Chocolate Almond Lime Semolina Cake

DSC_0373aThis cake is the happy result of an experiment in gluten-free baking* for my Lovely Flatmate, who is gluten-intolerant, but lacks the willpower to resist my baked goods. It’s based loosely on a Greek cake called Revani, which traditionally is made of a mixture of semolina and almond flour, and sweetened with a sticky orange syrup. My version substitutes lime for the orange and adds plenty of cocoa. It’s a delightful crumbly-but-moist tea cake, with a hint of crunch from the semolina. It meets my ‘specialty diet’ test, meaning that I would bake this cake again for people without dietary restrictions. Lovely Flatmate consumed the entire cake in two days (hurrah! Also, slightly alarming).

This cake is also something of a cautionary tale. I’ve managed to largely resist the urge to buy cute china and utensils, rattan mats and distressed wooden boards that I use only for food photography, although this possibly is because my budget doesn’t allow for them. I do devote time and attention to the photos on my blog; if the food doesn’t look like it tastes good, why would anyone want to cook it? Nevertheless, I’ve not been entirely immune to the ferocious lure of competitive food styling. Which is how, having reached a near-hallucinatory state some 20 or so photos in, I found myself asking, “why am I sprinkling cocoa powder on my counter?” A reminder, I suppose, to keep it real. DSC_0381a


* Although semolina flour has a lower gluten content than wheat flour, it is not actually gluten free. So it would not be suitable for people with coeliac disease or serious gluten intolerance. These people should use a gluten-free substitute for the semolina, such as polenta flour.

** The measurements below are in US cups; I kept a careful record of metric weights but my computer crashed, and I couldn’t recall all of them. Here is a link to a conversion chart, which includes most of these ingredients, with my apologies.

Note: you can increase the amount of cocoa and decrease the sugar if you want a more bitter cake.

For the cake

1 cup semolina flour or suitable gluten-free alternative, such as polenta flour

1 cup ground almonds (almond flour)

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used 70% dark)

½ teaspoon salt

Zest one lime

1 and ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 cup confectioners (icing) sugar

4 medium eggs, separated

100 g (6.5 tablespoons) butter, melted

2/3 cup caster sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the syrup

Juice two limes

½ cup confectioners sugar

¼ cup flaked almonds, toasted


Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit) and butter a springform cake pan.

Combine the semolina, almond flour, salt, baking powder, and lime zest in a mixing bowl. In another bowl, beat together the egg yolks, vanilla paste, melted butter, and confectioner’s sugar. It will have the consistency of thick custard.

DSC_0359aBeat the egg whites in a clean bowl using clean beaters until they are creamy. Slowly add the caster sugar, and continue to beat until the egg whites are stiff.

Using a rubber spatula, fold the egg yolk mixture and 1/3 of the egg whites into the dry ingredients. Then fold in the remaining egg whites, being careful not to overmix. Pour into your prepared cake pan and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the cake comes out dry.

While the cake is baking, combine the lime juice and confectioner’s sugar in a saucepan and heat over medium-low heat until the syrup is bubbling and thickened.

As soon as the cake is done, gently run a knife around the edge and loosen and remove the spring form side. Pour the syrup over the top of the cake, then sprinkle with the flaked almonds.  Cool completely before serving.

DSC_0366aMakes about 12 servings.

25 thoughts on “Chocolate Almond Lime Semolina Cake

  1. what a beautiful and mouth-watering cake, I’ve never read a recipe with the combination of chocolate and lime in baked goods but looking at your pictures, I bet that they go great together ^^

    • They really do complement each other. I decided to bake them together after I was served a dark chocolate and lime mousse, which was superb. I’m glad the experiment worked out. Thanks for the nice comment! 🙂

  2. I love all your recipes and blog posts and this one looks great. Just wanted to let you know however that semolina is not gluten free! So it might be okay for gluten-intolerant people who are not very sensitive but wouldn’t be okay for sensitive people or coeliacs. It might be worth putting a note in the recipe so that no one gets fed it by mistake and gets ill. I’ll still be trying the cake but will try a regular gf flour mix instead.

  3. I may not know how it tastes, Susan, but if it tastes half as good as it looks, this is one fantastic cake! I fear if I baked it, though, I’d eat it just as quickly as did your flatmate. I need to invite some people over here for a piece of cake — only 1 piece, though. My charity has its limits. 🙂

  4. Such an interesting combination! And I know exactly what you mean about the mania of props. I just keep reminding myself: this is no more insane than people who show animals at county fairs. It’s just a hobby, like any other. That being said, the photos are lovely. I especially like the one with the cocoa powder artfully sprinkled on the counter. 🙂

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  6. This looks amazing! I can’t believe that it is gluten-free! I can also understand the food styling bug. I confessed to sketching out what I want my shots to look like before I am even done cooking and my friend looked at me like I was insane!

  7. hi, thanks for this wonderful recipe was an instant hit with everyone who ate it ..the second time I made it though, I added 1 tablespoon of fresh cream to the yolk mixture before put it all together and it added a lighter softer texture .. but overall the recipe is definitely a keeper 🙂

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