Orange, Almond and Semolina Cake with Lemon, Rosemary and Fennel Seed Syrup

, from Issue #35.
Photography by Manja Wachsmuth.
Orange, Almond and Semolina Cake with Lemon, Rosemary and Fennel Seed Syrup

This is a moist, slightly crumbly cake with a lovely sweet, herb-infused topping. As with most syrup cakes, it will happily keep for 4-5 days with the last slice being as good as the first. The syrup can be made well ahead, simply reheat before spooning over the cold cake.


100 grams butter at room temperature
½ cup demerara sugar
2 #6 eggs
125 grams ground almonds
1/3 cup fine semolina
½ teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
finely grated zest and juice 1 orange

½ cup caster sugar
2 tablespoons well flavoured honey (I used wild thyme)
6 tablespoons water
juice of 2 lemons
¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon very finely chopped rosemary
1 small, thin skinned lemon, thinly sliced


Preheat the oven to 160˚C.

Grease and fully line a 20 cm square, fixed-base cake tin with baking paper.

Beat the butter and sugar in an electric mixer for 5 minutes. The sugar will still be grainy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Combine the almonds, semolina, baking powder, salt and the orange zest in a bowl, rubbing the mixture between your fingertips to infuse with the orange zest. Gently beat into the egg mixture with the orange juice. 

Tip into the tin and smooth the top. Bake for 30 minutes until golden and firm and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool in the tin.

Syrup: Put all the ingredients, except the lemon slices, in a saucepan and stir to dissolve the sugar. Simmer over a medium low heat until the surface is covered with small bubbles and the syrup is thick. Add the slices of lemon and gently turn to coat in the syrup. Simmer for 3 minutes then remove from the heat, cover and leave for 5 minutes. This finishes cooking the lemons.

Gradually spoon the hot syrup over the cold cake until it is all absorbed then top with the slices of lemon. Serve with a bowl of thick, plain yoghurt. The cake will keep for 4-5 days in an airtight container. Serves 8

Pantry notes:
Demerara sugar: unrefined golden, raw sugar. Available from supermarkets and food stores.

Fine semolina: can be bought from good supermarkets, health food and gourmet food stores.