Fine dubrovačke gospođe (posh ladies from Dubrovnik) are well aware that a cake which is supposed to impress their guests should be one without flour. This is not part of the gluten-free trend, but rather a question of pride and style. I have to admit, this stance had rubbed off on me too and whenever I find myself looking for a celebratory treat, either for myself or to surprise a loved one, I think of a flourless cake. In most cases, flour is replaced by ground nuts – usually almonds and walnuts, but what this means is that most of these traditional cakes taste quite similar. Not that I’m complaining – I *love* them.
So this cake follows the flourless tradition, but with a spin – instead of a part of ground nuts, it uses spelt semolina (an ingredient which I am crazy about when made into a porridge with some melted dark chocolate and cacao nibs on top). This ingredient alters the cake’s texture a bit and – as the semolina’s taste is anything but overpowering – makes it very versatile. You can combine it with almost any kind of seasonal fruit/jam you like.
To make this one extra special, I filled it with mascarpone mixed with rose petal jam (another traditional Dubrovnik delicacy) and topped it with strawberries, but I believe any kind of fruit combo would work well – apricots, peaches, nectarines, plums, even quince or poached pears. Just make sure that the jam you choose to mix with the mascarpone cheese marries well with the fruit you put on the top of the cake.
FLOURLESS SPELT SEMOLINA AND STRAWBERRY CAKE
For one round 20 cm flourless cake:
- 4 large or 5 smaller eggs, separated
- 70 g sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground vanilla (or scrape the seeds from one vanilla pod)
- juice and peel of one lemon
- 45 g spelt semolina
- 50 g ground walnuts (or almonds)
For the filling:
- mascarpone cheese and rose preserves – or some other kind of jam (3:1 ratio)
- sugar, if desired
For the topping:
- 300 g strawberries (or other fruit)
Preheat the oven to 160°C and line a 20cm springform pan with baking paper. Butter the paper and sprinkle with some flour. Tap off the excess.
In the bowl of a stand mixer beat the yolks, sugar, vanilla, lemon juice and lemon peel until the mixture thickens and becomes pale.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and add the semolina and ground walnuts by hand.
In another clean bowl whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
Add the beaten egg whites slowly to the sugar and yolk mixture, mixing carefully to avoid all the air bubbles from escaping.
Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and bake for approximately 40 minutes – the cake should retain moisture, but must not be soggy in the center.
Once the cake cools, remove it from the pan and slice horizontally so that you get two equal layers.
Fill the cake with the mascarpone and jam mixture and leave some to spread around the sides. Top with fruit and keep in the fridge.