Lemon Semolina Cake

Cling to the flavors of summer with this light citrus layer cake that’s ideal for entertaining. Fluffy whipped mascarpone frosting works as a creamy counterpoint to acidic and savory flavors of fresh lemon and bright olive oil. For an extra dose of citrus, we top our cake with crisp, caramelized lemon slices. Find more recipes for baking with olive oil in the September/October issue, here

Lemon Semolina Cake
Makes 1 (9-inch) cake
  • 6 large eggs (300 grams)
  • 1½ cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (224 grams) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup (240 grams) whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon (2 grams) lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon (15 grams) fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon (2 grams) vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups (313 grams) all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup (75 grams) semolina flour
  • 1 tablespoon (15 grams) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (3 grams) kosher salt
  • Caramelized Lemons (recipe follows)
  • Whipped Mascarpone (recipe follows)
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Spray 2 (9-inch) round cake pans with baking spray with flour; line bottom of pans with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat eggs and sugar at high speed for 30 seconds. Add oil in a slow, steady stream, beating until combined. Add milk, beating until combined. Reduce mixer speed to low. Beat in lemon zest and juice and vanilla.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to egg mixture, beating until combined, stopping to scrape sides of bowl. Divide batter between prepared pans.
  4. Bake until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool in pans for 5 minutes. Remove from pans, and let cool completely on a wire rack. Brush top of cake layers with reserved lemon simple syrup from Caramelized Lemons. Spread half of Whipped Mascarpone onto one layer. Top with remaining cake layer, and spread with remaining Whipped Mascarpone. Garnish with Caramelized Lemons, if desired. Store in airtight container, and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Caramelized Lemons
Makes 6 slices
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar, plus more for dusting
  • 1 cup (240 grams) water
  • 1 lemon (99 grams), sliced ⅛ inch thick
  1. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium skillet, bring sugar and 1 cup (240 grams) water to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add lemon slices in a single layer. Cook until slices begin to turn translucent, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from skillet, and place on prepared pan. Reserve ½ cup lemon simple syrup to brush on cake layers.
  3. Generously coat each lemon slice with additional sugar. Turn slices, and repeat. Cover with plastic wrap, and let stand overnight.
  4. Dust excess sugar off slices, and place on a large sheet of foil. Using a handheld kitchen torch or broiler, carefully brown one side of slices. Let stand for 5 minutes before placing on cake.

Whipped Mascarpone
Makes about 5 cups
  • 1 cup (225 grams) mascarpone cheese, chilled
  • 1 cup (120 grams) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 cups (480 grams) heavy whipping cream
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitter with the whisk attachment, beat mascarpone and confectioners’ sugar at medium speed until smooth. Reduce mixer speed to low. Add cream, beating until combined. Increase mixer speed to medium-high, and beat until soft peaks form, 3 to 4 minutes. If mixture is too soft, continue beating in 10-second intervals until desired consistency is reached.


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