Often, the number one factor that contributes to me trying a new recipe is whether or not I have the majority of the ingredients to make it.
And, if I end up making it twice in two weeks, that means I'm on to something.
This recipe comes from the April Issue of Bon Appétit Magazine which I intermittently flip through at work for design, photography and just general food making inspiration. This caught my eye mainly because I was intrigued by the combination of semolina and almond meal but also because this simple photo of the cakes just looked too good to pass up. I've never baked with semolina flour before but I didn't have any on hand. So, to improvise, I figured subbing in finely ground cornmeal would be a good start.
Three different kinds of cornmeal (because I seem to accumulate it from forgetting that it's in the back of my cupboard) and one kitchen that looked like a bomb went off later, the result was a cake with a looser texture and flattened out tops but they were still delicious in their own right.
When I did obtain semolina flour, I tried them again (with a more clean and organized kitchen) to find that the cakes did not spread as much (which makes sense due to the gluten) and yielded a texture with a tighter crumb—still light but it didn't feel like I was chasing crumbs as much.
With both, it is essential to generously glaze the cakes as soon as they come out of the oven. They'll immediately sizzle in the muffin pan and slurp up all of the juice. This step is what makes the interior bright and citrusy. For obvious reasons, it's best to eat one straight from the oven. The tops haven't softened from the glaze which leaves them with a crispy and chewy exterior.
I found it was best to eat both variations with a fork to make sure every last crumb was scraped from the muffin liner.
And, upon re-reading this recipe, I've discovered that I only used 2 eggs instead of 3 eggs in the second round with semolina flour. I guess this means a third batch is in store in the near future?
Cornmeal or Semolina-Lemon Syrup Cakes
Yields: 12 cakes
These cakes can be made 2 days ahead. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
1½ cups almond flour or almond meal
½ cup semolina flour or finely ground cornmeal
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
3 large eggs, beaten to blend
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
⅓ cup sugar
Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Line the cups of a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. Whisk almond flour, semolina flour (or cornmeal), baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl to combine.
Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat butter, sugar, and lemon zest until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With motor running, gradually add eggs and beat until glossy, about 1 minute. Add dry ingredients and lemon juice and beat to combine, about 1 minute.
Divide batter among muffin cups and bake until cakes are golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 25–35 minutes.
Make the syrup while the cakes are baking. Bring lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar; reduce heat and simmer 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
As soon as cakes come out of the oven, brush or spoon syrup liberally over top (you may not need all of it).
Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cakes cool completely before turning out.