orange and fennel semolina cake


I have a citrus addiction, limes, lemons, sweet limes, oranges, blood oranges, etc. There is something wonderful about the fragrant smell of citrus plants and trees. When I was 11 or 12 years old, I remember urging my father to pick me a little lime plant. The poor lime plant didn't last for more than a few months but it gave me one of my fondest scented childhood memories. I would rub the leaves of the lime plant between my palms and sniff the scent off my fingers. It was simply heavenly and these days I really wish I could grow some in the garden


On our way back from a quick trip to the beach last weekend, we stopped by a market in North Carolina where I was surprised to find some fresh oranges. I am not sure if they were local but they were delicious. Needless to say, I couldn't resist and picked up a few among other things to bring home. They had some interesting items, especially a "Moonshine Jelly". I am not sure what one does with this, do you just use this as a regular preserve or jelly? I think a scoop of that for breakfast might lead to a very interesting day. I stayed away from it and went with some huckleberry preserves, black raspberry jams, and honey.



One of my favorite types of cakes are the semolina-based cakes that are popular in Mediterranean and Indian desserts. Fresh, firm, and ripe oranges give this cake its taste and aroma. I made a light honey based glaze infused with orange zest and freshly ground fennel seeds to pour on top of the cake. The orange by itself lends a very delicate flavor in this cake and a tiny bit of fennel seeds aids in giving a bit of flavor without being overpowering. Fennel seeds have a sweet anise or licorice like taste and are served after a meal in Indian cuisine to freshen the breath.



I've had many disasters with bundt pans in the past but after much trial and error and advice from an expert, this strategy always seems to work. A silicone bundt pan is great and you don't need to grease it too much before use. However, the real trick is to invert the cake while it is still hot in the pan onto a flat surface like a plate. The steam will push the cake away from the pan and the cooled cake will come off without breaking. This is one of those moments where I feel like saying "Voilà!" as the revelation occurs. Now, if only I could grow an orange plant here in Zone 7! 


orange and fennel semolina cake


ingredients


for the orange glaze syrup

1.5 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground fennel 
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup orange blossom honey or regular honey
1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
1 teaspoon cointreau or any other orange flavored liquor

for the cake

6 eggs
3 cups semolina
1 cup flour
3 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1.5 cups sugar
3 sticks chopped unsalted butter at room temperature
2 tablespoons freshly grated orange zest
1 teaspoon fennel seeds


Bundt pan greasing mixture


1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil


To prepare the glaze, combine all the ingredients except for the cointreau/liquor. Bring the contents to a gentle simmer in a thick bottomed pot and stir constantly until the volume reduces to half and the sauce begins to thicken and turn golden . This should take about 15 minutes. Once thickened, remove the sauce from the stove and add the cointreau. Allow to cool to room temperature before adding it to the cake. If the sauce gets too thick and hard to pour, then place the container in tub of warm water to loosen it up and then pour it on the cake.


Grease a bundt pan well with the greasing mixture (simply mix the three ingredients listed and use) using a basting brush.


Preheat the oven to 350F. In a bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients - semolina, flour, baking soda, and fennel seeds. Keep this aside. In another large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar using an electric blender or whisk. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time till combined. Add the orange juice and the zest to the batter and beat it for another 20 seconds. Add one cup of the dry ingredients to the batter and beat until completely blended. Repeat this till the rest of the dry ingredients have been incorporated into the batter. Pour into the greased bundt pan and shake it very gently to make sure the batter spreads evenly into the pan. (Don't shake or tap it too much or the air bubbles that you whisked in will be lost.) Bake for about 30-40 minutes in the preheated oven till the surface is golden brown or until a skewer/knife comes out clean from the center of the cake. Once the cake is  baked, remove the bundt pan with the hot cake still in it from the oven. Immediately place a sheet of baking paper on top of the cake and invert the bundt pan with the baking paper onto a clean flat plate. Let the bundt pan with the cake rest and come to room temperature. When the cake is cooled completely, tap the top of the bundt pan gently and remove the pan. The cake will be left behind sitting on the paper. Pour the orange glaze on top of the cake and allow it to fall from the sides. This cake can be served at room temperature or even slightly warm with a cup of  hot coffee or tea.