Tag Archives: sooji

Suji (Semolina) Cake 2

19 Nov

HappySo, 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 πŸ™‚ Enjoy.

 

Suji (Semolina) Cake

2 Nov

CakeLast weekend, at the family BBQ, my Mak Enda and Kak Manja really enjoyed the lemon bundt cake. They liked its simplicity and charming tartness, the fluffy texture, and as well as the addition of whipped cream and strawberries! But of course, they are Malaysians… and so, they started to dream about the next cake they wanted to taste, whilst reveling in the lemon one πŸ˜‰

And the cake they wanted was suji (aka sooji aka sugee aka semolina) cake. Suji is the coarse, purified wheat middlings of durum wheat – and it is an extraordinary and much used grain all over the world. The Italians use it to make pasta and pizza and breads. Indians use it to make dosa and uppam. And the list goes on and on. I have posted a recipe for white chocolate semolina pudding that sent some friends into total ecstasies. I love suji, and suji cake is a particular emotive memory for me.

Malaysians (of all races, creeds and kinds) are very attached to suji cake. Its kind of like our version of pound cake. Buttery, fluffy, rich and yet incredibly simple. It is pure deliciousness. The suji cake of my memory has almonds in it – crushed ground almonds, and little chunks of almonds. You can leave them out, but why would you want to? They give the cake a wonderfully grainy texture that stands up to the semolina, and enhances the crumb. We Malaysians serve this little cake at almost all the high holidays, and though many people adorn it (with rose syrup, glazes and icings), I am not in that camp. I like my suji cake plain and unadorned, perfect in its simplicity and golden beauty.

For me, suji cake is the ultimate coffee cake. Its not too sweet, its immensely satisfying and very very comforting. When people taste it they smile, and remember a time when things were easier, less complicated, when they were more connected. Its a cake to give to those you love, wrapped carefully in aluminum foil, knowing that they will appreciate it for its clean loveliness as much as you do.

But know this. Despite its almost stark simplicity, suji cake does have its secrets. You need to soak the suji in butter, sugar and a touch of milk to allow the grains to plump up a bit. Some recipes ask that you do this overnight, but I am too impatient and have found that about an hour will do me. You need to beat the eggs and sugar for at least five minutes to get air into the mix, but also to get a almost puddingy consistency. And you need to watch the cake – the top burns easily, so I almost always put a little foil cap on it for the last half of the baking time. And it really does help if you have a stand mixer, but a hand held, or your own strength will do – it will just be rather tiring!

Follow these instructions closely, and you will have a cake that tastes like home… no matter where you are πŸ™‚

  • 1 3/4 sticks (14 tbsp/200 gm) butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup + 1/2 cup fine (caster) sugar – brown or white is fine – and make these scant cups – suji cake is not overwhelmingly sweet
  • 3 tbsp cream or milk
  • 3/4 cup suji or semolina
  • 3 eggs + 2 egg yolks (whites reserved for another use)
  • 2 – 4 tbsp vanilla
  • 2/3 cup all purpose flour (it needs to be all purpose to stand up to the suji and the almonds)
  • 1 tsp Β baking powder
  • Large pinch of salt
  • 2/3 cup ground almonds
  • 1/2 cup almond nibs or finely chopped almonds

Start by preparing the suji mixture. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and 1/2 cup of sugar for about a minute or so, or until light and fluffy and completely combined. Add the cream, and mix briefly – it will loosen up the butter mixture substantially. Fold in the suji by hand, cover the bowl and leave in a cool place to let the mixture really get to combine well for at least an hour, and up to three.

While youre waiting, read a book, play with a child, listen to music or cook something else πŸ˜‰

Once the hour is up, preheat the oven to 180C (350F) and butter a cake pan extremely well. Line the bottom of the pan with grease proof baking paper, and butter that too. Set aside.

Beat together the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, the eggs, egg yolks and vanilla for five minutes. It would help if you have a friendly kitchen gnome to do this for you whilst you get on with other things (that or a stand mixer!).

In a small bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt, ground almonds and almond nibs. Just a note on ground almonds. They tend to be rather expensive, so I often pound almond nibs into ground almonds – this is very easy if you measure out the almonds, stick them in a zip loc bag and bash away with a rolling pin or other heavy object. You can also use a mortar and pestle, but thats sometimes more trouble than its worth. Either way, I always use almond nibs for this recipe, without the skins on, and give them a good whack till they are pulverised. Combine the flour mixture well and set aside.

By now, the eggs should have been beaten for at least five minutes. They should have increased in volume, and they will look golden and creamy. Uncover the butter-sugar-suji mix, and get ready to combine everything.

Gently, using a wooden spoon or silicon spatula, fold about half of the egg mixture into the butter mixture. Do this quickly, surely and gently. Fold about half of the flour in, and then add the remaining eggs, and finally the remaining flour, folding gently but confidently after each addition.

Transfer the batter into your prepared cake tin, and bake, in the centre of your oven for between 30 – 45 minutes. Check at about 15 minutes to make sure the top is not burning, and if it is, cover the cake with a bit of tin foil. The cake is ready when a tester goes in, and comes out clean.

YummmLet the cake cool, in the pan, for about ten minutes on a rack. Then turn out onto the rack, and turn right side up again. Cool further, or if you are like me, and your happiness cant wait, serve yourself a slice, warm, crumbly, buttery, almondy, vanillay, delectably evocative, warm from the oven.

This cake will keep, wrapped well in foil for at least 4-5 days in the fridge. But I have never managed to keep it for that long πŸ˜‰