Brown Butter Semolina Cake

Brown Butter Semolina Cake

The idea for this dish had its beginning when I stared up into my cupboard at some semolina flour that I had picked up a while ago at a local middle eastern store. It instantly took me back to the aromas within the store, and the bottles of rose water and orange blossom water that I had passed over – reminders of the delicious syrup soaked cakes popular throughout the region.

When a recipe requires melted butter, I often ask myself one thing: would this be better if it were brown butter? And to no surprise, the answer is typically in the yes category. The nutty notes of the browned butter play nicely with the yogurt, orange, and pinch of nutmeg. The most difficult part of the entire process was leaving some cake batter for actually baking – it lays there in temptation as the batter needs to sit for some time for the semolina to hydrate and the baking powder to start to do its thing.

The nice thing about baking is there is some down time while your cake bakes, and I typically spend that either cleaning , or in this case moving on to another step. I’m often dumbfounded by the way heat interacts with ingredients: the simple combination of sugar being dissolved into water, and allowing some of the water to evaporate away, creates this beautiful viscous sugary solution. Then tossing in some aromatics while it’s still warm completely alters the flavor. All of these functions due to a little heat under the pan crafts this beautiful syrup.

I often enjoy doing particular cooking tasks the more difficult way, because I feel more connected to the end result. I realize whipped cream can be made in a stand mixer, or even more easily with a whipping siphon, but something about vigorously whipping cream myself with a whisk in a bowl gives me great satisfaction, and it’s always produced the results I’ve wanted. There are some simple hacks though that can greatly reduce the time and effort put into whipping cream, and they all have to do with keeping the mixture cold. Chilling the cream and your equipment beforehand helps, but nesting your whipping bowl into a bowl filled with ice expedites the process exponentially.

The final plate is built upon layers of simplicity, but culminating in an extravagant result. The cake, almost cornbread-like in texture, is softened with the herbaceous fresh notes of the syrup, while the dollop of honeyed whipped cream adds a rich mouth feel while providing a slight acidic note. Speaking of acidic notes, the variety of orange segments tie everything together with their moist, sweet textures, while pistachios contrast with subtle earthy notes. Allowing a simple ingredient in the cupboard to transport your thoughts to the enticing flavors of an extraordinary region is one of the many things I love about the shared experience that is food.



Brown Butter Semolina Cake Recipe

Cake Batter

Dry Mix

Qtys Measurements Ingredients Prep
1 ½ Cups Semolina Flour
2 Tablespoons Baking Powder
½ Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Sugar
1 Pinch Ground Nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350F. Prep a cake pan by greasing it down with some butter to prevent sticking.

Sift dry ingredients together into a small bowl.


Wet Mix

Qtys Measurements Ingredients Prep
1 ½ Sticks Butter
2 Each Eggs
1 Cup Full Fat Yogurt
1 Teaspoon Orange Zest

In a small pot set over medium heat, add your butter and allow to melt down. Once your butter has stopped foaming, swirl it on occasion and allow it to cook going from pale yellow to golden then eventually it will take on a nice hazelnut aroma & color. Set off to the side and allow to cool for a few minutes.

Whisk together eggs, yogurt and zest in a medium bowl, until fully incorporated.

Whisk your dried mix into your wet mix bowl, until fully incorporated. Then pour your brown butter into the batter, and whisk until fully incorporated.

Allow batter to rest for 10-20min. This allows the semolina to hydrate, and baking powder to begin to activate.

Pour batter into prepped cake pan. Place in the middle of the oven to bake. Cooking time depends on the size of your pan, but start to check around 35min into baking by poking the cake with a toothpick. If it comes out with batter clinging to the toothpick continue to bake. Once the toothpick comes out dry, pull the cake out of the oven. Allow cake to rest in pan on a cool surface for 15-30min. Using an offset spatula, separate the cake from the pan, and turn out onto a plate or board, then flip back around.

Once cake has cooled sufficiently, poke holes all over the cake using a toothpick or skewer.


Rosemary & Orange Syrup

Qtys Measurements Ingredients Prep
½ Cup Water
¼ Cup Sugar
2 Sprigs Rosemary
1 Each Orange

Make the syrup while the cake is baking off.

With a vegetable peeler, peel off 2 long strips of orange zest from the orange (use of the oranges you’ll be segmenting later).

Add water and sugar to a small pot, and put over medium high heat. Once that comes to a boil and the sugar is fully dissolved, take off the heat and add the rosemary sprigs and zest strips. Allow to steep for 15min, then strain off the rosemary and zest.

Pour syrup over the hole laden cake a little at a time so it absorbs. Save a little of the syrup for plating. Allow to rest for 20min.


Honey Whipped Cream

Qtys Measurements Ingredients Prep
½ Cup Whipping Cream
2 Tablespoons Honey

Toss a mixing bowl & whisk into the freezer or refrigerator while the cake bakes. The colder everything is the faster the cream whips up.

Vigorously whisk cream and honey together until it creates pillowy peaks.

Tip: If you really want to shorten the whipping time, nest your mixing bowl over a bowl of crushed ice. This will keep the creaming bowl and its contents even colder while whipping, leading it to whip up faster saving you some effort.


Orange Supremes

Qtys Measurements Ingredients Prep
1 Each Blood Orange
1 Each Cara Cara Orange
1 Each Naval Orange

Peel the oranges with a pairing knife, ensuring there is no peel or pith. Slice individual segments out of the orange making sure they’re separated from their membranes. Take out any seeds.

Set aside.



Qtys Measurements Ingredients Prep
A Few Raw Pistachio Nuts Shelled

Cut a slice of cake, and lift out of the pan, place on plate. Add orange supremes around the cake slice. Drizzle reserved syrup over cake & oranges. Dollop whipped cream onto cake. Either crush or grate some pistachios over the plate.

Serve and enjoy.



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