Have a packet of semolina sitting in the pantry? Turn it into a delicious family classic dessert, French Semolina Cake (Gâteau de semoule) with a caramelised top. Serve chilled with a light crème anglaise and it's taken to the next level.
French Comfort Food
If you have less glamorous memories of hot semolina pudding, then put them aside and make this French chilled version. It's a real classic family dessert - even if we also love it for breakfast. Moreover, if you have some jam handy, just dribble over a few spoonfuls of warmed jam for the ultimate comfort pudding - more ideas below.
This recipe is based on Bernard and Dominique Loiseau's recipe in their book, 'Cuisine en Famille'. This Gâteau de Semoule was one of their family recipes that caught my eye, even if there are no pictures in the book.
What I love about this recipe, is that it's so cheap to make, it's pantry cooking - and if you're in a rush, there's no need to make the caramel. Just dribble over some warmed homemade jam (delicious with apricot and lavender jam) or a fruit coulis or compote.
Semolina Comfort Food from the Pantry
How many of you remember hot Semolina Pudding from the 1970s and 1980s? While some don't consider them fond memories, I do. Delicious family memories of Mum and Dad serving this as one of our most comforting winter desserts, as my brother and I were growing up in Scotland. We'd enjoy it scalding hot in large, purple-rimmed bowls with a blob of strawberry jam on top. Sheer Bliss.
It's not just delicious but pantry cooking at its best. Even with little in the house, this dessert can be made quickly and yet can last for a couple of days - and is fabulous for breakfast too served with either fresh blueberries, raspberries or dried cranberries and nuts.
At this point in the recipe - before even adding the eggs - I leaned in for a taste. Semolina pudding; my Madeleine de Proust. Happy memory taste indeed but this time it doesn't stop there! Even without that jam, I couldn't help myself from taking a spoon, then another spoon, a larger spoon - until I had to stop to continue this recipe! Needless to say - at this point you could serve the semolina pudding just like this, without the rest of the recipe.
By the way, semolina is not gluten free as it's made of durum wheat.
How to Make Classic Semolina Cake from Scratch (Gâteau de Semoule)
NOTE: if you don't have fresh milk, UHT milk is ideal - or any other nutty or oat milks of your choice. Likewise, no vanilla? Grate in the zest of an orange or lemon for a citrus version.
Just whisk together the sugar and 2 egg yolks until light and creamy then add to the hot, creamy semolina.
Optional Caramel Baked Topping
Meanwhile, if you want the caramel top on the cake, prepare the caramel. It's rather therapeutic to watch it bubble for a few minutes until it turns beautifully brown and the smell wafts around the kitchen. Pour the caramel immediately into a non-stick cake mould of your choice.
I used a fluted brioche mould, turned upside down to resemble a large jelly mould - however, any deep cake or loaf tin will do.
To follow instructions how to make a wet caramel (it takes about 10 minutes total), see my video how to make caramel for a crème caramel.
Whisk up the egg whites, adding to the semolina then pour on top of the caramel and bake. Leave to cool then upturn the mould on to a serving plate.
How to Serve French Semolina Cake
Serve chilled in slices, ideally with a classic thin vanilla crème anglaise. Here are more ideas for toppings:
- Top with fresh or tinned fruit and/or with a fruit coulis sauce. (The good news is that fruit coulis sauces have a long shelf life and so it's handy to keep in store);
- Warmed jam (spiced plum jam) or marmalade of your choice;
- Chilled Crème Anglaise, thin French custard sauce. See my recipe for a spiced Chai Tea Crème Anglaise sauce;
- Fried apples in vanilla sugar and butter (thanks, Martyn!):
- Roasted rhubarb: roast chunks in orange juice with a sprinkling of sugar in 180°C/160°C fan oven for 10 minutes;
- Spoon over rhubarb compote;
- Antoine thinks this looks like a French 'Flamby', so why not flambée with Grand Marnier and orange juice or rum? Let's make a festive pudding out of it!
French Semolina Cake (Gâteau de Semoule)
- Standard non-stick fluted brioche tin, savarin or any other deep cake or loaf tin
- 1 litre (1.75 pints) Milk (or your milk of choice)
- 125 g (4.5oz) Semolina fine or medium
- 1 vanilla pod/bean Cut horizontally (or ¼ teaspoon vanilla powder/extract)
- 2 organic eggs separated
- 100 g (3.5oz) sugar
- 1 tablespoon golden sultanas (or dried cranberries)
- 150 g (5.5oz) sugar
- 3 tablespoon water
Cook the Semolina:
- Cut the vanilla pod down the middle using a sharp knife and scrape out the seeds. In a large saucepan, boil the milk with the vanilla pod and its seeds (or powder/extract). Rain in the semolina and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until thickened for about 10 minutes. Add the sultana raisins.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the 2 egg yolks with the sugar until light and creamy. Add the hot semolina to this mixture and whisk or stir until well combined. Set aside to cool and stir now and again to prevent a skin forming.
- Meanwhile, prepare the caramel by placing the sugar and water in a saucepan over a medium heat. Once boiling, leave it to bubble without touching it and keep an eye on it for about 5 minutes. The caramel should turn brown and smell beautifully of caramel. Take it off the heat immediately and pour into the bottom of the mould.
Cook the Semolina Cake:
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/400°F/Gas 6
- Whisk the egg whites separately in another bowl using either an electric hand whisk or stand mixer. Stir into the semolina mixture until well combined.
- Pour into the mould over the caramel and bake for 25-30 minutes, covered with aluminium. Leave to cool on the counter then upturn the mould on to a serving plate.