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Syrian Walnut-Semolina Cake with Figs and Chocolate

This crumbly cake is Chris Hanna's riff on a baklava-like Syrian pastry made with semolina, honey and walnuts. The sweet dried figs, common in Middle Eastern cooking, are a natural addition, but the less traditional chocolate chips really make the cake stand out. Hanna tops the cake with homemade cardamom ice cream, but good vanilla ice cream would be delicious, too.

slideshow More Middle Eastern Recipes

  • Total Time:
  • Servings: 8

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  • All-purpose flour, for dusting
  • 1 1/2 cups walnut halves (6 ounces)
  • 1 cup semolina flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup dried black Mission figs, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
  • Vanilla ice cream, for serving


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with wax paper and butter the paper. Flour the pan, tapping out the excess.
  2. Spread the walnut halves in a pie plate and toast them in the oven for 9 minutes, until fragrant. Let them cool completely.
  3. In a food processor, process the walnuts with the semolina flour until finely ground. Add the baking powder and salt and process until incorporated.
  4. In a large bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter with the honey and sugar at medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between additions. Add the vanilla extract. At low speed, beat in the semolina flour mixture. Add the chopped figs and chocolate chips and beat at low speed until evenly distributed or fold them in with a spoon.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake the cake on the middle rack of the oven for 1 hour and 5 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Peel off the wax paper and invert the cake onto a large serving plate. Cut the cake into wedges and serve with the vanilla ice cream.

Make Ahead

The cake can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Contributed By Published April 2007

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