Orange Semolina Cake

Orange Semolina Cake

The cake-baking sister visited for morning tea today and of course I insisted on making a cake, ever hopeful that I can one day impress her with my own fledgling efforts. The recipe I tried was one from New Zealand’s ‘Food’ magazine (Oct/Nov 2013, Issue 73) – an Orange Semolina Cake doused in orange syrup. Sounded delectable to me, and it was. It’s a light, aerated cake (very similar to the Three Milk Cake), thanks to the addition of beaten egg whites, but quite sweet so you really do need to serve it with yoghurt rather than cream. BTW, it can be easily adapted to being gluten-free as the flour addition is minimal anyway. I used gluten-free flour.

I made a few adjustments to the recipe after trying it out: firstly, don’t be stingy with the orange zest – the cake itself is very subtle and needs the kick of the orange. Along the same lines, I’ve also suggested that you skewer the cake before adding the syrup so that it ensures you get a bit more of it distributed throughout the cake. Putting the pistachios over the cake was also my idea – the original recipe added a few pistachios to the yoghurt itself, but everyone agreed that the crunch of the nuts in each mouthful was a great texture contrast. Finally, in hindsight I reckon it would further enhance the flavour of the orange if you also included the classic pairing of either vanilla or cardamom into the orange syrup. I’ve included the suggestion as an optional extra for the adventurers amongst you and certainly intend to try it myself next time around.

I loved this cake – it was simple to make, classy to serve, and very light to eat. Its success lies in the texture and taste contrasts between the sweet and airy cake, the sour yoghurt, the crunch of the nuts and the zesty bite of the syrup. Oh, and the cake-baking sister seemed to enjoy it. Always a relief!

Orange Semolina Cake


Serves 10


For the cake

  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 2/3 cup caster sugar (superfine sugar)
  • 2/3 cup semolina
  • 1/3 cup flour (can be gluten-free flour)
  • 2 Tbsp orange zest

For the syrup

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • Optional: 1 vanilla bean or 3-5 cardamom pods, slightly crushed

To serve

  • 1 cup thick Greek yoghurt
  • Chopped pistachio nuts, toasted


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F). Line the base and sides of a 23cm (9 in) round baking pan with baking paper.
  2. For the cake: Place the egg yolks and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat them until they are pale and creamy (this takes a couple of minutes).
  3. Add the semolina, flour and orange zest and stir until they are just combined with the egg yolk mixture (the mixture will be very firm at this stage).
  4. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.
  5. Fold 2 tablespoons of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture (this will lighten the mixture, making it easier to combine the ingredients), then fold in the remaining egg whites – don’t over-fold as you want to retain the aeration.
  6. Spoon the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake the cake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, or until golden, slightly springy to the touch, and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool in the baking pan for 10 minutes.
  7. Remove the cake from the baking pan and leave it to cool on a wire rack.
  8. For the syrup: Place the water, sugar, orange juice and zest, along with either a vanilla bean (sliced open with the seeds extracted and added in with the pod) or some slightly crushed cardamom pods (if using) in a small saucepan. Slowly bring the mixture to the boil then simmer it for 10-20 minutes, or until the syrup has thickened (you’ll start to see the mixture clinging to the sides of the pan). Take off the heat and take out the vanilla pod or cardamom pods.
  9. To assemble: Place the cooled cake on a serving plate with a lip to catch excess syrup. With a skewer, make several holes through the cake (20 or so), and spoon most of the syrup over the cake (reserve a bit for serving), letting it run over the sides of the cake and into the skewered holes. Sprinkle toasted pistachio nuts over top. Serve with yoghurt and drizzle a bit of extra syrup (you may need to reheat it gently if it’s started to set) over top.

Orange Semolina Cake


Food Photography Info: Canon 550D (EOS Rebel T2i); Two top images – Canon 18-55mm lens; Bottom image – Canon 50mm 1.8 lens / Natural lighting


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