Greeks love their sweets, and they love them best with a heavy dose of a flavor-filled syrup
drizzled poured over them. Because why not?
Actually, there is a good reason for doing this, other than it just tastes really good. Drenching your sweets with syrup makes them nice and moist, and it also helps to extend the shelf life of your goodies. There is nothing quite like dry, stale, and moldy to satisfy your sweet tooth. Bleh.
Ravani (rah-vah-NEE), also spelled revani, is a simple cake made from semolina flour infused with an orange juice laden syrup. The bright citrus flavor lifts this cake from the depths of plain and boring to something simply heavenly. Ironically, because of the way the cake is made, it is also not overly sweet, despite all the syrup.
Ravani is the perfect treat to enjoy with your afternoon coffee or tea, or for the usual after dinner dessert. It’s an easy enough recipe for making just because, but dressy enough for company. I like to add a little more syrup made from a warmed mixture of orange marmalade and a little water, that I lightly drizzle over each piece and into the plate when I am serving guests. Yes, more syrup. Hey, you’re this far in, so might as well go the whole distance!
Ravani (Greek Semolina & Orange Syrup Cake) Recipe
You will need to start by making your syrup first. The rule of thumb for these types of pastries is that the syrup is cooled to room temperature (not cold!), then added to the hot cake. If both syrup and cake are hot, it will turn to mush. If both are cool or cold, the syrup doesn’t get absorbed.
For the syrup:
- 1 cup orange juice
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup orange marmalade
For the cake:
- 1 cup semolina flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 cup salted butter (1/2 stick), softened at room temperature
- 5 eggs, separated (see video tutorial here)
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 3/4 cup sugar
Add the orange juice, sugar, and marmalade to a sauce pot on the stove top. Bring the mixture almost to a boil, then turn the heat down low enough just to maintain a simmer. The syrup may foam up and spill out if you are not careful, so if it does just lift the pot up off the burner until the foam subsides. Continue to simmer the syrup for about five minutes, stirring as needed to keep it from foaming. Remove from the heat, cover, and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. In a small bowl, whisk together the semolina flour and the baking powder. Make sure that the baking powder is completely distributed.
In a large bowl, put the butter and beat it until it is light yellow and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and continue to beat until the mixture is smooth. You may need to scrape down the butter to be sure it all gets mixed in. Add in the orange juice and sugar and continue to beat until all the contents are blended and the sugar is dissolved. The mix might look a little curdled once you stop beating but that is okay. Add the semolina flour to the butter and egg mixture. Gently mix it all together until smooth.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until fluffy and stiff. Add the egg whites a third at a time to the batter by gently folding it in. You can see a video showing how to do this in my Strawberries & Cream Cake recipe. You want to incorporate the whites while keeping them from losing all their bubbles. Mix only until the egg whites are mixed in, overmixing will deflate your cake!
Pour the batter into an oiled 9 inch round cake pan, or an 8×8 inch square pan. Smooth out the surface and put into the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Keep the cake in the pan and place the pan on a cooling rack. Pour the syrup slowly and evenly over the top of the cake. It will not get soaked in right away, so don’t worry if it puddles on the surface. Distribute the chunks from the marmalade evenly over the surface of the cake. Cover the cake and allow it to sit. This cake is best if it has several hours to allow the syrup to be completely absorbed and the flavors blended. It is also best served at room temperature. You can freeze the cake for later enjoyment, just make sure to wrap it well with plastic wrap, and then cover with foil for best protection.
Just before serving, I like to add a little more syrup made from mixing orange marmalade and water together and heating it up just a little in the microwave. I usually use equal amounts of marmalade and water, then drizzle it over each piece once it’s on the plate it is served on (even more amazing is drizzling that same syrup over a side scoop of vanilla ice cream!!). You can also place pieces of the cake into pastry cups and drizzle the extra marmalade syrup over if you are serving a larger crowd. Enjoy!