Almond semolina cake

Here I go with another almond recipe.  I can never try too many because I just love almonds!  I particularly love pastries with nuts.  This is one of those cakes that I can enjoy any day (and any time) and never get sick of; it's not too sweet and just totally delicious. That's why you see me lingering on this theme, making many renditions of this cake.  This one is special with a bit of semolina flour and a slightly jazzed-up topping.
It was worth running around a few supermarkets to find the semolina flour I needed for this cake. I've never baked with semolina before though we used it once in a cooking class to make pasta. There's regular all-purpose flour in this cake but the addition of semolina gives it a unique little twist that I liked.  I think I expected a gritter texture, like cornmeal or even almond meal, but finely-ground semolina blended right in yet added a very subtle bit of texture and a hint of nuttiness that works really well with almonds (and other nuts, I'd imagine).

Like any surefire great almond cake, this one has some almond paste (another one of my favorite things) tucked inside.  It's moist and so fragrant and flavorful.  The topping is fun and delicious at the same time.  Instead of just scattering sliced almond on top before baking (though nothing wrong with that!), you kick it up a notch by stirring it with a little bit of frothy egg whites and brown sugar. That produces an extra crunchy, sweet topping that's pretty addictive!
This cake is also light and fluffy thanks to folding separately whipped egg whites into the batter.  It reminded me of one of our all-time favorite treats on earth - tri-color cookies, which is made the same way with whipped whites folded into the batter.  When we had this cake for dessert one night, my 8-year old said "mmm...it tastes just like tri-color cookies!"  I couldn't help but beam with pride...maybe he does take after his mama just a little!

I'm really happy I bought that 6-inch round cake pan with the removable bottom.  I used it to scale down the original recipe and make a small version.  It's just right for my small family and gives me the chance to try out more recipes and play more often in the kitchen.  That said, my little guy honestly said he loves this cake and wish there was more!  (Though in all fairness, there are obviously plenty of times when he tells me he doesn't like something - he can be quite blunt.)

This recipe requires a couple of extra steps, including folding separately whipped egg whites into the batter.  This creates a lighter, fluffier cake that justifies the extra effort.
The other notable thing is the almond topping.  Instead of simply using sliced almonds, the almonds are mixed with a little bit of foamy egg whites and brown sugar.  Since I only needed about 1 teaspoon of egg whites for the topping in my scaled down cake, I "cheated" by just taking it from the 2 egg whites in the cake batter instead of cracking open an extra egg.  I also used 1/3 cup of almonds, a little less than the recipe, because that's all I had on hand.  It worked out very well and I think it's a perfect amount for the 6-inch cake.  I also used a touch less brown sugar and these adaptations are reflected in the recipe below.
This topping gets added about midway during baking.  Return the cake to teh oven and watch carefully in case the topping browns too much, too quickly (in which case tent with foil; I didn't need to).  
The end result is an extra crispy, slightly sweetened, almond topping that is just wonderful!  I will need to use this trick to jazz up my almond toppings going forward.  It makes the cake taste a bit like a streusel topping on a coffee cake.
The center is moist and fragrant with almond flavor.  I added a touch of almond extract with vanilla. That, along with the almond paste and topping, delivers the almond punch.
In the recipe below, I've included notes on the adjusted baking time to make this into a 6-inch cake like I did.


Recipe:

Almond Semolina Cake
Adapted from Martha Stewart's Cakes

- One 9-inch cake (or divide the recipe in half like I did and bake in a 6-inch cake pan with removable sides or bottom)-

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing pan
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon plus a pinch of salt, divided
1/2 cup finely ground semolina flour (you could substitute with yellow cornmeal but cake will be a bit crumblier)
4 large eggs, separated, plus 1 large egg white*
Rounded 2/3 cup sliced almonds with skins (in other words, a generous 2/3 cup)
2 tablespoons light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, divided
1/3 cup almond paste
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
2/3 cup whole milk

* You need an extra 2 teaspoons of frothy egg whites for the almond topping.  For my 6-inch cake, I only needed 1 teaspoon and, instead of cracking open an extra egg, I simply remove a teaspoon from the whites used in the batter.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9-inch springform pan generously.  Sift all-purpose flour, baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon of salt together into a bowl.  Whisk in the semolina flour.

In a small bowl, whisk an egg white until foamy.  Remove 2 teaspoons to a bowl.  Stir in almonds, brown sugar, and a pinch of salt.  Set aside.

Beat butter, 1 cup of the sugar, and almond paste together in a standmixer until pale and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.  Add egg yolks, vanilla extract and almond extract (if using).  Beat together for about 2 minutes.

With mixer on low, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with 2 batches of milk (starting and ending with the dry ingredients).  Mix until just combined.  

In a clean bowl of a standmixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip 4 egg whites until foamy. Gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar into the whites until it reaches soft peaks, about 2 minutes. Fold half the egg whites into the cake batter.  Gently fold in the remaining whites until just incorporated.

Transfer batter into prepared cake pan, smoothing out the top.  Bake until cake begins to turn golden (more so along the edges) but is still wobbly in the center, about 15-20 minutes [approximately 15 minutes for a 6-inch cake].  Remove cake from the oven and scatter the almond topping evenly over the surface.  

Return cake to the oven to bake until golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, roughly 25 minutes [about 20 minutes for a 6-inch cake].  Check on the cake after 10-15 minutes to make sure the almond topping is not browning too quickly.  If so, tent loosely with foil.  

Transfer cake to a wire rack to cool completely.  Run a knife around the sides of the pan to remove and transfer to a cake plate.  The cake can be stored, at room temperature, covered, for up to 4 days.  



62 comments:

  1. What a gorgeous looking cake Monica! I do love almonds and almond flavor baked goods. I have never used semolina flour before.. it kind of looks like corn meal (at least on Amazon, it does). Does it have the same texture? I'll have to be on the lookout for them. Lovely recipe, thanks for posting!

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    1. This was my first time baking with semolina, too, Anne. I was glad I finally found it at the market - everyone told me they didn't have it. The texture was surprisingly fine - it's like fine sand. So when it's mixed in with the batter, it sort of melds into it and you barely notice it when eating. My husband would not have known the cake had anything other than regular flour in it if I hadn't told him. I can notice a bit of texture from it lingering on the tongue but it's subtle (and nice). I had forgotten to write that the recipe says you can substitute the semolina with yellow cornmeal but the cake will be a little bit crumblier if you do.

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  2. Right, your cake looks fluffy and moist enough. I like how you cheated : ), bet the young gentleman would prefer a 9".

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    1. I'm glad you approve of my little "cheat". I really didn't think it made any sense to crack open an egg for a teaspoon of frothy whites! : ) You are right about the little gentleman - once in a while, I really make a winner in his eyes. This cake meet his approval.

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  3. Nuts in baked goods aound perfect to me, I need to try them more often! Your cake came out beautifully. The texture is wonderful and so is the crumb. I wish I had had a piece of this for breakfast ;)

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    1. Thank you, Consuelo! I love desserts with nuts - almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, walnuts are some of my faves. : )

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    1. Thanks - I like how the topping came out. : )

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  5. Oh my goodness, this looks so yummy!!! You know I love anything with almond paste ;) The semolina gave it a beautiful color too.

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    1. Hi Amy - yes, I remember our mutual love of almond paste! My family and I can't get enough, as you can tell. : )

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  6. I love the sound and look of this cake! I want a piece a now :-)

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  7. This reminds me of a German Bienenstich...your almond cake looks really tempting!

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    1. I think I would love Bienenstich then!

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  8. Ok, you’ve convinced me…this week this week!

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    1. : ) There are so many tempting recipes out there...

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  9. Oh this cake ... this is so right up my alley! It's so pretty too - especially with that topping! I love that you mixed the almonds with the egg white / brown sugar - such a good idea. I love cakes like this that you can eat anytime (such as for breakfast... lol).

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    1. Ashley - I can't take credit for that topping, of course. Martha and her people have a way of doing these types of little tweaks that take things up a notch. I was loving the topping and wondering why I never thought of doing that! These are my kinds of cake too...you can have it all the time and it's not too heavy at all!

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  10. Wow, this cake looks truly heavenly, Monica! It's not hard to tell that you love almond desserts, based on how many have appeared on your blog! I love that (:

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    1. And there'll be plenty more other recipes like this to try, I think (I hope)! : )

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  11. This almond cake looks great, can we talk about how moist that cake slice looks? Beautiful job!

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    1. Thanks, Pamela. It is really moist and fragrant.

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  12. What a gorgeous looking cake Monica! I love all your almond recipes as I am a big almond fan too :) Your almond topping looks so gorgeous too! The cake looks so incredibly tasty and moist! I could definitely go for a few slices of this anytime :)

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    1. I'm naturally drawn to almond recipes! Feels like it's generally either chocolate, almonds, some other nuts or a combination of all that! haha

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  13. Oooh this looks fantastic! I can't turn down anything with almonds. Don't worry I will grind the cornmeal to a semolina texture to use it in the cake.

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    1. What a great idea! Grinding yellow cornmeal would make a very similar consistency! I know you love nuts like I do...I think you'd enjoy this cake.

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  14. This looks beautiful. Very elegant and I just love almonds, so this is perfect for me. Great recipe.

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    1. Thank you - anyone who loves almonds, almond paste would enjoy it, I think!

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  15. Beautiful cake Monica, and yes, I too love almonds...and like the idea of small cake recipe.
    I will be making this soon!
    Thanks for sharing the recipe and have a great rest of the week :D

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    1. Hope you give it a try, Juliana. Thanks!

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  16. you totally win at food today: that's the most adorable cake size ever! i'm adding a 6 inch cake pan to the list...i have a cake ring for the momofuku ventures, but not an actual pan. this is beautiful: you really need to stop tempting me with cake like this. :)

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    1. Hi Shannon, I really like dividing cake recipes in half and making them in a 6-inch pan. Buying the one with removable bottom is opening up a whole world of other possibilities for doing that now! That said, I know you're not really supposed to just divide ingredients by 2 and assume all will be equal but I've done is countless times to no noticeable detriment so I'll keep on keeping on. : )

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  17. Oh Monica this cake is lovely. Almond flavor is one of my favorites. The cake is beautiful and looks so light. Great job reducing the recipe - looks like it turned out terrific and so cute!!!

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    1. Yay - thanks, Tricia. Everything small just can't help but be cute!

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  18. I am a big fan of almonds also. Your cake looks like it turned out so yummy. Great stuff.

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  19. I love the effect that semolina has on baked goods...a hint of texture and a fine crumb and so delicious. Plus almond flavored cakes are my favorite. Such a nice change from vanilla!

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    1. I'm glad to be in on the semolina secret now. It does add such a delicate impact on these kinds of cakes. I'm a big fan of almond and vanilla so I'm happy to switch among those while loading up on plenty of chocolate! : )

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  20. Love this! So need a slice now while sipping my hot cup of chai.,

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    1. Oh yes, great with a cup of chai for sure!!

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  21. Whoaaaa!!!!! this cake is SOOOOOO BEAUTIFUL!!!! I love semolina and to combine it with almonds? I can't wait to try thissss!!!! the cake is soooo moist and looks lovely!

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    1. You're very kind, Samina! I highly recommend it so hope you give it a try one day!

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  22. I don't always pick the almond option dessert, but I'd definitely rush for this one! The cake is gorgeous and looks so moist. Love the almonds on top too, such a pretty presentation. :)
    Tina at www.tinaschic.com

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    1. I'm so glad it even appeals to someone who isn't automatically crazy about almond desserts! It's really moist and full of flavor and I like how almond paste adds moisture and a bit of chewiness. Thank you!

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  23. Oh my my...this is just my kind of cake. I love love love nuts and nut meals in my cakes...the texture is just so amazing! I've made semolina cakes before and totally agree on what you've written. Your cake looks absolutely gorgeous and that slice makes me want to take a bite. Glad to have discovered this place:-)

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    1. Same here! Love nuts in desserts and totally adoring the effect semolina flour has on cakes. It was definitely worth the experiment...I plan to make this cake again very soon. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

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  24. Hi Monica! I love almonds...especially in desserts. And this cake looks so light and moist...I think the egg white technique worked wonders! Thank you for sharing this with us all!

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    1. I agree about the egg white technique...so simple and made a nice change from just plain almonds. Thanks for stopping by, Monet.

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  25. This is starting to be my go-to blog for almond recipes ;) The crumb on this cake looks incredible. I've always loved the texture of semolina...must be amazing with the nuttiness!

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    1. haha - thanks, Irina. I'm a bit predictable, you'll find, but I'm cool with that! ; ) Have a great weekend.

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  26. The most gorgeous, airy and light almond cake ever. Beautiful, Monica :)

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    1. So nice of you to say, Kiran! I appreciate it. It was fun to make and eat...

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  27. This cake looks perfect Monica! I love the use of the semolina flour and it looks so light :-) Beautiful photos too!

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    1. I am now a big fan of semolina flour in cakes, Jo! Thank you!!

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  28. I love almonds (my most favorite nuts!) and this cake looks gorgeous and delicious. It looks so fluffy and airly from the side look. Wish I have a slice of it with me right now... I'm drinking tea. :)

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    1. Glad to hear that, Nami, thanks. I love pastries I can enjoy with my tea as well.

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  29. this looks so soft and gorgeous!!

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    1. Thank you, Simi. I'm about to make another one of these this morning. : )

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  30. Your cake is beautiful! Ah such a bad idea catching up on food blogs right before bed (and when I'm hungry)! I have recently developed a greater appreciation for almond cakes and this looks so yummy. Glad you found the semolina flour too! I've never tried baking with it.

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    1. I adore almond cakes so I look for those recipes and make them a lot. The semolina is great in cakes...really fine but adds just a bit of nuttiness and texture at the same time, I think.

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