Before we bid farewell to winter, I wanted to share the recipe for this semolina orange cake. It epitomises the essence of winter with bright citrusy flavours. For this Middle Eastern inspired cake I use the whole orange – skin, flesh, the whole shebang. Most of the flavour of an orange lies in the skin and it’s this intensity, that I love.
Although I love a traditional frosted cake, I often prefer unadorned cakes, plain and simple. I’m particularly fond of Middle Eastern bakes. They’re heavier than sponge cakes and most are made with semolina and ground nuts. Perhaps it’s a combination of all of these ingredients that make this orange cake so special. That and the rosemary infused soaking syrup. Combining fruit and herbs creates layers of complex flavours. This sticky herbal reduction seeps into the crumb making it one of my favourite seasonal bakes.
One could easily expect the taste to be on the bitter side, but boiling the oranges whole in several changes of water removes all trace of bitterness. What’s left behind is softly poached, orange flesh. A quick blitz in the food processor creates a puree that incorporates evenly into the cake batter. I’ve used cake flour, almond flour and semolina in this recipe. Semolina flour is more granular than cake flour but well suited to denser cakes such as this. Most syrup-soaked cakes keep well and taste even better the day after. I serve it with softly whipped cream and my 4 minute lemon curd on the side.
Semolina orange cake with rosemary soaking syrup
- 2 whole oranges
- 140g (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) butter, softened
- 300g (1 1/4) cup castor sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 90g (3/4 cup) ground almonds
- 150g (3/4 cup) semolina
- 130g (3/4 cup) all-purpose cake flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 400ml fresh orange juice (juice of 4 large oranges)
- 60ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 cup castor sugar
- 60ml (1/4 cup) honey
- zest of 1 orange
- 2 stems rosemary
- 3 bay leaves
- Place the 2 whole oranges in a large saucepan and fill with enough water to cover. Bring up to the boil, then drain and fill with fresh water.
- Repeat this process twice more to remove the bitterness from the oranges. On the last repeat, boil for about 45 minutes until the oranges are completely soft.
- Drain and set aside to cool completely. Remove the hard ends, slice and discard any pips are hard membrane. Place the flesh of 1 1/2 oranges in a processor and blitz until smooth. (discard the remaining half)
- Preheat the oven to 180º C. Grease and line a 23cm loose-bottom cake tin.
- Cream the butter, castor sugar and vanilla until pale. Add the eggs one at a time beating well between each addition.
- Sift all the dry ingredients together. Add the sifted flour to the creamed butter and whisk together. Lastly, add the orange puree and beat until the batter is smooth.
- Transfer the batter to the baking tin, smooth over the top and bake for about 65 minutes or until cooked through.
- To make the soaking syrup, place all the ingredients in a saucepan and boil on a high heat for about 12-15 minutes. At the end of the cooking time, measure the syrup out. You should aim to have about 350ml. Top up with hot water if need be. Set aside to cool.
- Slowly ladle the cooled syrup over the hot cake waiting, for it to absorb before adding the next ladle.
- Cool in the tin and serve at room temperature with softly whipped cream.