I look at a lot of recipes – at least 100 a week I’d say. I don’t read them all the way through but I glance at the ingredients and then the steps. If it has too many steps – unless I’m in one of those “I have all the time in the world” moods – I disregard it or will cut-and-paste it into a Word document and file it in my “Try These” folder. Yes I have a folder called “Try These” on my computer and sadly, the folder keeps growing by the day. You have seen some of these recipes – Salted Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies, Julia Child’s Provencal Potato Gratin etc. So it is not just a matter of saving them as I do also try them. You just get to read about the ones I like. When I read a recipe, it must immediately give me a visual in my mind as well, it must give me a sense of what the finished product should taste like. If it doesn’t, I probably won’t try it. That’s my secret for picking recipes to share with you.

I first started working with semolina when my friend Maria (from my Italy meets India classes at Loblaw’s PC Cooking Schools) was telling me of all the wonderful things she makes with it. So I really like to look for recipes that call for semolina – especially in desserts. This is an everyday cake with a fancy twist. I like that, you know what I mean, you don’t need a reason to make/eat it, and you get a great sense of accomplishment when you sit back and look at it. What gives it a fancy twist is the lemon flavored syrup that gets poured on top of the finished product as well as fresh orange slices soaked in that same syrup. The cardamom also adds an exotic touch so please don’t leave it out of the recipe.  By the way, this sugar-water base is called simple syrup and is easily made at home.  It can be flavored with anything you like from extracts to liquors – my favorite, Grand Marnier.  I always have a container of this in my fridge as it keeps.  Brush it on cakes or pour a little onto fresh fruit to perk it up.  You can buy it – but why? If you have a pot, water, sugar and heat – make your own.  Ratios vary depending on how sweet, but usually slightly more sugar than water, boil until the sugar is dissolved, add the flavoring and let cool.  That’s it.  Now go buy a latte with the money you just saved, bring it home and have a piece of this cake with it.  You deserve it!  

The semolina bakes into a crunchy layer on the top and bottom but the addition of the syrup keeps the inside moist and delicious. You can decorate it any way you like, I just kept it simple allowing the membrane from the sliced pieces to drape like ribbons on the cake. The ease at which everything comes together will make this a welcome addition to your “OMG Make this Again” files (yes I have one of these as well) – I promise :). As always – enjoy!

For the syrup:
2 bay leaves
⅓ cup sugar
½ cup water
Pinch of kosher salt
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

For the cake:
¾ cup (1½ sticks) Churn 84, unsalted butter, melted, slightly cooled
1½ cups coarse-grind semolina flour – I didn’t have the coarse grind and couldn’t find it in the stores, so I used the regular grind (not the kind that looks like flour) semolina
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
¾ cup whole milk
3 oranges
Lemon juice (optional)

Make the syrup by bringing bay leaves, sugar, salt, and water to a simmer in a small saucepan, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar, about 5 minutes
Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice – pluck out the bay leaves and let the syrup cool
While the syrup is cooling, preheat oven to 350° and butter/spray a 9″x 2” diameter cake pan, line the bottom with parchment paper
Whisk semolina, sugar, baking powder, orange zest, cardamom, and salt in a medium bowl
Whisk yogurt and milk in a large bowl
Mix in dry ingredients, then the melted butter – stir together to mix
Scrape batter into the prepared pan
Bake cake until golden brown and firm, 55–65 minutes
Transfer the cake (in the tin) to a wire rack and let it cool
Using a cake tester or toothpick, poke holes all over cake, gradually pour all but ¼ cup of the syrup, letting it soak in – let it sit 30 minutes – this is similar to what we do for the Tres Leche cake. I found it easier to loosen it, but leave it in the pan then slowly pour the syrup on top so the cake absorbs the syrup completely
Meanwhile, peel the orange (I had mandarins so I used them) like you were going to segment it
Using a sharp knife slice into ¼”-thick rounds, remove the seeds
Combine in a medium bowl with remaining bay leaf syrup, let it sit in the syrup occasionally tossing the pieces so the slices are fully covered in the syrup – about 20 minutes
Remove the cake from the tin by inverting onto a flat plate
Arrange the slices on top of the cake and pour any remaining syrup over the cake
Look back and enjoy your work of art, then eat it!