Yes, the title is correct. If you love the classic Revani soaked in a pool of syrup, it’s great! Otherwise, you’d be pleased to learn that you can replicate the decadent dessert without sugar yet as delicious as the original, which can be also healthy. You don’t believe me? Then, read on.
I say healthy because semolina is indeed more nutritious and tastier than normal flour. But the problem of baking with semolina is the gritty and dry texture it creates. So syrup is crucial in making it moist but the dense and heavy taste isn’t for my palate.
After several trials and errors, this is the best version that everyone loved. You might consider adding this to your Easter table if you want something traditional but with a modern twist.
It’s light and moist without compromising the taste, though Revani would turn in his grave seeing his favourite quintessential Middle Eastern dessert being adulterated.
Who is Revani? It’s said to be named after the 16th century Ottoman poet, Revani, who was the governor of Safavid Persia, Yerevan and brought to Istanbul to entertain the sultan.
I can totally understand the ecstatic feelings the bite of revani might have induced, along with wine. But we are living in a world surrounded by sweets, which used to be reserved for special occasions, hence a bit of modification.
I love grapefruit for its lovely aromas and I add it to salads and mineral water. But I haven’t thought of making a cake with it in place of orange or other citrus fruits.
But wow, it certainly added extra layers of flavours to the cake in comparison to the cake made with an orange.
A typical recipe for Revani calls for 4 cups of sugar, yes, 1 cup for the cake and 3 cups for the syrup!! It’s definitely responsible for the high rate of diabetes in middle eastern countries.
By revising the recipe, you can cut down the sugar dramatically and here are the tricks I used.
1. Add yogurt and vegetable oil: Yogurt gives extra moistness and creaminess and so does vegetable oil instead of butter, though fat has less impact on the texture.
2. Rest the batter: After mixing the wet and dry ingredients, let it sit for 30 mins. This allows semolina to absorb some liquid and plum up.
3. Use honey for the syrup: 4 tablespoons of honey was sufficient to achieve the acceptable level of sweetness.
4. Microwave it: if your cake turns out to be a bit gritty, especially when you use only semolina, pour some diluted juice over the sliced cake and microwave it for 10 sec. It will make any gritty semolina cake moist like spongy.
The trick #4 was discovered by accident and saved my very first batch that turned out to be too gritty. Apart from those four tricks, adding a bit of flour and vegetable oil made the cake lighter and moist, too.
My version has coconut flakes, real vanilla bean seeds and orange blossom water, which bring beautiful aromas, making it lovely just to smell.
There are many different variations throughout middle eastern countries, using almond flour, no yogurt but more eggs, or no eggs as in the Egyptian version, basbousa, with lavender, cognac, Cointreau or whisky.
I was so proud of my Revani, which earned me credits from friends and family. It will be my to-go recipe to impress people.
Semolina Coconut Revani
with Grapefruit Syrup
1 ²⁄3 cups fine semolina
¹⁄3 cup all purpose flour
¹ ⁄2 cup coconut flakes
2 tsp baking powder
¹⁄4 cup brown sugar
1 ¼ cups yogurt
½ cup coconut oil or other vegetable oil (or melted butter)
1 tsp vanilla extract or seeds from a vanilla pod
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup grapefruit juice
4 Tbsp honey (1/3 cup)
¾ cup grapefruit juice (freshly squeezed)
1 Tbsp orange blossom water (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C(350F). Line the bottom of an 9 inch square pan with baking sheet.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the melted butter or oil, eggs, yogurt and the zest.
3. In a small bowl, mix semolina, coconut flakes, salt, and sugar, and add it to the wet ingredients and whisk until combined to smooth runny batter. Let it sit for 30 mins.
4. Sift in the flour and baking powder into #4 and mix to combine.
5. Pour the batter into the pan, tap on the counter to remove any air bubbles and bake for 25-30 minutes until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
6. While the cake is baking, make the syrup: place the honey and grapefruit juice in a saucepan and simmer for 5 mins. Remove from heat and add the blossom water, if using.
7. When the cake comes out of the oven, let it cool for 5 mins and cut it with a sharp knife into a desired shape. And brush the syrup over the top of the cake. I found that brushing, compared to pouring, worked better to control the amount of syrup.
8. Allow it to cool and serve it or keep it in the fridge for several days.
If you want more inspirations, you can check the links below.