Semolina Cake Recipe

Semolina Cake Recipe Recipe

Gâteau de semoule (semolina cake) is a French dessert packed with Oriental spices. I think semolina dessert was influenced by North African ingredients such as citrus, raisins, date, almonds, cardamom and cinnamon. The creamy dessert itself isn't very sweet so the the richness of the caramel sauce compliments it very well. As French desserts go, it is fairly "healthy" because very little butter is required.

I make this dessert in the winter and early spring because very few fresh fruits are available at the market. It is typically served warm, which also makes it perfect for the cooler months of the year.

Tasting semolina cakes instantly sends me back to my childhood. I have to admit that we would buy them at the market back then. After dinner, I would take a serving, put it in the microwave for 30 seconds, and then savor every single bite. Semolina cakes may not be part of your childhood, but if you give this recipe a try, I'm sure it will make you feel like a kid again!

Ingredients

Yields: 21 mini-ramekins

1 quart milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1-¼ cups semolina flour
6 cardamom pods
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup hot cinnamon-spiced tea
2 eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon extract
2 tablespoons preserved kumquats, finely chopped
70 whole almonds (that's exactly 80 grams!)
1 cup superfine sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1.75 ounces date syrup


Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Prepping the almonds: Place the almonds in a saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil for about 3 minutes. Drain and remove the skin. Reserve 21 whole almonds and coarsely chop the rest.

Making the first layer of caramel: Line up 21 (2.75-ounce) ramekins, previously greased with a thin layer of butter. In a small saucepan, gently dissolve ½ cup of superfine sugar and the light corn syrup with ¼ cup water. Bring to a full boil, then lower to a simmer until the caramel changes color. As soon as the caramel has turned a very light golden color, pour about a teaspoon of caramel into each ramekin.

Note: Watch your caramel carefully as it changes color very fast.

Soaking the raisins: Place the raisins in a small stainless steel bowl. Pour a hot cup of cinnamon spiced tea over the raisins. Soak the raisins for at least 30 minutes. Drain all the liquid. Set the raisins aside.

Extracting the cardamom seeds: Using a mortar and pestle, pound the pods several times and the pod will release its seeds. Pick out the shells and discard them. Grind the cardamom seeds into a fine powder. Crush all the nits and gather about 1 teaspoon.

For the eggs: Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl with 4 tablespoons granulated sugar until you get a pale, yellow foam; the texture of the egg yolks will be thicker. Add the cinnamon extract.

Cooking the semolina: In a saucepan, combine the milk, ½ cup granulated sugar, salt and finely ground cardamom. Bring to a near boil. Lower the heat immediately and add the semolina flour. Using a whisk, keep stirring for 5-8 minutes until the mixture thickens.

Note: Watch the milk carefully as the liquid will reach a boil quite quickly.

Let the semolina cool for about 10 minutes.

Assembly time:

Add about 2 large spoonfuls of semolina mixture to the bowl containing the egg mixture. Stir then add a spoonful at a time to prevent the yolks from curdling. Mix well. Add the golden raisins, kumquats and coarsely chopped almonds. Fill the ramekins with the semolina pudding.

Place the ramekins in a warm water bath in a deep baking pan. The water should go half-way up the side of the ramekins. Cover the dish with a sheet of aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes at 350°F. Open the oven, remove from the water bath (I transfer the ramekins to another tray) and bake for another 10 minutes at 375°F for a firm consistency; this step will form a crust on the top.

Allow the cakes to cool for 15 minutes. If you're preparing the desserts in advance, plastic-wrap each individual ramekin and store in the refrigerator.

Making date syrup topping: In a small saucepan, dissolve ½  cup superfine sugar with 3/4 cup water. Add the date syrup. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 4-5 minutes. Let cool a little.

When serving, drizzle about 1 teaspoon of date syrup, top with a reserved almond and drizzle a little more date syrup on top.

Serve immediately.

You could serve the semolina cakes at room temperature but I prefer them warm (just heat  them for about 30 seconds in the microwave).

Bon appétit!


Tips

I use Bob's Red Mill brand semolina flour. The semolina pasta flour is a fine mill which is perfect for this dessert.

You can add a splash of alcohol such as rum while soaking the raisins for added flavor.

I flavored the semolina cake with many layers of flavors such as cardamom, cinnamon, kumquats and date syrup. But you could use other flavorings such as vanilla beans, kewra, rose, orange blossom water or other exotic ingredients.

date syrup picture

I diluted the date syrup with simple syrup for a smoother, thinner consistency. The brown syrup adds flavor and color. It also helps the whole almonds to stick to the top of the dessert for garnish.

For a milder topping, you could cover the semolina cake with crème anglaise.

When it's time to clean up, just boil some water and pour the hot water into the ramekins so the caramel dissolves for easy clean-up.

You could make the dessert egg-free, although the consistency will be more like a pudding.

For another version of the dessert, you could use polenta (finely-ground corn) or tapioca as a semolina flour substitute.

This recipe yields 10 (6-ounce) ramekins or 21 (2.75-ounce) mini-ramekins.

For a savory dish using semolina, check out my tagine recipe.

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on April 16, 2010.


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