This cake started off in life with a recipe for "sfouf", a semolina-based cake from Lebanon that's usually flavoured with almonds and turmeric, and often drenched in a sugar or honey syrup before serving.
While I adore the nutty flavour and crumbly texture of semolina cakes, I tend to be leery of any dessert that's soaked in syrup (I even prefer my baklava in the drier Lebanese style, as opposed to the floating-in-syrup Greek style). With that in mind, I decided to give the traditional recipe a bit of a makeover by cutting out the syrup and adding a scattering of sour cherries to balance out the buttery sweetness of the cake.
If you can, plan to serve this cake while it's still fresh from the oven. Served warm, it's a study in contrasts - crunchy edges, dense soft cake, tangy cherries and slightly bitter almost-burnt almonds. A polite host would reserve the corner pieces for her guests of honour, since they're the most delicious part... but if you're greedy like me, you probably won't be able to resist keeping a corner for yourself. :)
I've found that the edges tend to soften up once the cake has cooled off, but the leftovers still make a great snack when served up with a big mug of sweet tea. They also make a great breakfast, for that matter, instead of a muffin or quickbread.
If you can't find durum semolina where you shop, you can substitute with fine-ground cornmeal instead. The resulting cake will be slightly crumblier in texture, but delicious nonetheless.
Sour Cherry and Almond Semolina Cake
2 cups fine durum semolina
1 cup flour
½ cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¾ cup butter, melted
2 cups milk
2 tsp lemon zest
1 ½ tsp almond extract
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sour cherries in light syrup, drained
½ cup sliced almonds
Preheat oven to 350F and lightly butter a 9x13" baking pan.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
In a smaller bowl, stir together milk, melted butter, lemon zest and extracts. Add to the flour mixture, and stir until batter is smooth and lump-free (don't worry if the batter looks very runny at first - it thickens up significantly after a minute or two).
Pour half of the batter into the prepared baking pan. Arrange the cherries evenly onto the batter, avoiding placing any right against the edges of the pan, then spoon the remaining batter onto the cherries and smooth top with a spatula. Sprinkle the sliced almonds over top.
Bake in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, or until cake is golden-brown (if the almonds still look raw at this stage, fire up the broiler and toast them for 3-5 minutes).
Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before cutting up and serving. Serve plain or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Thanks for catching that, Yummm! When I first tested out the recipe, I used a mixture of milk and water, but discovered that it was even tastier if I used just milk instead. Unfortunately, I must have forgotten to remove the mention of water in the instructions, even though I'd taken it out of the ingredient list. I've fixed it now... thanks again!
I wouldn't worry too much about the temperature of the milk. Since the wet ingredients are stirred into the dry ingredients pretty much right away, the butter will be completely incorporated into the batter long before it has a chance to harden up.
Hi! You say:
In a smaller bowl, stir together milk, melted butter, water, lemon zest and extracts.
But there's no water in the ingredients list.
Do you let your milk become room temperature so it doesn't harden the melted butter?
This sounds divine. I would totally eat the corners first.
Choosy Beggar Tina says
This. Looks. Awesome. I tried making my Tata's "recipe" for semolina cake once and it was a dog's breakfast. Either the translation from arabic was poor (good posibility) or she left out a few remarks so that it could never be as good as hers (definite possibility.
This cake looks and sounds delicious! I would be greedy and probably save a corner or two for myself! :)
It looks delicious. Love the combination Almond and semolina.
oh god I might have to rearrange my schedule and make this immediately.
Simply Yummy Goodness says
Congrats on making the top 9! This is a beautiful cake. I adore a good semolina cake recipe, I can't wait to try it out.
This definitely sounds awesome!
This simply sounds delicious! Thank you for a great recipe!
Vegetable Matter says
We made semolina flatbreads this weekend, and cherry almond quickbread. You've combined the two into one beautiful dessert. It sounds wonderful, especially warm from the oven.
thanks for the recipe sis. let you know how it goes this weekend.
Oh I just know that I'm going to love this when I try it!! What a lovely recipe! Thank you!