Citrus Semolina Olive Oil Cake

January 31, 2013

Author Notes: I had a slice of cake when having brunch at a wonderful restaurant in Bed Stuy (Brooklyn) and I immediately decided i had to re-create it. It was moist and had a wonderful rustic quality, not overly sweet and a citrus flavor that was not overpowering. I thought that the cake was probably made with semolina and olive oil so searched for recipes that seemed like they could be similar to this delicious cake. I found one on Epicurious and made it making several changes to the original recipe. I made it in a loaf pan rather than a round spring form and the first cake I found too sweet so I decreased the sugar, I also didn't garnish with candied orange slices and completely changed the soaking syrup using the juice from a tangerine and lemon along with the zest. The resulting cake is moist, and absolutely delicious. The bottoms and sides of the cake develop an almost crisp crust that when soaked in the syrup is so wonderful. This cake is very simple to make it comes together quickly with relatively few steps.sdebrango

Makes: 1 loaf cake



  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup orange or tangerine juice
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • zest of a small orange or tangerine and lemon


  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup +2 tbs sugar divided (1/4 cup goes in cake batter and the 2 tbs in the egg whites)
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup semolina flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs separated at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup whole milk yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In This Recipe



  1. Place all ingredients in saucepan, bring to a boil on high heat, reduce to med/high and boil for 10-15 minutes or until syrup reduces by approximately 1/2. Set aside.


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush loaf pan pan with olive oil. Whisk both flours,baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat 1/4 cup sugar and olive oil in a large bowl for 1 minute. Beat in yolks, then flour mixture. Beat in yogurt, zest, and vanilla only until combined. Using clean, dry beaters, beat egg whites in another medium bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in 2 tbs sugar until firm peaks form. Fold egg whites into batter just to blend in 2 additions. Transfer to prepared pan; smooth top. Bake cake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 45-50 minutes. Pierce hot cake all over with a toothpick or skewer. Slowly drizzle 1/4 cup warm syrup all over. When syrup is absorbed, slowly pour 1/4 cup more syrup over. Reserve remaining syrup for serving. Let cake cool in pan on a wire rack. Run a thin knife around edge of pan to release cake.

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Cake|Olive Oil|Dessert

Reviews (9) Questions (0)

9 Reviews

Indira A. October 1, 2016
I did use semolina (and not polenta - not sure why I wrote that!). Will add a bit more yoghurt next time and syrup too, thanks for the tips
Indira A. September 28, 2016
I just made this cake today and it was sadly a bit disappointing. It's quite dry and has little taste except the olive oil and the gritty polenta (I used the fine type). I think it would be tastier with a lemon cream cheese icing perhaps?
Molly April 17, 2015
Suzanne, I'm thinking of adapting this recipe for muffins for a restaurant...I'd like to make a larger quantity ahead of time and save it in the fridge. Do you have any recommendations on keeping it. I see it has baking soda in it already, which helps with the leavening. Have you ever tried saving it?
EmilyC March 7, 2014
I just ran across this recipe in searching for dessert ideas that will go with a Middle Eastern-inspired meal. It looks fabulous! Saving it to hopefully try very soon!
EmilyC March 7, 2014
Is it better made the day of serving, or a day ahead?
EmilyC March 7, 2014
EmilyC March 9, 2014
Suzanne -- I made this today and it's seriously one of the best desserts I've made or eaten in a long time. I've tried many variations on citrus-olive oil-yogurt cakes, and this one is my favorite. I added 3/4 tsp ground cardamom to the cake batter and used orange zest versus lemon but otherwise followed your recipe to the letter. Outstanding!
Regine November 13, 2013
Interesting. Just saw this. I was curious to check your recipes a bit more after I saw u won the frosting contest. Your recipe is similar to one I posted this week. It is called Revani and it is a Middle Eastern semolina based cake soaked with a simple sugar syrup. I must try yours now.
drbabs February 3, 2013
Wow, Suzanne, this sounds delicious.