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French Fridays with Dorie: Caramel-topped semolina cake

It’s funny – when I lived in France, I missed the most inane things. Amongst which were cake mixes. Now before you get on my back about “real food”, I have two caveats to offer: 1. I was very young. 2. I lived in a teeny tiny chambre de bonne (basically a glorified cupboard on the top floor of a Parisian building) for over four years with no kitchen and definitely no cupboard space to even store things like flour, let along bowls and utensils.  So when I would visit my sister who was living in Oxford and later, London (amongst other more exotic locales), I would always buy a cake mix (or sometimes we would have mum send them over from Australia) and make one. Also, in France, there were odd cake mixes. Nothing like the aisles of processed boxed cake mixes you find here (or in Australia for that matter). No, exotic sounding things like “Gâteau de Semoule (de mon enfance)”… Which just happened to be this week’s French Fridays with Dorie submission (it’s on  pp 438-439)

(image from the Alsa website).

Now I never had one of these mixes but I did taste, on occasion (ahem) gâteau de semoule from pâtisseries and in restaurants. It’s an odd dessert – kinda nursery comfort food (Dorie says all her French friends have childhood memories of this cake but noone knew the recipe since they had only tasted the packet version) but it can be dolled up to look quite fancy. And of course, when Dorie Greenspan makes one, it’s on the fancy side!  But only in terms of presentation – it’s dead simple to make.  The “semoule” is in fact, cream of wheat and can be found alongside other hot cereals like oatmeal in the cereal section of the supermarket.  Dorie’s recipe calls for raisins but since t’is the season, I used dried cranberries and was so happy with the colours :-)

It’s quite a flat cake but yours do not have to be as pancakey as mine. Let me explain.

Last weekend when I was making this, I was in the middle of a pumpkin baking frenzy (thank you Project Food Blog. I might never eat another pumpkin again. Watch out for the results of the pumkinpalooza on Sunday…) and couldn’t bear the thought of a large cake.  Even a Dorie recipe. So I thought I would be clever and make two tiny ones (halving the recipe) in my mini springform pans. Which, by the way, is not the type of pan Dorie calls for.

So not only did my caramel mostly run out onto the baking tray (thank god for parchment paper) but also the cakes were quite flat. In fact one of them was so flat it died on me before it cooled down. The other? A delicious memory for me of the good old days in France. Even without a kitchen or an oven.  Thanks Dorie. Sorry Neil, you didn’t get to try this one. Next time. Readers, follow the recipe. Do as I say, not as I do ;-)

Want to join in the fun? Join French Fridays with Dorie here and follow along on Twitter.

A few people have asked for recipes for the French Fridays with Dorie entries.  The group does not publish the recipes on our blogs, rather, we would prefer it if you would purchase the book yourselves (you definitely want this book!) which you can do here on Amazon (great price right now) or here on Amazon Canada (it’s also on special!)

Yes, I am thrilled to announce I have made it to Round 8 of Project Food Blog. I am one of 24 people left from an original 600 contestants.  Thank you all for reading and voting (and watching my video!) – my next post (getting creative with baked goods featuring pumpkin) will be up on Sunday.

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50 Responses to French Fridays with Dorie: Caramel-topped semolina cake

  1. Belinda @zomppa November 26, 2010 at 08:32 #

    What a great delicious recipe!!

  2. Flourchild November 26, 2010 at 08:55 #

    I made this cake too..mine was flast and the caramel looked more like a glaze..but the best thing is I loved it! The cake mix for this is so cool thanks for sharing!

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite November 30, 2010 at 06:30 #

      See now I was hoping the caramel would be more like a glaze. Perhaps if I used the proper pan…. ;-)

  3. dorie November 26, 2010 at 08:56 #

    Small and flat, the cakes still look so delicious. You’re right — ’tis the season, so I think I’ll be putting cranberries in my cake this weekend.

  4. Betsy November 26, 2010 at 09:27 #

    My cake was flat too. Yours looks yummy! I like the idea about the cranberries. The color is fun!

  5. Lindsey @ Gingerbread Bagels November 26, 2010 at 09:47 #

    I’m so glad to see that you made with cake with all of the different baking projects you have right now. (good luck with PFB by the way!) Your cake turned out delicious looking to me!! I would glady devour the whole cake you made. This is my absolute favorite recipe from French Fridays with Dorie that we’ve made so far. I need to make it again. LOVE IT!! :)

  6. Megan November 26, 2010 at 10:26 #

    Congrats on making it to this round… you deserve it! I love the French Friday Thingy….. I am over to check it out!
    xoxo
    Megan

  7. Joy November 26, 2010 at 10:57 #

    Hmmm that looks great.

  8. sara @CaffeIna November 26, 2010 at 11:47 #

    You know, semolina is very much used in Italy too and it usually speaks of childhood memories. However, if you ask an Italian a semolina cake recipe you probably won’t get an answer either…so funny….your story totally brought me back to Italy. I had to look into Pellegrino Artusi recipes. Now I’ll have to try Dorie’s cause her recipe never fail!

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite November 30, 2010 at 06:29 #

      Dorie’s recipes never fail – that’s why I love them! (er especially when you follow the recipe!!!). I bet there are a ton of Europeans who know this cake but don’t know the recipe…

  9. Suzanne November 26, 2010 at 12:11 #

    I love your addition of dried cranberries!! Looks beautiful!! I’m wondering, would dried cherries work as well? Might go for that when I make mine.

  10. Anna Johnston November 26, 2010 at 17:25 #

    Haven’t had a caramel-topped semolina cake, nice memories of these little ones. thanks for sharing.

  11. Stephanie November 26, 2010 at 17:32 #

    That looks rather good. Would go great with a nice cup of hot tea. Scrumptious!

  12. StephIrey November 26, 2010 at 18:01 #

    Love the cranberries…and the flat cake. I love experimenting too…you never know what’s going to happen. Congrats on making it to Round 8!!!

  13. Sarah, Maison Cupcake November 26, 2010 at 19:10 #

    Ooh this sounds nice, I am having a bit of a semolina moment this week… had it tonight with chocolate and baileys in it! I like idea of a cake.

  14. Sandy November 26, 2010 at 20:26 #

    Mardi, even your mistakes look wonderful. Congratulations on making it thru the video portion of Project Food Blog.

  15. sophia November 26, 2010 at 21:16 #

    Wow that looks really rich, moist, and yummy. I feel like I’ve seen that mix box before…probably in Singapore, where European stuff is more familiar.

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite November 30, 2010 at 06:26 #

      Yes I wouldn’t be surprised to see it in Asia – they seem to love all things European. In my neighbourhood, if it’s not Polish, you won’t find it! Having said that, the cake was so easy that I wouldn’t ever bother looking for the mix again!

  16. Krissy November 26, 2010 at 21:51 #

    Such a lovely post…enjoyed reading it. Your cake looks pretty in the photo and I’m sure it was tasty. I enjoyed this little pastry with the caramel top and I’m happy that it brought good memories to you.

  17. MarocMama November 26, 2010 at 23:30 #

    I made this recipe last week too and mine turned out flatter than I was expecting. I love that you made it with cranberries!

  18. Conor @ Hold the Beef November 27, 2010 at 02:20 #

    One of my favourite things to make when I was younger was a Krazy Kake (I think it had ks.. I could actually be making that up though) packet cake. They had a few versions but the ULTIMATE one was a green cake with purple icing (or possibly the other way round). My two favourite colours!

    Then they stopped making the mixes and I was heartbroken.

    I think many of us must have deep dark packet cake secrets in our past. I’m sure if I tasted this cake now I’d find it awful, but I’ll always look back fondly on those krazy, krazy times.

    Now, this pancake-cake looks delicious, and give how much I like cake and how much I like pancakes I am sure I’d like this twice as much as either of those.

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite November 30, 2010 at 06:24 #

      You see, I didn’t even have to read the description of Krazy Kake to know I was going to “love” it. Then when I read about the colours… oh my. I wonder if you can still find it somewhere…

  19. penny aka jeroxie November 27, 2010 at 02:38 #

    flat cake? it does look like a yummy cookie! congras and good luck to the next round babe!

  20. Teresa November 28, 2010 at 00:32 #

    When I saw your first picture, I assumed it was a full-sized cake and wondered if you’d used cherries. Flat or not, the cake at that size looks elegant with the cranberries.

    Congratulations on moving forward in your competition!

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite November 30, 2010 at 06:23 #

      Thanks so much. I am glad I did not make a whole cake since I would probably have eaten the lot!

  21. Lana November 28, 2010 at 02:39 #

    Hey, my cake was flat, too, but nevertheless it was incredibly delicious. I have seen the mixes in Germany, while visiting my sister, but this recipe was so simple that I cannot imagine using the mix.
    I was also thinking of using cranberries, but could not tell the difference in my baggies (I buy them in bulk) between cranberries and cherries, and husband is deadly allergic to cherries.
    I am impressed by your organizational skills and multitasking. You are a super-woman:)
    Good luck in PFB!

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite November 30, 2010 at 06:23 #

      Thank you so much for your support and oh, cherries – that would be good (unless one is allergic!). Yes, I can’t imagine using a mix for this one either – so easy!

  22. Allison November 28, 2010 at 18:19 #

    You’ve lived in Paris? Je suis tres jaloux! You lived without a kitchen, but Paris! Your cake turned out gorgeous. My attempt was more about burnt caramel…although I might try again. Thanks for sharing!

  23. Ann (napangel) November 29, 2010 at 16:07 #

    It may be a little flat, but it’s gorgeous just the same!

  24. riceandwheat November 30, 2010 at 22:54 #

    I wrote this on someone else’s blog too but this Dorie Greenspan book is following me everywhere I go on the blogosphere. I think I should take it as a sign that it’s time to clear out some space on my cookbook shelf for it? Especially if it comes with the recipe for this. I love semolina and have been dying to try using it in desserts!

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite December 1, 2010 at 21:56 #

      Er yes, you TOTALLY need to get this cookbook. You will not be disappointed. It’s the best cookbook I have seen in a long time – every recipe is amazing and they WORK!

  25. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction December 8, 2010 at 19:58 #

    That looks like a lovely cake. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!

  26. Matthew December 14, 2010 at 11:01 #

    Can almost smell the aroma just by looking at the cake.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Matthew

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