Makes one large cake or 9 large muffins

This is one of those old fashioned Mediterranean cakes that feels super modern – I guess really good recipes never go out of style! The combination of almonds, blood oranges, and spices along with a sugar syrup makes for a sophisticated dessert that is simple to make and even better when made a day ahead of serving.

This way of pretty much-saturating cakes in syrup in the old days wasn’t just a way of adding flavor and sweetness, it was also a form of preservation, in a time when both ingredients and fuel were precious.

The Jewish Holiday of Tu B’Shvat reminds us that Judaism in the land of Israel was a religion highly connected to the seasons and we celebrate the first blossoming of spring by eating fruits and thanking God for the gift that is nature and this amazing world we live in. All Israeli school children sing the song of the almond tree blossoming and the sun shining when Tu B’Shvat comes around. What better way to celebrate the season than with a cake that is sunshine encapsulated.

For the cake:

  • 115g (½ cup) unsalted butter/margarine/vegan alternative, melted, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 90g (½ cup) fine semolina flour
  • 150g (¾ cup) granulated sugar
  • 95g (1 cup) finely ground almond meal
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • Zest of 1 blood orange
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract

For the Syrup:

  • 240ml (1 cup) blood orange juice (from about 2 ½ blood oranges)
  • 150g (¾ cup) granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 6 cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Pinch of crumbled saffron
  • 2 ½ -3 blood oranges, scrubbed and thinly sliced on a mandoline
  1. Heat oven to 180℃ (350℉). Grease a 25-cm diameter (10-inch) cake pan and line with parchment paper. For our individual cakes version, we used 9 disposable large muffin pans (the kind that are made of oven-proof paper- and stand-alone, no need to grease these) Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the semolina, sugar, almonds, baking powder, and salt. Whisk in eggs and melted butter/margarine/vegan alternative. Add the blood orange and lemon zest and almond extract and beat well. Pour into prepared pan.
  3. Bake for about 35-45 (20 minutes for large muffins) minutes, until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Place on a wire rack and let cool.
  4. As the cake cools, make the syrup: Place blood orange juice, sugar, honey, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, saffron, and sliced blood oranges in a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve sugar, and then simmer gently for about 5 minutes. Let the syrup cool slightly.
  5. Leaving the cake in its tin. Use a skewer to poke holes all over and slowly pour the syrup evenly over the cake (with the smaller cakes you may need to do this serval time as there may be less space in the muffin tin to hold the syrup, if making the smaller cakes you will have some syrup leftover). Once the syrup has cooled slightly, arrange the spices and orange slices on top of the cake to your liking.
  6. Leave the cake for at least an hour, but preferably 24-hours to fully absorb the syrup, the cake once fully cooled can be wrapped and stored in a cool place (don’t refrigerate) for up to 5 days.