French Fridays with Dorie: Caramel-topped semolina cake

Semolina cake from Around my French Table on eatlivetravelwrite.comIt’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.

50 thoughts on “French Fridays with Dorie: Caramel-topped semolina cake”

  1. 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.

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  2. 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!! 🙂

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  3. 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!

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  5. 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.

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  6. 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.

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    • 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!

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  7. 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.

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  8. 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.

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  9. 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!

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  10. 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!

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  11. 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!

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  12. 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!

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