Semolina and ground almonds give this classic Greek cake its coarse texture and nutty flavor. Finish it off with a lavish cognac-and-cinnamon syrup; serve the cake warm, or let it cool to room temperature and serve with ice cream.
- 3 cups sugar
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 1 1" x ½" strips lemon peel
- 2 Tbsp. cognac or brandy
- 16 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing pan
- 6 eggs, whites and yolks separated
- 1 Tbsp. fresh orange juice
- 2 cups coarse semolina
- 1⁄2 cup finely ground almonds, plus 12 whole blanched almonds for garnish
- 1 Tbsp. baking powder
Bring 1 1⁄2 cups sugar, cinnamon, lemon peel, and 3 cups water to a boil in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves; continue cooking until slightly reduced, 7–8 minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir in 1 tbsp. cognac, and set syrup aside to cool.
Heat oven to 375°. Lightly butter a 9" x 13" baking dish and set aside. In a large bowl, beat together remaining sugar and butter with a hand mixer set on medium speed until mixture is pale and fluffy, 1–2 minutes. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition, until smooth; add the remaining cognac and orange juice. In a medium bowl, whisk together semolina, ground almonds, and baking powder; add to batter and beat until just incorporated.
In a separate large bowl, whisk egg whites until soft peaks form; add to batter and gently fold until smooth. Transfer batter to prepared baking dish and bake for 20 minutes. Garnish batter with whole almonds spaced about 2" apart, and continue baking until top of cake is dark golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, 10–15 minutes more. Transfer cake to a wire rack and pour reserved syrup evenly over the cake. Serve warm, or let cake cool completely before cutting and serving.