Sunday, March 24, 2013

On the first day of spring

The sun was out on the first day of spring, March twenty-first. The temperature was still low, it was terribly cold out, but there was something in the air that made me acutely aware of the change of seasons and what that would bring.

More sunshine, more light, more open windows and the sweet smell of flowers wafting in, berries, spring vegetables, and all the possibilities for delicious and colorful plates of food.

I turned my gaze to the dining room table and my eye caught a glimpse of the fruit basket. It was filled with grapefruits, tangerines and blood oranges and I immediately became aware of yet another thing. Of all that I would be missing once spring would arrive for good.

The citrus fruits, the cold nights sitting by a warm fire, the citrus fruits. Yes, I know I’ve said that twice but really, that’s all I’m going to miss from winter. The rest I’m sick of already.

I never get tired of citrus fruits and I always seem to rediscover their beauty once their season is almost over. I feel like I need to get the best out of them to last me for a whole year. I love their versatility, their aroma and vibrant color, their unique flavor and all that they can bring to a dessert, a cake, a granita.

On the first day of spring, I made a cake; a blood orange and Campari cake that was dreamy and everything it promised it would be. A luscious semolina and almond cake with Greek yoghurt and zest of the citrus fruit; with a syrup made with blood orange juice and the highly aromatic apéritif that soaked the cake, balancing the contrasting flavors and rendering a slight bitterness.

Filled with the sweet and acidic taste of blood oranges, the bitterness and spiciness of the Campari, the crunch of the semolina and ground almonds, it was overwhelmingly flavorful, so much so that S and I couldn’t stop eating it. And the color, oh the color, it was something truly inspiring.

Without a doubt, the best dessert I’ve tasted in a while, it surely deserves a place in your heart as well. Hurry now, grab those last blood oranges and make this.

Blood Orange, Campari and Semolina Syrup Cake
Slightly adapted from Polpo

Even though this is a syrup cake, it is not too sweet, as the bitter and acidic notes harmonize its flavors. Make sure to pair it with clotted cream (if you can find it, thankfully I can) or vanilla ice cream.

I always grind my own blanched almonds because the already ground ones are more expensive and not as fresh. You too can grind your own almonds in a food processor, being careful though not to turn them into a paste.

Yield: 10-12 servings


for the cake
Zest of 4 blood oranges
350 g Greek strained yoghurt, full-fat
300 g caster sugar
4 medium-sized eggs, lightly beaten with a fork
250 g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
350 g fine semolina
100 g blanched ground almonds

Unsalted butter for greasing the pan

for the syrup
680 ml fresh blood orange juice (from about 8 fruits)
110 ml Campari
300 g caster sugar

Special equipment: round springform pan 22-23 cm in diameter, rasp grater


for the cake
Preheat your oven to 170 degrees Celsius / 340 Fahrenheit.

Prepare your pan by greasing the base and sides with butter.

In a large bowl, add the zest of the blood oranges, the yoghurt, sugar, the lightly beaten eggs and the melted and cooled butter. Stir well with a spatula until you have a homogenous mixture and add the semolina and ground almonds. Mix well with the spatula and empty the mixture into the prepared pan. The mixture will be thick and you will need to level the top with the spatula or the back of a spoon.

Place the pan on the middle rack of the preheated oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Remove the pan from the oven and onto a wire rack. Leave the cake to cool in the pan.

for the syrup
While the cake is cooking, prepare the syrup which should be poured hot on the warm cake.

In a medium-sized, heavy-based saucepan, add the blood orange juice, Campari and sugar and place over a medium heat. Stir with a spoon until the sugar melts and bring syrup to the boil. Turn heat down to low and simmer the syrup for 30 minutes, or until you have a slightly thick syrup, skimming the white foam that gathers on top.

Prick the cake all over with a skewer and pour the hot syrup over the top in two batches, waiting until the cake absorbs it before adding more. Allow the cake to absorb the syrup and cool down completely. Then remove the interlocking side band of the pan and serve the cake, cut into slices.

Serve with clotted cream, whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

The cake will keep for 4-5 days, covered, at room temperature and it doesn’t lose its wonderful flavor, on the contrary it becomes even better.


  1. Your cake looks beautiful!The blood orange juice gives it an amazing colour.

  2. I miss blood oranges so much. It's all about autumn fruits and vegetables here now. Not that I'm complaining. Love this cake!

  3. Magda! Blood Orange season is my favourite time of the year! As John just said - we are heading straight for Autumn here in Australia so we have a bit of a wait to be able to make this. I also just love Campari with blood orange juice. Ah you have done it again - each recipe you turn out is just so beautiful.

  4. oh my goodness, this looks amazing! i adore both blood oranges and campari!

  5. Beautiful and delicious I am sure: I baked another syrup soaked cake of yours a while back and it was a revelation.

  6. This looks incredible! I love campari - and yeah, good call on the DIY almond processing.

  7. wow, this is wonderful, a perfect cake to celebrate something and so I will make it and celebrate Mother's Day that I missed and Easter and Spring! Love citrus too, and really miss it in the Summer, so there is still time to make it. I had been thinking of making a similar cake for months now so there it is.

  8. This a beautifully done cake! I am a big lover of blood oranges and citrus of all kinds as well. The winter is when we get the most wonderful variety so I, too, will miss all the lovely citrus in the summer, but not the cold nights!

  9. Blood oranges are one of my favorite things about winter. This cake looks awesome!


  10. It looks like an amazing semolina cake recipe. Blood oranges are out of season here at the moment. Could you use lemons or perhaps even a combination of lemons and oranges. Would the sugar need to be adjusted?

  11. Love this cake with the campari! Must be delicious!

  12. This is such a beautiful cake (and love the plate, too! and your wooden bowl...) and I can taste the flavors on my tongue as I look at your photos. This is our favorite kind of dessert - I will report back after making it! ~ David

  13. Hi Magda, thanks so much for posting this! You mention that you are able to get clotted cream - I'm intrigued as I'm also in The Hague and have so far only been able to find it in the expat shops in bottles, at a high cost and not the best I've tasted. Do tell - have you located another source??!!

    ~ Mary

  14. Gerlinde in Dallas — thank you very much!

    john — thank you! It's always so strange to me to think that in your part of the world is always a different season than over here. Autumn has some great fruits though, right? Figs! Grapes!

    Anna @ The Littlest Anchovy — thank you. I'm so glad you like it. The combination of flavors is indeed superb!

    ahu — I never drink Campari, I find it too bitter for my taste, but in this cake it works beautifully!

    Nuts about food — oh you mean ravani?! Yes, that is classic. This is syrup cake with a twist ;)

    Banana Wonder — yes! I never buy the pre-ground ones. They always go stale super quickly and they're so expensive too.

    tasteofbeirut — I hope you enjoy it Joumana. It is a truly delicious cake and quite unique!

    Teresa — oh the cold nights linger over here. Where is our Spring??

    We Are Not Martha — thank you Sues!

    thebackyardlemontree — I don't believe lemons would work in the cake, but oranges would. Oranges are far sweeter than blood oranges though so I would suggest you add less sugar to the cake. Let me know how you liked it if you try it!

    Pola — it is!

    David — I love this plate as well. You always notice these things, David :) I hope you enjoy it! I'd love to know what you thought.

    Mary — hi! I find clotted cream at expat shops as well, but also at Sligro and Jumbo. The brand is the same in all stores/supermarkets, I don't know if it's the same as the one you're referring to, the name is "The Devon cream company". I think it's delicious!

  15. I am always grateful for the citrus fruits in winter that bring in that sunshine from another place. Look at the gorgeous color of that glaze. Stunning, Magda!

  16. Magda, I've never thought to make semolina cake with blood oranges - it looks absolutely brilliant against the neutral tones of the crockery. Just beautiful. Your recipes are so well documented and photographed. I love your blog!