Four 3-inch strips of orange zest removed with a vegetable peeler
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
1/2 cup honey
Sweetened whipped cream, for serving
Preheat the oven to 325°. Butter the bottoms and sides of two 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottom of the pans with rounds of buttered parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the semolina, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, whisk the egg whites with the milk, finely grated orange zest and vanilla extract. Add the liquid ingredients to the semolina mixture and, using an electric mixer, beat at low speed until combined. Beat in the melted butter.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans and bake for 35 minutes, or until the cake tops are golden brown and lightly cracked and a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn them out onto wire racks to cool completely. Invert the cakes onto plates.
In a medium saucepan, bring the figs, wine, orange juice, orange zest, vanilla bean and seeds and honey to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat until the figs are plumped and the liquid is slightly reduced, 1 hour. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the figs to a cutting board, slice in half, then return them to the syrup.
Peel the parchment paper off the cakes and invert them onto plates. Cut into wedges and serve with the fig compote and whipped cream.
The cakes can be wrapped tightly in plastic and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days. The compote can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.
Semolina (coarsely ground durum wheat) is available in specialty markets.