Coconut and honey semolina cakes

Light and delicate little cakes that are easy to make and even easier to eat.


Syrup-soaked semolina cakes pop up all across the Mediterranean, from Morocco to Greece to Lebanon. They're usually made up as slabs cut into lozenge-shaped pieces and, while I'll eat any of them any time, I always think the very best pieces are the brown-sided ones from the edges of the tin. For my own version, I wanted to max out the delicious edge-of-the-tin crust, so I use a mini-muffin pan. Every cake is an edge piece, and it's all edge, baby. Woo to the hoo.

Inside, I wanted the melting texture found in any semolina cake, but I also wanted contrast, so I've introduced a very un-Mediterranean ingredient in the form of shredded coconut. It works perfectly, and I celebrate its presence with a sprinkling of toasted coconut flakes (toasted on a baking tray for a couple of minutes in the oven before the cakes go in) over the still-warm, sticky cakes. I understand that having two kinds of coconut in the kitchen may be a symptom of my impending madness, so please consider this an entirely optional step.

One of the many things I love about making these cakes is that, because no eggs are involved, they can be mixed together very quickly – and quietly – with nothing more complicated than a bowl and wooden spoon. I also enjoy the process of spooning the honey syrup over the cakes, patiently letting each teaspoon absorb before adding the next. It takes three circuits of the tin to use up all the syrup, and the cakes will drink it all up.

The syrup of traditional cakes is usually made with rosewater or orange blossom water, or some combination of the two, infused into a heavy simple syrup. In my case I'm happier cutting the sugar way down and leaving the slightly cloying perfume-shop flavours behind: honey, water and a squeeze of lemon juice is all I need to moisten the cakes without overwhelming their lightness and delicacy.

Coconut and honey semolina cakes

Makes 12.

1 tablespoon tahini
180g (1 cup) coarse semolina
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
20g (⅓ cup) shredded coconut
½ cup unflavoured Greek-style yoghurt
50g (2 oz) unsalted butter, melted

for the syrup:
80ml (⅓ cup) honey
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Brush a 12-hole mini-muffin tin with tahini paste and set aside. Melt the butter (I give it a couple of 15-second whirls in the microwave).

Combine the semolina, sugar, baking powder and coconut in a mixing bowl. Stir in the yoghurt and melted butter until well mixed.

With wet hands, roll the batter into balls of about 2 tablespoons (30g) each and place into the prepared muffin tin. Press to flatten and make a deep cross into the top of each with the point of a knife. Leave to rest for 1 hour.

Set your oven to 180°C (350°F) and bake for 20 minutes, until lightly golden.

While the cakes cook, combine the honey and water in a small saucepan. Heat gently, stirring, until the honey has dissolved into the water, then add the lemon juice. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Remove the cakes from the oven and, while they're still hot, spoon over the honey syrup a teaspoon at a time, working your way around the tray and giving it time to soak in before repeating. Leave to cool completely in the tin before serving.