Doesn’t it feel like summer has started? When I was little I remember finishing school and being so excited for the summer. It began the moment we took off our uniforms after closing ceremonies. Nowadays, as an adult, there is no real “tell-tale” sign that announces summer. Instead, it’s a mixture of things. I can’t tell you the precise moment that it happens, but I can tell you for sure when it feels like summer. And it feels like summer right now. I can tell it’s summer because I have been watching the world cup late into the evenings with the doors open and the warm summer evening breeze wafting in, the fact that my pottery classes in Lemba are being placed on pause for the summer; the fact that I just booked tickets to Canada; the fact that we are planning some changes come fall around here including a house move. (Incidentally I can tell I have officially wandered over into the food photography sphere as my only requirement for the new place is that it have a good kitchen and good sunlight for my new studio room. Pweeease.)
That and I recently came back from attending a food photography course in London with the incredible Aiala Hernando, who is a fantastic teacher. (To see some of my shots, I’d recommend taking a look at my Instagram account).
Oh yes, and the number one way I can tell it’s summer: the 35 Celsius plus heatwave we had last week which almost melted my dog, me and this cake I made. These days I am spending more time on the beach and less time in the kitchen. But when I do spend time in the kitchen I am trying to eat healthy as a result of the “food-blog-bathing-suit” I have recently had to purchase. Nonetheless, I can’t resist making a cake at least once a week. (I think one cake a week is acceptable.) And this cake actually reminds me of summers in Cyprus. It is a modern take on the traditional syrupy semolina cake which you may have enjoyed in Cyprus. The traditional semolina cake (“shamali” or “kalo prama”) is made with mastic, sugar, water and almonds. It’s a classic cake, but I was craving something similar, but with different flavours. So I modified the recipe, and this cake is made from semolina, pistachios, hazelnut and almonds. It is baked in the oven, and drenched with rosewater and lemon syrup.
It has cardamom and lemon zest flavours and is a nice balance of crumbly semolina and moist cake. The only thing I noted with this recipe is that I accidentally made the syrup a bit bitter – I think as a result of the slightly under-ripe lemons I had and the fact that I boiled the syrup for a little too long when I made it. So I would recommend simply warming the syrup so that the sugar dissolves, not boiling it as I did. I have added this in the recipe below. The cake itself was really nice, and the cardamom could be substituted for cinnamon if you prefer that flavour. This cake is not the traditional Cypriot recipe for semolina cake. I wanted to play with the flavours a bit to get the drenched semolina feel I remember but with the flavours I enjoy. So I hope you enjoy this twist as well. That’s about it for now. Happy lazy summer days … and hope you enjoy the beach and … perhaps a piece of cake!
for the semolina cake
1 & 1/4 tsps cardamom
150g pistachios, shelled, plus extra to serve
95g ground almonds
5g ground hazelnuts
1 tbsp rose water
1 & 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
300g unsalted butter, at room temperature
325g caster sugar
4 medium eggs, lightly beaten
1 unwaxed lemon, grated zest, plus 1 tbsp juice
2 tbsp rose water
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
for the rose cream
100g Greek yogurt
100g crème fraîche
1/2 tbsp icing sugar
1/2 tbsp rose water
for the syrup
120ml lemon juice
100ml rose water
120g caster sugar
1. Line with baking paper and grease a round, 23cm, loose-bottomed cake tin. Preheat the oven to 170C.
2. Place the cardamom and pistachios in a food processor and grind to a powder.
3. Add the ground almonds, hazelnuts, semolina, baking powder and salt; pulse to mix and combine.
4. Beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy – about 5 minutes. Add the beaten eggs in 4 parts, incorporating each part well.
5. Add the egg in small amounts, incorporating it well.
6. Fold in the mixed dry ingredients, then the lemon zest, lemon juice, rose water and vanilla.
7. Pour the mixture into a lined tin, level it with a spatula and bake for about 50 minutes to 1 hour, until a toothpick comes out oily but dry.
8. During the last ten minutes while the cake is baking, place all the ingredients for the syrup in a small pan. Gently heat the syrup so that the sugar dissolves. Do not boil the syrup otherwise you may find that the cake will have a bitter taste to it. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove it from the heat.
9. Remove the cake from the oven and while it is still hot, pour most of the syrup (minus 4 tbsp) over top the cake to absorb the same. Allow the cake to cool and then take it out of the tin. (Note that when you pour the syrup on top of the cake it will appear as though it is “too much”. It really depends how sweet you would like your cake. I thought that the cake was sweet, but enjoyable but I have a sweet tooth, so you may want to pour the half the syrup and then drizzle each individual slice with syrup to that person’s preference.
10. Serve with a spoonful of the rose cream, which goes very nicely with the cake as it is a bit sour and tart and takes compliments the sweetness.