Greek Semolina Cake (Revani)
Revani as we call this sweet semolina cake in Greek is basically a yellow sponge cake that gets steeped in a fragrant simple syrup. The sponge is fairly light with a nice crumb and when soaked with the syrup it becomes a delight to eat.
My aunt always use to make this cake and I loved her version of it along with my moms version which was probably the same recipe. I remember my aunts a little more because she would make it quite often. I clearly remember sitting at her table enjoying a small diamond cut slice in a flower shaped cut glass plate enjoying and savouring every bite.
The other memories attached to this cake all include dining at one of our favourite spots in Greek town Toronto and being served a complimentary slice of this yummy cake after each meal. Watching them bring it out after what was usually a huge meal, I thought how could I possible stomach that, but nibble after nibble it was always demolished even on a full stomach.
There is nothing really too sophisticated about this cake. It’s quite a humble cake but the syrup is infused with citrus and rose water which gives it a nice bright and floral flavour. You can leave out the rose water all together if you aren’t a fan and you can even substitute it with orange blossom water too. I love both so I always included one or the other in the mix. Many versions add cinnamon and even cardamom and mastic in the batter or the syrup but I like to keep it simple and let the citrus and the rose water or orange blossom water shine. Other versions add a few more eggs but I go by my moms recipe as I have found that I like the texture of hers. I also always fear that the Revani will taste too eggy and so I err on the side of caution when it comes to adding more eggs.
When I say there are many version of this cake I really mean it and not only in Greek culture. This cake is very popular in Turkish culture as well in other Eastern European culture and also Egyptian culture. There is one thing that usually stays the same and that is the use of semolina in it. It gives it its unique flavour and texture and totally wouldn’t be the same without it. Of the many version I have tried, tested and made, this is the one that works for me. It’s a simple recipe. It never fails and it’s so delicious. My husband loves it and he couldn’t get enough when I made it- like piece after piece. If you are looking for a flavourful soaked cake simple to a poke cake with a bit of a Greek flare then this is what you are looking for. Enjoy!
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup fine semolina
- 1 tbsp. baking powder
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 eggs separated
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- Zest of 1 lemon
- ½ tsp rose water or orange blossom water
- 1 cup milk
- Pinch of salt
For the simple syrup
- 1½ cups water
- 1½ cups sugar
- Two 3-inch strips of orange zest/peel
- 1-2 sticks of cinnamon (optional)
- 1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ½ tsp rose water or orange blossom water
- Dried rose petals for decoration along with raw or toasted almond slices
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Grease the bottom and sides a 9 x 13 pan and set aside. I used parchment paper so I could easily trader the cake form the pan. Either or is fine.
- Whisk the flour, semolina and baking powder in a medium bowl and set aside
- Using an electric mixer or standing mixer, cream the butter with sugar until light and fluffy. With the mixer running, add egg yolks one by one.
- Continue mixing until the batter turns a light yellow in colour.
- Then mix in the vanilla extract, lemon zest and rose water.
- With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three batches alternating with the milk.
- Clean the beaters well and beat the egg whites in a separate bowl with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form.
- Fold the egg whites using a spatula into the batter until just blended. Do not over mix or your egg whites will deflate.
- Pour the batter into the pan, level with a spatula and bake for 45 minutes or until the cake is a nice and golden
For the Syrup
- While the cake is baking add the water, sugar, and orange zest to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add the lemon juice and rose water and set aside to cool.
- Immediately after you remove the cake from the oven ladle the syrup gently onto the cake evenly. Then pierce it gently all over with a knife edge or a fork to allow the cake to absorb the syrup fully.
- Sprinkle with Toasted almond flakes and dried rose petals and allow to cool completely before serving.
- Once cool cut and serve pieces otherwise cover and keep refrigerated. Can be served room temperature or even cold. I like to cover and refrigerate mine for a few hours before serving to allow the syrup and flavours to fully penetrate but that is just personal preference.