So, I was thinking about the suji cake I made earlier this month. It was quite delectable, and very rustic. Nubbly bits of almonds gave it texture and a deliciously different crumb. It was the suji cake of my memory and my childhood… But there were a few things about it that annoyed. First and foremost, you really had to make this cake with forethought. No popping a few ingredients together, and quickly baking in the oven. The butter and suji had to be left for a while to get acquainted, which is fine if you have the time, but if you really want suji cake right here, right now, could be a bit frustrating.
There was another suji cake of my memory that was slightly smoother, more pudding-y, with the same gorgeous scent, and since I havent been well, and have not had much to do, I decided to try and see if I could come close to making it. I succeeded quite well with this cake, and it took about 20 minutes to put together, and a further 20 – 30 minutes in a hot oven to bake. Easy and quick, this is a different suji cake, but just as comforting, just as golden, and just as open to interpretation – may be even more so.
I used vanilla to scent this cake, but you could certainly go with cinnamon, some almond essence, the grated rind of an orange or lemon… Go with what comforts you, and get semolina that is as fine as possible… and yet, not floury. You want the texture and the bite of the semolina in this cake. Its a big part of what makes it so unique.
If the previous cake was a bit intimidating, start with this one. Its a pleasure to make, and a joy to smell baking in the oven. Its a fantastic little cake to offer friends who are dropping by for tea. It creates happy happy memories, even when you might be struggling with a cold, or tiredness, or just the regular woes of the world. A little sifted icing sugar, or a simple glaze, or a smear of buttercream elevates this cake, but its so good it doesnt really need it. As you can tell from the photo – I was so greedy for a taste, I sliced it straight out of the pan, without waiting to sift any icing sugar on my bit.
This little golden cake seems to say, for that one glorious instant, its OK. Just have some cake, and be happy.
Makes 1 9-inch cake
- 1 3/4 stick (12 tbsp) butter, slightly softened
- 3/4 cup icing (powdered) sugar plus an additional / optional 1/4 cup for sifting over cake if you wish
- 5 eggs separated – 5 yolks plus 4 whites (the extra white can be discarded or saved for a future use)
- 1 tbsp sour cream
- 1 tbsp vanilla essence (or 1 vanilla bean scraped – or in fact, and flavouring that seems to catch your fancy)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup fine semolina
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup ground almonds
Preheat your oven to 175C (350F). Butter a 9-inch cake tin, and line with baking paper. Butter that too, and set the cake tin aside.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter until soft and slightly fluffy. Add 3/4 cup icing sugar, and cream well. It will look like the beginning of buttercream. I decided to use icing sugar in this recipe because I wanted the softness of the cake to be highlighted. The fineness of the icing sugar really helped.
Add the 5 egg yolks, one at a time, beating on low speed after each addition until fully incorporated, before you add the next. This cake, while quite quick and easy, also relies on a slow and gentle process of addition of each ingredient. I used a stand mixer, and as I added each egg yolk only after I separated it from its white. This gave the batter a period of slow steady incorporation of each yolk before the next was added.
Once all five yolks have been added, you should have a gloriously golden batter. Add the sour cream and vanilla essence, pausing to combine after each addition.
In a measuring cup, combine the salt, semolina and baking powder, and stir with a fork to combine. Add to the egg-butter-sugar mixture in a slow steady stream, beating with a stand mixer or electric beaters all the while, on medium low. Keep beating for about a minute, and then add the ground almonds in a steady stream, beating all the while.
Once the mixture has been well combined, set it aside for at least ten minutes or so.
Clean your beaters, and in a clean bowl, whisk the 4 egg whites until they hold firm peaks. If you turn the bowl upside down, and the egg whites stay, then they are ready – though I would not suggest you do this unless youre sure, or you have extra egg whites to work with!
Once the batter has sat for the requisite time, fold in the beaten egg whites, in three batches, combining extremely well. You need to make sure the batter is fully incorporated. The egg whites will lighten the colour and texture of the mixture. You shouldnt beat them into the batter, but you dont need to be timid about mixing them in firmly with a spatula.
Turn out the batter into your prepared tin, and bake for 20 – 30 minutes, or until the cake is firm to the touch, and a tester inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Let cool for five minutes in the pan, and then turn out onto a cake rack, and turn right side up again. Cover with sifted icing sugar if you like.
A warm slice of this cake will ease just about anything that ails you 🙂 Enjoy.