I adore cakes made with oranges. Or anything that is sweet and orange. I always eat the orange jelly beans first and always pick flourless orange cake if it is on the menu. For part two of “A feast of oranges”, I made a cake from one of my favourite cookbooks “Polpo”, which has the most glorious photos of Venetian inspired food – a blood orange and Campari cake. The recipe calls for blood oranges, which aren’t in season yet, so I substituted them with regular navel oranges.
A word of warning if you do try the recipe directly from “Polpo” – there is a mistake in the recipe. It states that the cake should be cooked for 15 minutes at which time it should be tested with a skewer. This is clearly incorrect as most semolina cakes I have made in the past have required around an hour in the oven. The first time I made it I checked it at 45 minutes – it was still very pale. I found that it took an hour 10 minutes to cook. In spite of the confusion over cooking times, the recipe is perfect. Once the cake is cooked, you pour a thick syrup made of orange juice, Campari and sugar onto the cake. I also keep a portion of the syrup on the side to serve with the cake – the Campari gave the syrup a lovely slightly bitter edge. You could also leave the Campari out, but I love it. The result would be even more dramatic (visually as well as taste) if you used blood oranges – which is exactly what I will do when they are in season at the end of winter.
Campari and orange semolina cake
350g (2 and 1/4 cups) Greek yoghurt
600g (4 cups) caster sugar
4 medium sized eggs, lightly beaten
250g butter (2 sticks), melted and cooled
350g (2 and 1/4 cups) fine semolina
100g (1/2 cup) ground almonds
100ml (2/5 cup) Campari
Preheat the oven to 170C (330F). Line and grease a 23cm (9 inch) cake tin. Grate the zest of 4 oranges and set aside. Put the yoghurt, half the sugar and the eggs into a large mixing bowl and stir, then add the butter. Finally fold in the semolina, the almonds and the zest. Place the batter into the prepared tin and cook for an hour ten minutes. The cake should be firm and a skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean.
While the cake is cooking, make the syrup. Place the juice of the 8 oranges, the other half of the sugar and the Campari in a small saucepan over low-medium heat. Bring to the boil and simmer until reduced by half, skimming off any white foam that forms as the syrup is reducing.
When the cake is cooked, allow to cool slightly and remove from the tin. Place on a wire rack with a plate underneath (to catch excess syrup) – or directly onto the serving plate – and prick the top of the cake all over with a toothpick. Pour over the syrup in batches, allowing the liquid to absorb before adding the next batch. I like to reserve some of the syrup to serve with the cake. Serve warm or at room temperature, with some vanilla ice cream on the side if you like.