In the early months of the year, the produce options can feel a bit limited. Berries are crazy expensive, stone fruits are even worse, and everything feels a bit dull. However, what some people don’t realize is that winter is citrus season!
Now is the time to experiment with blood oranges, grapefruit, bergamot lemons… etc. Not only is citrus in season, but here in England forced rhubarb is upon us! You might not be able to find it at every grocery store (mine didn’t have it), but Borough Market is currently in supply.
I’ve always loved rhubarb, even as a kid. I remember my mom picking my sister Bethany and I big pieces from her plant, and we would dip the ends in sugar and eat them. We were weird.
But I digress… back to the recipe!
I’ve been getting tons of recipes and inspiration from Waitrose’s monthly magazine. It’s free for people who sign up for their Waitrose rewards card, and chock full of great recipes. I’ve made a lot so far, and haven’t had a bad one yet!
Not only are the recipes good, but the magazine highlights what’s in season for that month, and does a series of recipes based on it. For the February magazine there were lots in there with rhubarb and blush oranges, and this recipe was the first on my list! (Side note – are those different from blood oranges? The ones I bought said “blood’ but were nowhere near as deep red as the kind back in Canada – perhaps they were blush?)
I have had cakes made with polenta (corn meal back home) before, and loved them (I love corn bread too!!). When I first read this recipe, I thought it was a polenta cake – but instead, this one is made with finer semolina flour. Oh well, I was still curious to try it!
The original recipe said to bake this cake in a skillet, but as we don’t have one, I transferred it to a simple round cake tin instead. Feel free to use a cast iron skillet if you have one available.
At first the cake seems very, very dry – but that is where the blood orange syrup comes in! I’d suggest possibly adding the juice and zest from another orange to the mix, as I think the flavor would be even better. Make sure to flip your cake after the five minutes so that the juice doesn’t get all absorbed at one end, instead of being distributed evenly. (I made that mistake and found the bottom a tad dry – but serving it with the suggested greek yogurt adds a lovely tang and moisture!)
If you’re feeling up for something a tad different, or just want an excuse to eat more cake, try this one on for size!
Rhubarb and Blood Orange Semolina Cake
- 1-2 blush/blood oranges zest and juice*
- 250 g caster sugar
- 12 cardamom pods
- 40 g unsalted butter
- 500 g rhubarb cut into 4-5 cm pieces
- 225 g greek yogurt plus additional for serving
- 100 ml olive oil
- 2 large eggs
- 160 g semolina
- 80 g all-purpose flour
- 1.75 tsp baking powder
- 50 g ground almonds
- 30 g chopped pistachios optional**
- In a small saucepan, set over medium heat, stir together the orange juice, 125 g of the caster sugar, and 125 ml water. Gently bring to a boil, then reduce the heat a little, and simmer for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (356°F). Grease and line the bottom of a 9" (24 cm) cake tin with parchment paper.
- Crack open the cardamom pods and crush the seeds with a mortar and pestle***. Melt the butter in a frying pan (or skillet - if baking in one) over medium low heat. Sprinkle in 75 g of caster sugar and heat for 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle over the crushed cardamom seeds, stir, and take off the heat.
- Place the butter mixture in the bottom of your cake tin (or leave in the skillet) and pile on the rhubarb.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt, oil, eggs, and orange zest. In another bowl, whisk together the semolina, flour, baking powder, ground almond, remaining 50 g sugar, and a pinch of salt.
- Fold the dry mixture into the wet, until completely combined. Spoon mixture into the cake tin, starting around the edges to keep the rhubarb in the centre. Smooth over the top.
- Bake in the oven for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Right after you take the cake out of the oven, pierce all over with a toothpick, and pour over the cooled syrup (do not remove from pan).
- Leave the cake in the pan for 5 minutes, then invert onto a plate. Sprinkle over the pistachios (if using) and allow to sit for at least 20 minutes to fully absorb the syrup.
- Serve with some additional greek yogurt (sweetened if desired).
** I forgot to add these before taking photos
*** I don't have a mortar and pestle, so didn't crush the seeds (you can see them in my photos).