Ottolenghi's Semolina, Coconut and Marmalade Cake

"When I stepped out into the bright sunlight, from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman, and a ride home." 

This week I did two very important things: I made Ottolenghi's Semolina, Coconut and Orange Blossom Cake and I rewatched The Outsiders. These two events are not related; however, they were both delightful.

Let's start with the cake, shall we? This cake is a light-in-texture-but-heavy-in-flavor take on the ubiquitous Eastern Mediterranean semolina cake. From Greece to Syria, Egypt to Turkey, this cake, well, takes the cake. Call it revani, basbousa, shamali, harisi, mix in yogurt, coconut, rose water instead of orange blossom water--no matter what, you're going to do all right.  
Ottolenghi's version adds coconut and marmalade to a large dose of sunflower oil and semolina. He also serves it with a dallop of Greek yogurt freshened with orange blossom water. However, this is the kind of recipe where you get to put your own stamp on it and it will still be amazing. Mix in some coconut with the yogurt at the end? Perhaps. Use ground pistachios instead of almonds? Sounds tempting to me. Use olive oil instead of sunflower oil? Tell me what time to be over for dessert.  Me, I made one into a bundt cake (which stuck to the edges of the pan), for it did make for a festive finish to our meal.

Also, it is important to note that this cake is ah-may-zing the next day, toasted, for breakfast.

Now onto The Outsiders, which has no bearing whatsoever on this cake. That movie was my absolute favorite thing when I was in about 5th grade (well, maybe after Wham! or jelly shoes). We rented it from the local video store; I swear, I watched that thing 15 times before we returned it (properly rewound, I am sure). Oh, Francis Ford Coppola, this was clearly an early work for you--what, with the schlocky music and the hilarious sound stage sunsets. However, your casting of Patrick Swayze as Darry and Ralph Macchio as Johnny was a choice that inspired many an imaginative fancy for the mind of a boy-crazy pre-teen (yes, I realize they were a decade or two older than I). Thank you. I do have some questions, however. Why would an elementary school take its field trip to an abandoned church? Why doesn't Johnny also dye his hair? 

Perhaps one should contemplate these important, unanswered questions over a piece of cake? Do it for Johnny.

Ottolenghi's Semolina, Coconut, and Marmalade Cake
Adapted from  Jerusalem: A Cookbook

2 loaves (or in our case, 1 loaf, and 1 mini-bundt cake)


For the cake:
3/4 cup sunflower oil (a light olive oil will also work)
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup orange marmalade
4 eggs, at room temperature
Zest of 1 orange
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup shredded coconut
3/4 cup (all purpose) flour
1 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons semolina (fine or coarse, depending on your desired texture)
2 tbsp ground almonds (also known as almond meal or almond flour; I substituted 2 tablespoons of very finely chopped sliced almonds)
2 tsp baking powder

For the syrup:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp orange blossom water 

Yogurt topping:
Greek Yogurt
1-2 drops orange blossom water

1.  Preheat oven to 350F.

2.  In a large bowl, whisk the oil, orange juice, marmalade, eggs and orange zest until the marmalade is smooth and well incorporated.

3.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, coconut, flour, semolina, almonds and baking powder. 

4.  Add to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined into a (quite) runny batter.

5.  Grease 2 standard bread loaf tins. Pour half of the batter into each tin, and bake for 45-60 minutes or until the top is a golden, orangey brown.  (I found 45 minutes was enough.)

6.  While the cake is baking, bring the sugar, water and orange blossom water to the boil in a small saucepan. Let boil until all of the sugar has been dissolved in the water, then remove from the heat.

7.  Remove the cakes from the oven and immediately brush each with half of the syrup, letting the syrup soak into the holes.  It will seem like a lot of syrup; however, it needs to permeate the whole of the cake, and it's what makes this cake moist and flavorful.  Allow the syrup to soak into the cake and then brush on more.  This will take a few goes.

8.  Mix a few spoonfuls of plain yogurt with sugar and orange blossom flower, to sweeten. Serve with slices of the cake.


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