Saffron-Orange Semolina Cake from Chef Bret Bannon

Here is a recipe for Saffron-Orange Semolina Cake that is inspired by a multitude of variations.  It can be as simple as making the cake and soaking liquid or adding one (mascarpone) or more fillings (lemon curd – get recipe) to make it over-the-top.

Saffron-Orange Semolina Cake Ingredients

For soaking syrup and oranges:
2 bay leaves
1/3 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of kosher salt
1/2 cup water
2 – 3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, divided

For the cake:
Butter for pan
¾ cup (6 oz) Kalona SuperNatural Whole Milk, divided 
Large pinch saffron threads, crushed
¾ cup (1½ sticks) Kalona SuperNatural Unsalted Butter 
1 cup (7 oz/200 g) granulated sugar
zest from 3 medium organic oranges 
1½ cups (9 oz/255 g) coarse-grind semolina flour (such as Bob’s Red Mill)
2 teaspoons (1/4 oz/5 g) baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (8 oz/230 g) Kalona SuperNatural Plain Whole-Milk Greek Yogurt

For the filling:
1 cup (8 oz) mascarpone
¼ cup (2 oz) Kalona SuperNatural Whipping Cream 
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup lemon curd- get recipe!
Powdered sugar for decoration

Saffron-Orange Semolina Cake Directions

Make syrup
In a small saucepan add bay leaves, sugar, salt, and ½ cup water. Bring to a simmer and stir occasionally to dissolve sugar, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 2 teaspoons lemon juice. Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9″- diameter cake pan, line the bottom with a round of parchment paper and butter paper. Set aside.

Make Cake
In a small saucepan warm 1/4 cup milk, add crushed saffron threads and stir until dissolved.  Add butter to milk mixture and heat until butter is melted.  Set aside to cool slightly.

In a medium bowl measure out sugar, add the orange zest and using your fingers evenly incorporate the zest into the sugar. Then whisk the semolina, baking powder, cardamom, and salt into the sugar.

In a large bowl whisk together yogurt and remaining milk. Using a spatula or wooden spoon mix the dry ingredients into the yogurt mixture. Stir in the cooled (still liquid) butter mixture and then scrape batter into prepared pan.

Bake cake until golden brown and firm to the touch, 50–60 minutes. It is done when a cake tester comes out clean. Transfer pan to a wire rack and allow cake cool in pan 10 minutes. Turn a 10″ rimmed plate or platter over top of pan and invert cake. Using a cake tester or toothpick, poke holes all over cake.

Reserve 1/4 cup of the bay leaf syrup in a medium bowl.  Gradually pour remaining syrup over cake allowing it to soak in. Let sit at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove the remaining peel and white pith from oranges. Slice into ¼”-thick rounds; remove seeds and add to reserved bay leaf syrup. Gently toss the oranges on occasion and allow to macerate at least 30 minutes. Taste and add lemon juice as needed.

Make Filling
Whisk the mascarpone and heavy cream until soft peaks form.  Whisk in vanilla extract.

Assemble Cake
Split cake horizontally. Using the bottom of a removable tart pan as a spatula carefully lift off the top half of the cake and set aside. Spread the mascarpone evenly over the bottom cake layer. Top with a layer of lemon curd-get recipe! Set the reserved layer on top of the filling. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Want to make this cake ahead of time?

Cake can be baked 2 days ahead and stored tightly wrapped at room temperature before filling the mascarpone and lemon curd.

Serve cake with oranges in syrup.

Recipe courtesy of Chef Bret Bannon