Citrus Semolina Olive Oil Cake

July 11, 2021
7 Ratings
Photo by sdebrango
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Makes 8x3 or 9 inch round or loaf pan
Author Notes

I had a slice of cake when having brunch at a wonderful restaurant Saraghina 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 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

What You'll Need
  • Syrup
  • 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
  • Cake
  • 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 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Syrup
  2. Place all ingredients in saucepan, bring to a boil on high heat, reduce to med/high and boil for about 8-10 minutes or until syrup reduces by about 1/3 and all of the sugar is dissolved. Set aside.
  1. Cake
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush baking pan with olive oil. Whisk both flours,baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer or whisk if beating by hand, 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 frothy. Gradually beat in 2 tbs sugar until soft peaks form careful not to over beat, the egg whites should not be stiff. 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. Served with unsweetened whipped cream, a drizzle of the remaining syrup and some orange zest. Note: Once the cake is cooled and removed from the pan you can drizzle with a little more syrup if you like, I find the cake is even better the next day, wrap well in plastic wrap.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • GML
  • Indira Abraham
    Indira Abraham
  • EmilyC
  • Regine
  • drbabs
I have loved to cook for as long as I can remember, am self taught learning as I go. I come from a large Italian family and food was at the center of almost every gathering. My grandfather made his own wine and I remember the barrels of wine in the cellar of my grandfathers home, I watched my mother and aunts making homemade pasta and remember how wonderful it was to sit down to a truly amazing dinner. Cooking for me is a way to express myself its my creative outlet. I enjoy making all types of food but especially enjoy baking, I live in Brooklyn, NY, and I share my home with my two dogs Izzy and Nando. I like to collect cookbooks and scour magazines and newspapers for recipes. I hope one day to organize them.

18 Reviews

[email protected] July 11, 2021
This was a very delicious and moist cake. I loved that it wasn’t overly sweet. I baked it in a 8by8 deep dish for 35 mins and it was perfect.
sdebrango July 11, 2021
Thank you so much!! I did the same last time I made it and it works great in a round or square or loaf pan. So happy you liked it and thank you again❤️❤️
GML February 20, 2021
This is a really great unique cake. It's light, not quite savory, but not too sweet. I used blood oranges for the simple syrup which turned out amazing. Also, by applying the simple syrup right when the cake is still hot, it absorbed nicely and also caramelized perfectly into a kind of glaze that was unexpected and delicious.
sdebrango February 20, 2021
Thank you so much and so happy you liked it❤️❤️❤️
Audreymcoll January 31, 2021
Just made this and it was soooo good! I made in a round 9” pan and I was worried about the measurements but it was perfect I just cooked it about 30 mins instead of 45-50 and it came out phenomenal.
sdebrango January 31, 2021
Thank you so much, you know I completely forgot about this cake and thank you for reminding me. I am going to make it again in a round pan. So happy you enjoyed it and thanks for giving it a try!
aclincol November 8, 2020
This recipe was a keeper. I used fresh tangerine juice, and only made half the syrup and that was perfect for us.
sdebrango November 10, 2020
Thank you very much and so happy you liked it!! Love the use of tangerine juice it’s my favorite!!
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!
sdebrango February 16, 2021
Emily, I am terribly embarrassed just seeing your kind comment 7 yrs ago. I am so sorry, I am making this cake and came to recipe to see comments I didn’t know were there. Thank you so much and I am so sorry.
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.