Spring makes me a little bit crazy. When the weather starts to change and there’s a palpable sense of summer just around the corner, I suddenly feel this need TO DO ALL THE THINGS – organise holidays, buy new clothes, book concert tickets. This past week, work finally let up after a few weeks of utter horror and I’ve found myself home by 7pm, with a few hours of free time ahead of me! The combination of spring and free time has left me feeling a lot restless.
By last Thursday, I couldn’t take it anymore and so I headed off to Rupert and Ruby for a burger with Rosie, Friday night I went to Fix St James for a glass of wine with friends and Sunday involved brunch at Fourth Village (the best!) and dinner at the Lord Dudley. It’s no European holiday but it’ll do. Apart from getting out of the house, I’ve also been doing lots of baking. It probably makes me sound ancient, but I find it way more calming than watching TV or mindlessly scrolling on Instagram. It’s something about following instructions and using your hands without having to think very much. On Saturday we had friends over for dinner and never one to pass up the chance to bake, I made a marmalade, coconut and semolina cake from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.
Everyone raves about Jerusalem but I’ve been slow to get on board. Middle Eastern food is probably my very favourite but Ottolenghi’s recipes always looked so complicated and I couldn’t believe all the hype was really deserved. Turns out, I should eat my words. My sister gave J a copy of Jerusalem for his birthday a couple of months ago and we’ve been cooking from it non-stop since. Some of the recipes involve ingredients that would take a mission to find but the majority of them are totally doable and delicious, this cake included. It’s one of the best things to come out of my kitchen and it really couldn’t be easier – it’s as simple as squeezing oranges and stirring. There’s no creaming butter and no sifting. The results are delicious. The cake is moist without being squidgy and heavy, it has a faint coconut fragrance and fine, soft crumb. With a bowl of softly whipped cream (soured with a couple of teaspoons of greek yogurt), it’s the kind of cake you could graze on all night long.
Semolina, coconut and marmalade cake (from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi)
Makes 2 small loaves
180 ml sunflower oil
240 ml fresh orange juice
160 g orange marmalade (I used Bon Maman)
grated zest of one orange
70 g caster sugar
70 g desiccated coconut
90 g plain flour
180 g semolina
2 tbsp almond meal
2 tsp baking powder
For the syrup
200 g caster sugar
140 g water
zest of one orange or 1 tbsp orange blossom water
1. Preheat the oven to 180’C / 350’F. Butter and line two 500g loaf tins with baking paper.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the sunflower oil, orange juice, marmalade and orange zest until evenly combined.
3. In another bowl, mix together the sugar, desiccated coconut, flour, semolina, almond meal and baking powder. Add to the wet ingredients, stirring until the mixture is smooth and evenly combined (it will be really runny but don’t worry).
4. Divide the filling evenly between the two loaf tins (I did this by putting it into a large pyrex jug and pouring it into the tins).
5. Bake for 40-60 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cakes comes out clean. Start checking at about 35 mins – mine were ready at that point but my oven runs hot).
6. Towards the end of the baking time, place the syrup ingredients in a small bowl and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. When it’s bubbling gently, remove from the heat. As soon as you take the cakes out of the oven, start spooning the syrup over them. Spoon a couple of tablespoons over a time and then leave for five minutes before spooning over some more. Ottolenghi and Tamimi advise you to use all the syrup but I used less – see the notes below.
7. When the cakes are almost cool, remove from the leans and leave to cool completely on a cooling rack. I served them with whipped cream, which I combined with a little greek yogurt.
- Ottolenghi and Tamimi flavour the syrup with orange flower water but I didn’t want to splash out on something I’ll probably never use again so I added the zest of an orange instead.
- I only used about 2/3 of the syrup – I was worried the cakes would turn into puddings if I kept going. I think they turned out just right with that amount of syrup but you could definitely use more if you’d like.
- The recipe calls for 2 x 500g loaf tins. I had no idea what that meant but google pointed me in the right direction.