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EVERY RECIPE FROM THE FIRST 4 SEASONS

A gooey center and short ingredient list make for a sensational—and sticky—cake
Milk Street Bowtie Semolina-Sesame Cake

Semolina-Sesame Cake

4¼ hours 30 minutes active

Semolina-Sesame Cake

Free

The start-to-finish time is long, but this tender-crumbed, syrup-soaked cake, very loosely based on Lebanese sfouf, is simple to make and requires little hands-on effort. We toast the semolina, coconut and cornmeal to heighten the flavors and aromas, then after cooling, we allow them to hydrate in a mixture of yogurt, tahini and water. This results in a uniformly moist, evenly textured crumb. Because it is soaked with syrup, the cake keeps well, so it can be made in advance. Tightly covered, it will keep for a day at room temperature; after that, store it in the refrigerate for up to two more days, but bring to room temperature before serving.

6 tablespoons (¾ stick) salted butter, cut into 6 pieces, plus more for the pan
170 grams (1 cup) semolina flour
68 grams (¾ cup) unsweetened shredded coconut
72 grams (½ cup) fine yellow cornmeal
321 grams (1½ cups) white sugar, divided
84 grams (¼ cup) honey
4 3-inch strips lemon zest, plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice
1¼ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
454 grams (2 cups) plain whole-milk yogurt
30 grams (2 tablespoons) tahini
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
35 grams (¼ cup) raw sesame seeds
2 teaspoons orange flower water (optional)
Ingredients
  • 6

    tablespoons (¾ stick) salted butter, cut into 6 pieces, plus more for the pan

  • 170

    grams (1 cup) semolina flour

  • 68

    grams (¾ cup) unsweetened shredded coconut

  • 72

    grams (½ cup) fine yellow cornmeal

  • 321

    grams (1½ cups) white sugar, divided

  • 84

    grams (¼ cup) honey

  • 4

    3-inch strips lemon zest, plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • teaspoons kosher salt, divided

  • 454

    grams (2 cups) plain whole-milk yogurt

  • 30

    grams (2 tablespoons) tahini

  • ½

    teaspoon baking soda

  • 1

    tablespoon baking powder

  • 35

    grams (¼ cup) raw sesame seeds

  • 2

    teaspoons orange flower water (optional)

Directions
  1. 01
    In a 12-inch skillet over medium, melt the butter. Add the semolina, coconut and cornmeal, then cook, stirring often, until the mixture begins to brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and cool until barely warm to the touch, about 30 minutes.
  2. 02
    Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine 214 grams (1 cup) of the sugar, the honey, lemon zest, ¼ teaspoon salt and ½ cup water. Bring to a boil over medium, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then cook until slightly more viscous, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a 2-cup liquid measuring cup or small bowl; you should have about 1¼ cups. Cover and set aside until ready to use.
  3. 03
    Heat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle position. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch square baking pan. To the cooled semolina mixture, whisk in the yogurt, tahini and ½ cup water. Let stand at room temperature for another 30 minutes to hydrate.
  4. 04
    In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 107 grams (½ cup) sugar, the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, the baking soda and baking powder. Whisk the mixture into the semolina-yogurt mixture. Transfer to the prepared pan and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle the sesame seeds evenly over the surface and bake until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
  5. 05
    Remove and discard the lemon zest from the syrup, then stir in the lemon juice and orange flower water (if using). With a toothpick, poke holes in the warm cake at 1-inch intervals. Slowly and evenly pour on the syrup. Let stand for 2 hours. To serve, cut into pieces directly in the pan.
Tip: Don’t add the yogurt to the toasted semolina-coconut mixture until the mixture has cooled for about 30 minutes. If added when hot, the semolina quickly absorbs the yogurt and the cake bakes up with a crumbly texture. Also, don’t allow the cake to cool for more than 10 minutes before pouring on the syrup; the crumb soaks up the syrup more readily and more evenly when warm.
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Comments
  • Beth M.

    This looks amazing but we have a small household with no chance of friends during the pandemic. Have you tested how it freezes?

    0 votes
    0 comments
  • Lynn C.

    Hi Beth -

    We didn't test freezing it, but I think it would probably do pretty well since it's already so moist with the simple syrup that's poured on top. To store it, I would wrap it in plastic wrap, foil, and then add it to a zipper-lock freezer bag to fully ensure it's safe from freezer burn.

    Best,
    The Milk Street Team

    0 votes
    0 comments
Down arrow

Semolina-Sesame Cake

Get Ready to Cook

16-18

Servings

4¼ hours

30 minutes active

Tip

Don’t add the yogurt to the toasted semolina-coconut mixture until the mixture has cooled for about 30 minutes. If added when hot, the semolina quickly absorbs the yogurt and the cake bakes up with a crumbly texture. Also, don’t allow the cake to cool for more than 10 minutes before pouring on the syrup; the crumb soaks up the syrup more readily and more evenly when warm.

Ingredients
  • 6

    tablespoons (¾ stick) salted butter, cut into 6 pieces, plus more for the pan

  • 170

    grams (1 cup) semolina flour

  • 68

    grams (¾ cup) unsweetened shredded coconut

  • 72

    grams (½ cup) fine yellow cornmeal

  • 321

    grams (1½ cups) white sugar, divided

  • 84

    grams (¼ cup) honey

  • 4

    3-inch strips lemon zest, plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • teaspoons kosher salt, divided

  • 454

    grams (2 cups) plain whole-milk yogurt

  • 30

    grams (2 tablespoons) tahini

  • ½

    teaspoon baking soda

  • 1

    tablespoon baking powder

  • 35

    grams (¼ cup) raw sesame seeds

  • 2

    teaspoons orange flower water (optional)

Step 1 of 5

Combine Ingredients In Skillet

6
tablespoons (¾ stick) salted butter, cut into 6 pieces
170
grams (1 cup) semolina flour
68
grams (¾ cup) unsweetened shredded coconut
72
grams (½ cup) fine yellow cornmeal

In a 12-inch skillet over medium, melt the butter. Add the semolina, coconut and cornmeal, then cook, stirring often, until the mixture begins to brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and cool until barely warm to the touch, about 30 minutes.

Step 2 of 5

Combine Ingredients In Saucepan

214
grams (1 cup) white sugar
84
grams (¼ cup) honey
4
3-inch strips lemon zest
¼
teaspoon kosher salt

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine 214 grams (1 cup) of the sugar, the honey, lemon zest, ¼ teaspoon salt and ½ cup water. Bring to a boil over medium, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then cook until slightly more viscous, about 5 minutes.


Transfer to a 2-cup liquid measuring cup or small bowl; you should have about 1¼ cups. Cover and set aside until ready to use.

Step 3 of 5

Add Yogurt and Tahini

Salted butter for the pan
454
grams (2 cups) plain whole-milk yogurt
30
grams (2 tablespoons) tahini

Heat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle position. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch square baking pan. To the cooled semolina mixture, whisk in the yogurt, tahini and ½ cup water. Let stand at room temperature for another 30 minutes to hydrate.

Step 4 of 5

Bake Cake

107
grams (½ cup) white sugar
1
teaspoon kosher salt
½
teaspoon baking soda
1
tablespoon baking powder
35
grams (¼ cup) raw sesame seeds

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 107 grams (½ cup) sugar, the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, the baking soda and baking powder. Whisk the mixture into the semolina-yogurt mixture.


Transfer to the prepared pan and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle the sesame seeds evenly over the surface and bake until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

Step 5 of 5

Add Syrup, Let Stand and Serve

2
tablespoons lemon juice
2
teaspoons orange flower water

Remove and discard the lemon zest from the syrup, then stir in the lemon juice and orange flower water (if using). With a toothpick, poke holes in the warm cake at 1-inch intervals. Slowly and evenly pour on the syrup. Let stand for 2 hours. To serve, cut into pieces directly in the pan.

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