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How to make orange and coconut semolina cake

There is a freshness and delicacy here that combines well with tea
Semolina cake can be best enjoyed with tea or Arabic coffee (bateekh.w.jebneh/Instagram)

This recipe was inspired by a walk around my neighbourhood market in Montreal, where I came across a strong scent of orange. The source was these huge sacks of oranges which I couldn't help but buy.

Good thing that I did because inside were the sweetest, most flavourful oranges I've ever tried. So you can can imagine what this lovely dessert - which I've based on basboussa, a popular Middle East cake - offers in terms of flavour and smell.

Drench it in simple syrup and it combines with the semolina and coconut to deliver a real chewiness that contrasts neatly with the crispy, golden brown crust. There is a freshness here that plays on the palate, as the flavour and aroma of fresh orange are released in every bite. Sweet and delicate, it's best enjoyed with tea, or perhaps Arabic coffee. 


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Serves: 10
Preparation and baking: 2 hours (including 1 hour wait time)

The flavour and aroma of fresh orange can be found in every bite (bateekh.w.jebneh/Instagram)

1. Ingredients

For the simple syrup

  • 450g (2 cups) of granulated sugar
  • 250ml (1 cup) of water
  • a squeeze of lemon juice

For the cake

  • 250g (1½ cups) coarse semolina
  • 250g (1½ cups) fine semolina
  • 165g (¾ cup) ghee at room temperature
  • 200ml (1 cup) Greek yoghurt
  • 45g (½ cup) coconut flakes
  • 60ml (¼ cup) orange juice
  • 225g (1 cup) granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tbsps tahini (1tbsp to brush the baking dish)
  • zest of one orange
  • peeled slivered almonds for decoration
Allow the cake to completely soak the syrup and cool before serving (bateekh.w.jebneh/Instagram)

2. Method

The simple syrup

  1. Place the sugar and water in a pot.
  2. Place the pot on a medium heat and allow the mixture to come to a boil.
  3. Once boiling, add a squeeze of lemon juice and lower the heat.
  4. Let the mix simmer for approximately 5 mins before turning off the heat.
  5. Allow to cool completely.

The semolina cake mix

  1. Begin by placing both the coarse and fine semolina in a bowl, along with the sugar. Mix together.
  2. Add the ghee, orange zest and baking powder into the bowl. With a spoon, mix the ingredients until they are well combined.
  3. Leave aside for 15 mins, mixing every 5 mins.
  4. Next, add in the Greek yoghurt and the orange juice. With clean hands, combine the ingredients till they come together like a loose dough.
  5. Add in the shredded coconut and the two tbsps of tahini. Again, combine using your hands.
  6. Cover the bowl. Set aside to rest for approximately an hour.

Baking the cake

  1. Place the almonds in a small pot, cover with water and heat on medium until the water boils.
  2. Drain the water, keeping the almonds. You will notice that the skin of the almonds has become loose. Peel the almonds and sliver through the middle.
  3. Place 1 tbsp of tahini in a baking tray and spread using a brush to cover the bottom and sides.
  4. Remove the dough from the bowl and place in the pan. Spread the dough evenly, using the palm of your hands.
  5. With a knife, cut the dough into equal-sized squares or rectangles. Place the slivered almonds in the centre of each piece.
  6. Bake at 190ºC/375º F on the bottom rack of the oven till the edges are golden brown. 
  7. Transfer to the top rack and broil till the surface is golden.
  8. While still hot, ladle the simple syrup onto the cake, ensuring that it is distributed evenly.
  9. Allow the cake to completely soak the syrup and cool before serving.

Marah and In'aam are a mother and daughter of Palestinian origin who have a passion for cooking and telling stories. You can follow Marah and In'aam on their Instagram account @bateekh.w.jebneh

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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