Lemon Semolina Cake

To continue my recent obsession with lemons, this is a recipe I adapted from Nigella Lawson’s latest tome Nigella Kitchen, except the domestic goddess’s version was called a Lemon Polenta Cake. I think you can see the obvious substitution I made.

I used semolina in place of polenta simply because I always have it in my kitchen. (It makes an excellent crust on fish.) I like using semolina sometimes because it’s much coarser than flour and gives the cake a very interesting grainy texture. Sometimes I get bored of light and airy cakes, so using semolina creates cakes that have a much more satisfying bite.

Of course, the original version with polenta is gluten-free and using semolina which comes from wheat pretty much ruins that. If you must have a gluten-free cake, simply swap out the semolina for polenta, or to save the hassle, you can just use an additional 50g of ground almonds.


For the cake:
100g unsalted butter, softened
100g caster sugar
100g ground almonds
2 eggs
50g semolina
1 tsp baking powder
Zest of 1 lemon

For the syrup:
Juice of 1 lemon
70g icing sugar

Serves 8-10.


Step 1: Preheat your oven to 175°C (350°F). Grease and line 1 7-inch round cake tin.

Step 2: Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Step 3: Mix in the ground almonds. Then beat in the eggs one at a time.

Step 4: Mix in the semolina, baking powder and lemon zest. Pour batter into the tin and bake for 40 minutes.

Step 5: Let the cake cool for about 30 minutes before removing it from the tin and placing it on a serving platter.

Step 6: Place the lemon juice and icing sugar in a small saucepan and heat until the syrup boils and thickens slightly.

Step 7: Using a toothpick or fork, poke lots of holes in your cake. (Get medieval on it!)

Step 8: Pour the syrup over the cake. The syrup will pool in the centre, but give it 30 minutes and it will all soak in, leaving a nice shiny glaze on top.

Now you can certainly stop here and serve the cake as is. It will still be amazing.

But because this cake was for a birthday celebration, what I did was to whip up 1 cup of cream, slightly sweetened with a tablespoon of icing sugar, until thick and slightly stiff. Then drape the cream over the top of the cake and dot over with summer berries.

Could you make this cake with oranges? Of course you can! You could top an orange-sodden version of this cake with grated dark chocolate. Or if you want something more fun, try using limes and soak the cake in lime syrup with a shot (or two; or three) of tequila in it for a margarita cake!

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