Ottolenghi Pistachio and Rosewater Semolina Cake

I bought Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh’s book “Sweet” for Christmas and have been toying with the idea of making this cake ever since, but when I saw him making it on Masterchef last week, I just knew that I couldn’t put it off any longer.  It has everything that I love about a cake with a difference.  Firstly rosewater which is my all time favourite flavouring, ground almonds and pistachios, lemon,  and the surprising addition of semolina.  

Semolina Pistachio and Rose cake Ottolenghi

This recipe, as with most of Ottolenghi’s, has loads of ingredients and exotic flavours.  Don’t let the long recipe put you off,  believe me, it is well worth the effort.  It is unlike any other cake you will eat. The smell alone is heavenly, and with the aroma of rosewater, cardamom and nuts wafting out of the oven, I could hardly resist the temptation to eat it as it came out.  This is a drizzle cake, so while it is still warm the beautiful sweet and rosy syrup is poured over the top of the cake, which makes it so sweet and moist.

When using rose petals to decorate, make sure they are pesticide free, wash them thoroughly before using and dry on a dish towel.  Lightly paint both sides of the petals with the whisked egg wash and dip lightly  into caster sugar.  I dried some without sugar as well.  To do this place the prepared rose petals on a lined baking tray and put into a 100ºC oven for about 20 to 30 minutes until dry and crunchy, then set aside to cool.

If you live in South Africa, be warned, pistachios are crazy expensive, so this is a costly cake to make, but I still feel it is worth every cent.  Enjoy and let me know if you have tried it.


4.67 from 6 votes
Ottolenghi Pistachio and Rose Semolina Cake

From the Book "Sweet" by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh

Servings: 12
  • 3 Cardamom pods
  • 150 g shelled pistachios
  • plus extra for decoration
  • 100 g ground almonds
  • 170 g semolina
  • 1 and 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 300 g salted butter, at room temperature (or if using unsalted butter add 1/4tsp salt)
  • 330 g caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp rose water
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200 g Greek Yoghurt
  • 200 g creme fraiche
  • 1 Tbsp icing sugar
  • 1 Tbsp rose water (optional)
  • 100 ml lemon juice
  • 80 ml rose water
  • 100 g caster sugar
ROSE PETALS (Optional)
  • 1 egg white, whisked
  • 10 g rose petals
  • 25 g caster sugar
  1. Preheat your oven to 180ºC (160ºC if you are using a fan setting)

  2. Grease and line a 23cm springform cake tin 

  3. Crush the cardamom pods and take out the seeds and place in a food processor.

  4. Add the pistachios and blitz until the mixture is finely ground.  Transfer to a bowl and add the ground almonds, semolina, baking powder and salt (if using unsalted butter) and mix together and set aside.

  5. Put the butter and sugar into an electric mixer bowl with a paddle attachment and beat on medium high until fully combined.  Do not overwork as you don't want to get too much air into the mix.  While the machine is running slowly add the lightly whisked eggs in a few batches.  Make sure each batch is incorporated before adding more egg.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  The eggs will curdle slightly.

  6. Remove the bowl from the machine and add the dry ingredients, folding them in gently. Once again do not over mix.  Fold in the lemon zest, lemon juice, rosewater and vanilla extract.

  7. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and level the top.  Bake for 55-60 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean but oily.  You need a nice dark golden, firm crust on this cake because you are now going to pour a lot of syrup onto it.

    As soon as the cake comes out of the oven drizzle the syrup over the top.  There is a lot of syrup, but use it all.  Sprinkle the pistachios over the cake whilst it is still wet, which will help the nuts to stick.

    Allow the cake to come to room temperature before taking it out of the cake tin. Sprinkle with crystalised rose petals. and serve with the prepared cream.

  1. About 10 minutes before the cake is going to come out of the oven start making the syrup.  Place all the ingredients in a small saucepan over a medium heat and bring to the boil, stirring so that the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat.  The consistency is very watery and all this syrup is going to be poured onto the cake.

  1. Whisk the yoghurt, creme fraiche and icing sugar together, together with the rose water (optional).  Serve a generous spoonful with each slice of cake.

  1. Brush each petal with whisked egg white and dip into castor sugar.  Shake off excess sugar.  Place on a lined baking sheet and dry out in the oven at 100ºC for about 20 minutes until crisp and dry

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  • Reply Sarah March 14, 2018 at 9:17 AM

    This does seem a complicated recipe but I have made it and it is well worth reading it through slowly and actually once you have weighed out the ingredients it is just a matter of minutes to put it all together. It is beautiful

    • Reply Shades of Cinnamon March 14, 2018 at 9:21 AM

      Thanks for your input Sarah, it always helps for others who are planning to bake this cake.

  • Reply Linda Louw March 14, 2018 at 9:18 AM

    Such a lovely complex cake. I am sure that it tastes just as good as it looks

  • Reply Paulie March 14, 2018 at 9:27 AM

    I had to make this cake as soon as I saw it. I was so nervous that it would not be able to absorb all that syrup but it did and it made it so beautifully moist. Lovely recipe

  • Reply Eric March 14, 2018 at 6:00 PM

    Absolute winner

  • Reply Jan March 15, 2018 at 7:41 AM

    It looks divine Mouth Watering!!

  • Reply ratna March 19, 2018 at 5:52 AM

    These are my favourite flavour too!

  • Reply Lindsay Wagner March 11, 2019 at 12:19 PM

    We found the rosewater completely overpowering. I assume this is because of the amount used in the syrup. We originally purchased one small bottle (60 ml) of rosewater for this cake, then realised we needed 80 ml for the syrup alone, and had to buy a second bottle. I always thought rosewater was deliberately sold in small bottles because it is so powerful. Could we replace, say, half of the rosewater in the syrup with something else? My husband wondered about orange juice? It’s a shame because the texture of the cake is lovely, and looks very pretty with the pistachios and rose petals, but in the end we struggled to eat it and threw half of it away.

    • Reply Shades of Cinnamon March 11, 2019 at 2:22 PM

      Hi Lindsay, I’m so sorry you found the rosewater overpowering. This recipe is the property of Ottolenghi and therefore I made it exactly as his recipe specifies. I think maybe some rosewater’s are stronger than others, because I have bought 750ml bottles of it, which I found much milder than the small bottle I buy from a diffent supplier. You could just use the 2 TBL in the recipe and not use any in the syrup. Quite honestly I think you could make this cake without the syrup, which will make your cake slightly drier. If you want to make a syrup, I would experiment with orange juice if you liked, or just make it with lemon and sugar. Maybe try it on a small piece of cake first before you pour it over the whole cake. These cakes are all a matter of taste, and rosewater is not everyone’s favourite. Thanks so much for your feedback. Have a lovely week.

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