This is a not an usual kind of cake. I have to say that so far in my baking expedition, this one is the one with a few unexpected ingredients brought together; the kinds that will make you wonder what it is going to the like and the combination of flavors and texture will take you surprise once you have taken a bite.
I had bookmarked this recipe of Chris Hanna from Food and Wine a couple of years back and did not bake it till very recently. There is nothing not to love about figs and chocolate though I never have combined the two together. The recipe mentions that the “…cake is Hanna’s riff on a baklava-like Syrian pastry made with semolina, honey and walnuts“. – a love at first sight for me; it had the word “baklava” in it. Did it taste like baklava? Not at all; the cake’s texture is complex, moist but but not sticky, crumbly but did not fall apart. At every little bite you will be reminded that it is not an everyday cake. The grainy texture of the semolina and the ground walnuts make a strong but lovely presence.
I made some changes to the original recipe. I have reduced the proportions a teeny tiny bit so it makes a smaller cake and also less butter and less eggs to keep up with the other ingredients. I have used more figs and less chocolate. I have been baking way too much, and guess who is eating them all after all the diet and healthy eating talk? The amount of honey and the sugar have been reduced. I felt I could use the ice cream or a drizzle of honey on the top if it needed us to. It did not need any extra sweet. It was perfect.
Syrian Walnut-Semolina Cake with Figs and Chocolate
- All-purpose flour, for dusting
- 1 cup walnut halves
- 3/4 cup semolina flour
- 1+ 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick butter (8 tablesoons) , softened
- 1/4 cup honey
- scant 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup dried black (like Mission figs), finely chopped
- 1/4 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
Optional (for serving): Vanilla ice cream/yogurt/honey
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with wax paper and butter the paper. Flour the pan, tapping out the excess.
Spread the walnut halves in a pie plate and toast them in the oven for 9 minutes, until fragrant. Let them cool completely.
In a food processor, process the walnuts with the semolina flour until finely ground. Add the baking powder and salt and process until incorporated.
In a large bowl, using a hand held electric mixer, beat the butter with the honey and sugar at medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between additions. Add the vanilla extract. At low speed, beat in the semolina flour mixture.
Add the chopped figs and chocolate chips and beat at low speed until evenly distributed or fold them in with a spoon.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake the cake on the middle rack of the oven for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Peel off the wax paper and invert the cake onto a large serving plate.
Cut the cake into wedges and serve with the ice cream/honey/yogurt.
This is one fantastic cake; very much like a coffee cake but let that not stop us from enjoying a slice for breakfast or dessert. The cake makes me think more of the autumn than the spring or summer, I do not know why! It is already included in our favorite recipe list. We have been having it just by itself, without any ice cream or yogurt. A light drizzle of honey would be wonderful too.