Lemon & Saffron Cake

This Lemon & Saffron Semolina Cake recipe was initially published by Honey and Co, a husband-and-wife run restaurant in London that focuses on Middle Eastern flavors.  The saffron & turmeric impart both color and flavor to this cake, which is a delightful mixture of sour, sweet, and savory.  In addition to being a wonderful special event dessert, this makes a great addition to brunch or tea, and travels surprisingly well by car, making it a new favorite for family pot lucks.  (Its sunny flavor was also a favorite as breakfast before a day of wine tasting!)



  • 13 T butter, room temperature
  • 2 C palm sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 C almond flour
  • 1/2 t turmeric
  • 3/4 C semolina flour
  • 3 T pastry flour
  • 1 lemon, juice and zest
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t baking powder

For the Syrup:

  • 2-3 large Meyer lemons, very thinly sliced (~1/8″)
  • enough water to cover the lemons x2
  • 1 3/4 C water
  • 1 3/4 C honey
  • 1/4 t turmeric
  • 1/4 t saffron


  1. Blanch the sliced lemons by placing them in a saucepan, covering them with water, bringing it to a boil, and immediately draining.  Repeat once.  Leave lemons in the saucepan, adding 1 3/4 C water, 1 3/4 C honey, turmeric, and saffron.  Turn heat to medium-high and bring to a light boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 6-8 minutes, or until lemon rind is tender and the syrup has thickened.
  2. Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Prepare 9″ round cake tin by lining with parchment paper.  Lift the lemon slices out of the saucepan with a fork and place them down across the sides and bottom of the tin, covering as much space as possible.  Slight overlap is acceptable, but unnecessary. Drizzle 2 T of the syrup over the lemons and reserve the rest for later.  Set the cake tin aside.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the semolina, pastry flour, salt, and baking powder until just combined.  Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until just combined, stopping before it becomes fluffy.  Stir in the eggs, one at a time, then the ground almonds and turmeric.  Mix until just combined.  Add in the dry ingredients mixture and lemon juice and zest, mix well but try not to aerate.
  5. Pour the cake batter into the lemon-lined cake tin.  Place in preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until an even golden-brown color and firm to the touch.
  6. Remove from the oven.  While still in the tin, pour remaining syrup evenly and slowly over the entire cake, waiting for it to absorb before continuing.  Let it rest in its tin for at least 20-30 minutes.
  7. When ready to unmold, put a plate or cake circle on top of the tin and quickly turn the tin over.  If the cake is reluctant to release, gently pat the bottom of the tin with your hand or with a spatula.  It will keep on the counter (wrapped in tin foil or saran wrap) for several days or in the refrigerator for up to a week.

If you’d like to prepare this in a muffin tin, reduce baking time to 15 minutes (as with any size alterations in baking, check frequently).  It will make twelve single-serving cakes.

Pairs nicely with a pot of Marrakesh Express, Woolton, or for a caffeinated companion, Sagarmatha


  • If you are leery of the flavor of turmeric, try our Moroccan Breakfast Spice as a substitute, although the cake and lemons will not be as vivid a color as our picture shows.
  • White sugar, honey, and palm sugar may be used interchangeably in the syrup with slight adjustments to quantity.  To substitute sugar for honey in the syrup, use 1 1/4 C instead of 1 3/4 C.  Due to the ratio of wet to dry ingredients in the cake, we do not recommend substituting honey for the palm sugar, although white sugar may be used at the same measurements.
  • For a similar texture and color when creating a gluten free varietal, swap out the pastry flour with almond or rice flour, and substitute amaranth flour for semolina.
  • If parchment paper is not on hand, grease the tin- I used olive oil when making this in a pinch.  The syrup can make for a difficult clean, but if that isn’t worth the stress of an additional shopping trip, it is absolutely doable.


This recipe is featured in our Decadent Desserts Gift Box, which also features recipes and spices for All-American Apple Pie (Apple Pie Spice) and Pear Tarte Tatin (Dusk).

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