Orange, semolina and coconut syrup cakes

Orange coconut and semolina cakes with orange blossom syrup and marmalade glaze.
Orange coconut and semolina cakes with orange blossom syrup and marmalade glaze. Photo: William Meppem

Joining Ottolenghi opened up the world of Middle Eastern cakes to me, this recipe in particular convincing me that syrup cakes could be really special. Use a good-quality orange blossom water and stick to the amount specified – you want to taste its distinctive floral note without being reminded of your great-aunt's perfume.


150g semolina

70g self-raising flour

50g castor sugar

50g desiccated coconut, plus extra

30g for garnish

1 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

3 eggs

180ml freshly squeezed orange juice

120ml sunflower or canola oil

120g marmalade, plus extra 45g for glazing

1 orange, zested

For the syrup

150g castor sugar

100ml water

1 tbsp orange blossom water  (I like the Cortas brand)


1. Preheat the oven to 190C (170C fan-forced). Grease and flour a 12-hole muffin tin.

2. Place semolina, flour, sugar, coconut, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Whisk lightly to combine.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, orange juice, oil, marmalade and zest together, then pour into the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Spoon the mixture into the 12 muffin holes so they are just over three-quarters up the sides. Place into preheated oven and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

4. While cakes are in the oven, make the syrup by combining the ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 1 minute. Turn heat off and set aside.

5. When the cakes are cooked, remove from oven and spoon the warm syrup over the top while still in their moulds. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then use a small spatula to ease them out of the moulds and onto a serving plate.

6. Heat the extra marmalade in a small saucepan with a tablespoon of water until warm and runny, then use a pastry brush to brush the tops of the cakes lightly. Cover half the tops of the cakes with a small piece of baking paper, then sprinkle the exposed half liberally with the extra desiccated coconut.