Semolina Honey Cake with Pistachios and Whipped Cream

I had a pop-up restaurant on a pig farm in Vermont, and the farm-owner, an amazing renaissance woman from Genoa, Italy, often had a surplus of honey on hand from a local beekeeper. There were always bags of semolina flour tucked in the cabinets for prepping pounds of fresh pasta. And we were in Vermont: a state that’s no slouch on the diary front. Looking for a fuss-free dessert course (read: one I wouldn’t botch while braising pork cheeks), this cake became an Italian-inspired riff on Middle Eastern-style revani, a semolina cake a friend’s mother would bake for us during high school. It’s gently sweet, meaning I’ll have a wedge of cake for breakfast with coffee as much as I will for dessert with a cap of whipped cream.

Serves 12.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons semolina flour, divided
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup raw sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup toasted pistachios, chopped

For the whipped cream

  • 1 pint (2 cups) heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt

Steps

Step 1

Preheat oven to 350F with a rack set in the center. Generously butter (or oil) an 8 x 8-inch metal baking dish; dust with 2 tablespoons semolina flour, tapping and rotating the dish to coat the surface.

Step 2

Whisk remaining flours, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Set aside. In a separate large bowl, vigorously whisk eggs with sugar until pale yellow and slightly thickened. Slowly stream in oil, whisking constantly. (A damp towel set under your bowl keeps it from sliding or rocking). Add yogurt, honey, orange zest and vanilla; whisk thoroughly until combined. Gradually add the dry mixture to the wet mixture, folding gently with a rubber spatula until the batter is just incorporated. Use the rubber spatula to scrape the batter into the prepared baking dish.

Step 3

Bake in the center rack until the top of the cake is springy when lightly prodded, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (a few crumbs are fine), 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in the baking dish. Slice into 12 squares.

Step 4

Meanwhile, add cream, honey, vanilla and a pinch of salt to a blender. Blend on high at 10-second intervals until cream is whipped into medium-soft peaks. (Test this by dipping a spoon into the whipped cream and holding it upright. The whipped cream will be firm enough to stay on the spoon and hold a glossy peak that barely curls to one side. If you over-whip the cream and it looks grainy, no worries: gently fold cream or milk into the over-whipped batch 2 tablespoons at a time until it comes together again.)

Step 5

Alternatively, whip the cream by hand in a large metal bowl using a whisk or an electric beater. Serve with semolina honey cake topped with pistachios.

photo by H.B. Wilcox Photography