Semolina Orange Cake

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.

Semolina Orange Cake

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 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 syrup





Semolina orange cake with rosemary soaking syrup
Serves 12
For the cake
  • 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

Soaking syrup

  • 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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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)
  4. Preheat the oven to 180º C. Grease and line a 23cm loose-bottom cake tin.
  5. Cream the butter, castor sugar and vanilla until pale. Add the eggs one at a time beating well between each addition.
  6. 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.
  7. Transfer the batter to the baking tin, smooth over the top and bake for about 65 minutes or until cooked through.
  8. 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.
  9. Slowly ladle the cooled syrup over the hot cake waiting, for it to absorb before adding the next ladle.
  10. Cool in the tin and serve at room temperature with softly whipped cream.

14 Comments. Leave new

  • Take my word for it , this is great!!!

  • Marie-Anne Duarte
    18 August 2016 10:27 am

    Oh my gosh Di my mouth is watering with the deliciousness of your description!

  • Dianne Bibby
    18 August 2016 9:27 pm

    It’s definitely one of my favourite cakes. Slightly dense with a toothsome texture and very citrusy! So good.

  • Dianne Bibby
    18 August 2016 9:29 pm

    Thanks Da. It was great, but unfortunately is now polished!

  • Gosh Di, you make beautiful food
    it looks scrumptious !
    For the topping did you simmer whole oranges in sugar syrup and sliced ?

  • Dianne Bibby
    19 August 2016 9:12 am

    That’s so kind of you Johan! I did. About 2 cups of water with 180g sugar simmered on a medium heat with the sliced orange wedges until soft and reduced.

  • Goodness me, first thing this morning on my TL was this beautiful creation, SALIVATING!! Stunning job as always.

  • Thank you Anina. I think we agree on Cake being a weekend essential, right? Have a good one.

  • It seems strange to think that you are heading into spring, as we head into autumn here in the UK. Your cake looks so beautiful, Dianne! I often bake a similar version, the boiled oranges make the cake so moist and fresh! xx

  • Dianne Bibby
    24 August 2016 7:37 am

    I always look forward to the change of seasons and the bounty of fruit that comes with it. This semolina cake is my last ‘wintery’ bake. I really love the intense orangey flavour.

  • Hello Dianne,

    I love your recipes. I’m super happy to have stumbled over your blog. I have never been able to make a good salad (don’t know why, but I just can’t get it right), but after I’ve started using your recipes, my salads always are the best! Every night before bed I browse through to find something to make once my exam period is over, and it’s really helping me getting through. so thank you! I want to take a day off studying after my first exam, and make this to celebrate.
    I have two questions, 1:The two boiled oranges for the cake, do I put 1 1/2 in the processor with the peel on, or do I take the flesh out and throw away the peel?
    1: How many oranges did you use for the decoration? (It looks so beautiful, I want to add it)
    Thank you so much for sharing!
    Love, Vee

  • Dianne Bibby
    2 May 2020 7:36 pm

    Hi Vilde. Thank you so much. I’m so happy to have you join us here for good, home-cooked food. As for the salads, most of them are really easy but with a couple of unusual ingredients and flavours, just to keep things interesting.
    Yes, the boiled oranges go in skin and all. It adds wonderful flavour.
    For the decoration, I used 2 oranges. You can use 1 if you want a single layer on top.
    Best of luck with the exams! Take care Di

  • Marla Yonamine
    2 March 2021 10:50 pm

    I forgot to add the almonds! The cake is in the oven now. Could I use them as topping?

  • Dianne Bibby
    9 March 2021 4:19 pm

    Hello Marla. I take it the cake is out the oven! Apologies for the late reply. Roughly chopped and scattered on top should be lovely. Hope you enjoyed the cake.

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