This is a mildly sweet coffee cake, shared with by my friend Soma, that has subtle bites of fig and chocolate throughout. The texture is complex and crumbly with the ground, toasted walnuts and semolina flour and the results are absolutely delicious paired with strained yogurt and drizzled with honey.
Syrian Walnut-Semolina Cake with Figs and Chocolate
Recipe by Chris Hanna, Food and Wine Magazine
1. All-purpose flour, for dusting
2. 1 1/2 cups walnut halves (6 ounces)
3. 1 cup semolina flour
4. 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
5. 1/2 teaspoon salt
6. 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
7. 1/2 cup honey
8. 1/4 cup sugar
9. 3 large eggs, at room temperature
10. 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
11. 1/3 cup dried black Mission figs, finely chopped
12. 1/3 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
13. Vanilla ice cream, for serving
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. 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 hand-held 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 (I didn't need anywhere near this amount of time - I pulled it out after 40 minutes and likely could have pulled it out sooner), 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.