Neapolitan Semolina Cake with Citrus and Cardamom

Hello and welcome! Today we are making a Neapolitan Semolina Cake (Migliaccio di Semolino), which is like a cross between cake and flan; its texture is dense and creamy, yet it’s light and refreshing. The flavor is only lightly sweet, perfumed with citrus, vanilla and spice. This cake’s base is a semolina porridge, mixed with ricotta and eggs. I found this recipe in the latest issue of Cook’s Illustrated and it sounded so interesting, I thought it would be fun to try. So let’s do it!

Neapolitan Semolina Cake

Getting Started

Begin by positioning the oven rack to the middle position. Then, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan with softened butter and dust with sugar, knock out the excess sugar. Place the sugared pan on a rimmed sheet tray and set aside.

Ricotta Base

We will first mix up the ricotta base. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the 4 eggs on medium speed until well combined. Then add the ricotta, vanilla and orange liqueur. Beat on medium speed until a smooth mixture forms. Turn off the mixer and set aside.

Semolina Porridge

Combine the sugar and the semolina flour in a small bowl and whisk well to thoroughly combine.

In a medium saucepan, over medium-low heat, heat the milk, lemon and orange zest, cardamom, salt and butter. Stir occasionally until the mixture reaches 180 degrees.

Remove the milk mixture from heat and in a steady steam, whisk in the semolina/sugar mixture, whisking constantly until smooth. The mixture will be thin, like pancake batter.

Return to medium heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens to a porridge consistency and begins to pull away from the sides of the saucepan (3-7 minutes). It’s going to seem like it will never thicken, but keep stirring – it will!

Mixing the Batter

Remove from heat and add one-third of the semolina porridge to the ricotta mixture in the stand mixer. Mix on medium speed until well combined. Add the remaining semolina porridge to the ricotta mixture in 2 more batches, mixing between each addition. Continue to mix, scraping down the sides if necessary, until the mixture is mostly smooth. A few lumps are ok.

Pour the batter into the sugared springform pan and bake until the top is golden brown and the edges are puffy and the center is slightly jiggly, about 50-60 minutes. It might form cracks, which is totally ok.

Neapolitan Semolina Cake

My cake didn’t crack, but the top did puff up quite a bit. When I removed it from the oven, the puffy top deflated almost instantly. Leave the cake on the sheet tray and set the whole thing on a wire cooling rack for about 10 minutes. Then, run a knife around the cake edges to loosen it and unlock the pan ring, but leave the ring there. We will re-latch the ring after it cools for about 2 hours. Then, re-latch the ring and place the cake in the fridge overnight, or at least 12 hours so it fully cools and continues to set.

Overnight in the Fridge

Neapolitan Semolina Cake

After its overnight in the fridge, remove springform ring and slide an offset spatula under the cake to remove it from the bottom of the pan. Transfer cake to a serving plate or stand, and let come to room temperature for about 30 minutes before dusting with powdered sugar.

Neapolitan Semolina Cake

When you’re ready to cut, slice with a sharp knife and wipe the knife clean between each slice.

The sugared pan creates a dark, caramelized exterior around the edge of the cake, which goes so beautifully with the citrusy flavor. It’s lightly sweet, the cardamom and vanilla add warmth. As I mentioned at the top, the interior texture is somewhere in between flan and cake; the crumb is dense and smooth, but has a cakiness to it from the semolina flour. I quite enjoyed this cake with a morning cup of coffee.

Have you ever made a semolina porridge cake before? I had never heard of such a thing, but since we don’t have very much of a sweet tooth, this cake ticks all the boxes, with its light sweetness and its warm citrus flavor. The semolina porridge component adds a little extra work, but what a unique texture!

Thank you for spending some time here, on Djalali Cooks today! Do let me know if you try this Neapolitan Semolina Cake and how it comes out for you. If you are interested in another citrus sweet, try Atlantic Beach Pie – it’s another unique dessert, perfect for summer. Follow me over on Pinterest for an easy spot to keep all the recipes from Djalali Cooks. Thanks again, take care and be well everyone. xo Kelly

Key Equipment

Neapolitan Semolina Cake with Citrus and Cardamom

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (18 votes, average: 3.44 out of 5)
Dessert, Breakfast, Brunch Italian
By David Pazmino, via Cook's Illustrated Serves: 8-12
Prep Time: 30 Minutes Cooking Time: 50-60 minutes Total Time: 1.5 hours, plus overnight resting

Like a cross between cake and flan; the texture is dense and creamy, yet light and refreshing. Lightly sweet, perfumed with citrus, vanilla and spice.


  • 4 tbsp. Unsalted Butter, plus softened butter for pan
  • 3/4 cup Granulated Sugar, plus extra for pan
  • 4 Large Eggs
  • 12 oz. (1½ cups) Whole-Milk Ricotta Cheese
  • 2 tbsp. Orange Liqueur
  • 2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 3/4 cup Semolina Flour
  • 3 cups Whole Milk
  • 2 tbsp. Grated Lemon Zest (2 lemons)
  • 1½ tbsp. Grated Orange Zest
  • 1 tsp. Ground Cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp. Table Salt
  • Confectioners' Sugar



Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees.


Grease 9-inch springform pan with softened butter; dust with granulated sugar and knock out excess. Set prepared pan in rimmed baking sheet and set aside.


Using stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat eggs on medium-low speed until combined.


Add ricotta, liqueur, and vanilla and mix on medium speed until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed.


Mix semolina and granulated sugar in small bowl until combined.


Heat milk, lemon zest, orange zest, cardamom, salt, and butter in large saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture registers 180 degrees.


Off heat, pour semolina mixture into milk mixture in very slow stream, whisking constantly, until smooth.


Return saucepan to heat and stir constantly with wooden spoon until mixture pulls away from side of saucepan, 3 to 7 minutes.


Add one-third of semolina mixture to ricotta mixture and mix on medium speed until incorporated.


Add remaining semolina mixture in 2 additions, mixing after each addition until incorporated. Continue to mix, scraping down bowl as needed, until mostly smooth (small lumps are ok), 3 to 5 minutes longer.


Transfer batter to pan. Bake until top is golden brown, edges are slightly puffed (some slight cracking is ok), and center is slightly jiggly, 50 minutes to 1 hour.


Transfer cake, still on sheet, to wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes.


Run knife around edge of cake to loosen. Unlock pan ring, but leave ring in place. Let cool completely, 1½ to 2 hours.


Refasten ring. Refrigerate cake until firm and thoroughly chilled, at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours.


To unmold cake, remove the springform pan ring.


Slide an offset spatula between cake and pan bottom to loosen, then slide cake onto serving platter. Let cake stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Sprinkle top with confectioners’ sugar. Slice with sharp knife, wiping knife clean between cuts.


If you cannot find Semolina Flour, you can substitute Cream of Wheat cereal.

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  • Suzanne Smith
    June 24, 2021 at 9:46 am

    Mmmmmm. That’s intriguing! Sounds delicious!

    • Kelly Djalali
      June 24, 2021 at 9:50 am

      Hello Suzanne! Yes, isn’t it interesting? I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it did not disappoint – the citrus and cardamom really come through! Thanks so much for stopping by today, xo Kelly

  • Terry
    June 24, 2021 at 10:29 am

    Yummm it’s looks very creamy, i love cardamom so I will definitely try this. ❤️Mom

    • Kelly Djalali
      June 24, 2021 at 4:31 pm

      Hi Mom, This cake is so interesting to make, let me know how it goes for you! xo Kelly

  • Mari
    June 11, 2022 at 10:42 am

    This cake is gorgeous. I’m normally not a fan of cheese cake, but this is a really good compromise between cheesecake, custard .and cake. That sound you hear is the crumbling of my last line of defense. This looks so good I have to make it, and cardamom is one of my favorite spices, so I think this will be a big hit. Marie Antoinette didn’t really say let them eat cake, but we can! Happy soggy Saturday from Maryland and I hope the Djalalis, Terry and the rascals have a beautiful sunny one. 😊☀️🐕

    • Kelly Djalali
      June 11, 2022 at 12:49 pm

      Hi Mari, I think you will like this cake, it’s so light and delicious! Stay dry and have a great weekend! xo Kelly