Semolina, almond and orange blossom honey cake recipe

This lovely moist cake has a refreshing flavour of orange blossom and is reasonably economical to make as the main ingredient is plain, everyday semolina. As a finishing touch, I also add a crunch of almond praline – see the method below.

Phillipa Langley

SERVES 16-18

50g butter or ghee, plus extra to grease
500g semolina
315g granulated sugar
50ml orange blossom water
50ml water
2 tbsp cocoa powder
75g blanched almonds

250g granulated sugar
500ml water
25g honey
zest of 1 orange, cut into long, thin strands (use the large hole of a canele knife or zester)
juice of 1 lemon
50ml orange blossom water

1. Preheat the oven to 200C/ 180C fan/gas 6. Lightly grease a round 20cm cake tin about 4cm deep.
2. Put the butter, semolina, sugar, orange blossom water and water in a bowl and stir. Set aside for 15 minutes. Spoon a third of the mixture into the base of the tin. Sprinkle the cocoa powder evenly over the top. Spoon over the remaining mixture, level the surface and sprinkle over the blanched almonds.
3. Bake for 90 minutes until dark golden on top.
4. Next make the syrup. Pour the sugar into a large saucepan and add the water and honey. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Add the zest strands to the syrup with the lemon juice and orange blossom water, and simmer for 10 minutes until it has thickened and reduced by half.
5. Take the cake out of the oven and draw lines on the top about 3cm apart with a sharp knife. Turn the tin round and mark it again to create squares. If the tin has a loose bottom, put it on a baking tray. Spoon the syrup evenly over the top, scattering the orange zest all over, too. Allow to cool for 2 hours.


Make a praline for the top. Line a tray with baking parchment and arrange 25g each of whole almonds and blanched almonds on the tray, quite close together. Heat 100g caster sugar and 1 tsp orange blossom water in a small saucepan over a low heat until the sugar dissolves and turns into a syrup. Increase the heat slightly and cook the syrup until it’s golden to dark brown. Don’t let it burn or the praline will taste bitter. Pour over the nuts and leave to set. Chop the praline into small pieces and scatter over the cake. Use a sharp knife to slice, then serve, making sure everyone has a piece of praline and some orange zest.


Recipe from Feasts from the Middle East by Tony Kitous, founder of Comptoir Libanais restaurants and delis, to be published on 8 March by HQ, price £20. Tony grew up in Algeria, with a love of home cooking and the food culture of his homeland. In the book he shares the flavour-packed, affordable dishes he loves the most (many inspired by his mum Zohra and by family memories), ranging from easy morning meals to grand dinners with friends. To order a copy for £16 until 11 March, visit or call 0844 571 0640; p&p is free on orders over £15.