Pistachio and Rose Water Semolina Cake

Desserts from London's Ottolenghi
Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh

Recipe

Making this cake is a labor of love, but that’s only appropriate, we think, for a cake adorned with rose petals. If you want to save time, however, you can do without the petals or use store-bought dried rose petals—the cake and cream are both special enough for those you feed to know you love them. If you are going all out with the roses, red or pink petals are a matter of preference; the red petals will turn a deep purple once candied.

The cake keeps well for up to 5 days in an airtight container. The rose petals should be sprinkled over just before serving.

Yield
10 - 12
Servings

Ingredients

Candied Rose Petals (if using)

  • 1 large egg white
  • About 40 medium pesticide-free
  • red or pink rose petals
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar

Cake

  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 1 cup/150 g shelled pistachio kernels, plus 2 tbsp, finely chopped, to serve
  • 1 cup/100 g almond meal
  • 3/4 cup plus 3 tbsp/170 g fine semolina
  • 1¼ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1¼ cups plus 1 tbsp/300 g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed, plus extra for greasing
  • 1 2/3 cups/330 g granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon (1 tsp), plus 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp rose water (not rose essence, see page 355)
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract

Rose Cream

  • 3/4 cup/190 g plain Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 cup/200 g crème fraîche
  • 1 tbsp confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tbsp rose water

Rose Syrup

  • 1/2 cup/120 ml lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup/80 ml rose water
  • 1/2 cup/100 g granulated sugar

Steps

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°F/100°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and grease a 9-inch/23-cm round springform pan and line with parchment paper.
  2. To make the candied rose petals, if doing so, whisk the egg white by hand until frothy. Then, using a small pastry brush or paintbrush, very lightly paint both sides of each petal with the egg white; do this in a few small batches, brushing and then sprinkling lightly over both sides with the sugar. Shake off the excess sugar and lay the petals on the lined baking sheet. Place in the oven for 30 minutes, until dry and crunchy, then set aside to cool.
  3. To make the cake, increase the oven temperature to 350°F/180°C.
  4. Use the flat side of a large knife to crush the cardamom pods and place the seeds in the small bowl of a food processor. The pods can be discarded. Add the pistachios and process until the nuts are finely ground—the black cardamom seeds won’t really grind down—then transfer to a bowl. Add the almond meal, semolina, baking powder and salt. Mix together and set aside.
  5. Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment in place. Beat on medium-high speed until fully combined, but take care not to overwork it; you don’t want to incorporate a lot of air into the mixture. With the machine still running, slowly add the eggs, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times and making sure that each batch is fully incorporated before adding the next. The mixture will curdle once the eggs are added, but don’t worry; this will not affect the end result.
  6. Remove the bowl from the machine and add the dry ingredients, folding them in by hand and, again, taking care not to overmix. Next fold in the lemon zest, lemon juice, rose water and vanilla extract and scrape the batter into the pan. Level with an offset spatula and bake for 55–60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean but oily.
  7. To make the rose cream while the cake is in the oven, place all the ingredients for the cream in a bowl and use a hand whisk to beat everything together for about 2 minutes, until thick. Keep in the fridge until ready to serve.
  8. To make the rose syrup, about 10 minutes before the cake comes out of the oven (you want the syrup to be warm when the cake is ready), place all the ingredients for the syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring so that the sugar dissolves, then remove from the heat. Don’t worry that the consistency is thinner than you might expect; this is how it should be.
  9. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, drizzle all of the syrup over the top. It is a lot of syrup, but don’t lose your nerve—the cake can take it! Sprinkle with the finely chopped pistachios and set the cake aside in its pan to come to room temperature. Remove from the pan and scatter the rose petals over the cake. Serve immediately.