. Then transfer to a baking pan or dish and bake for about 25 minutes.
Once the cake is baked let it cool down for about an hour at room temperature before adding the syrup. The syrup is very light and not too much to give moisture to the cake but not soak it completely.
To make the syrup simply add water, sugar, and a bit of freshly squeezed lemon juice, and simmer for 5 minutes over medium heat. You can then pour over the cake, after you have cut the cake into portions.
You may cut the cake either into 12 larger square pieces, or cut the squares in half to have 24 smaller pieces. My advice? Cut into 12. It will save you a trip or two to the kitchen to fetch a second portion!
Semolina Cake With Yogurt And Almonds
For The Cake:
- 4 eggs
- 250 grams / 8.8 oz sugar
- 325 grams / 11.4 oz fine semolina
- 250 grams / 8.8 oz raw almonds
- 325 grams / 11.4 oz yogurt (preferably Greek strained, full-fat)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground mahleb (you can buy it here, or substitute it with ground nutmeg)
- 25 ml brandy or scotch
For The Syrup:
- 250 grams / 8.8 oz sugar
- 200 grams / 7 oz water
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 40 grams / 1.4 oz almonds finely ground
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Place almonds in a blender, and blend until they look finely chopped (not too powdered). Set aside.
- Carefully separate the egg yolks from the egg whites so there is no residue of yolk in the egg whites.
- Place the egg whites in the bowl of your electric mixer and with the whisk attachment on, start beating on medium-high speed.
- Once the egg whites start to get foamy, start adding spoonfuls of the sugar, slowly one at a time, until you incorporated half of the sugar (the remaining half is to be used with the yolks). Keep beating until you get a thick meringue that won't drop from the spoon. Note: If you add the sugar right from the start, or all at once into the egg whites they will curdle. That's why sugar is always added once the egg whites start to thicken and always slowly in bits at a time.
- Set the meringue aside and start beating the egg yolks. Again over medium-high speed, adding the remaining half of the sugar slowly in bits at a time until they get really foamy and thick. Reduce speed to medium, and slowly incorporate the yogurt into the egg yolks.
- Preheat oven at 180°C / 356°F.
- In a small bowl, mix together the brandy or scotch, the ground cinnamon, ground mahleb (or nutmeg), and the baking soda. Then pour this into the yolk and yogurt mixture.
- While still beating the batter, incorporate the semolina in batches. Then turn off the mixer and with a pastry spatula incorporate the almonds into the batter.
- Then incorporate the meringue into batches very gently and slowly so it keeps foamy.
- Place the batter in a butter or oil-greased pan 25 x 30 cm (10 x 12-inch) or baking dish. Bake for 25 minutes until deep golden on top or until when you prick it with a knife, and the knife comes out clean.
- Let cake sit at room temperature for about 1 hour until it gets lukewarm. Then start making the syrup.
For The Syrup:
- Place all of the ingredients for the syrup in a cooking pot and bring to a boil over high heat.
- Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes until sugar dissolves.
- Cut the cake pieces into 12 large square pieces or cut the squares in half triangles=24 smaller pieces. Pour the hot syrup over the cake. Mix together the 40 grams of ground almonds along with the ½ teaspoon of cinnamon that's for topping, and sprinkle all over on top.
- No need to refrigerate this cake. You can store at room temperature for about a week. But if you prefer a cold cake, then let it cool down completely at room temperature before refrigerating.
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