Blood Orange Upside-Down Semolina Cake

blood orange cake recipe
Blood oranges slices are arranged on the bottom of a cake pan with a light sprinkling of sugar. Once baked, the sugar and the orange juice turn into garnet-colored syrup that is soaked up by the tender semolina cake. Requiring only extra-virgin olive oil and no butter, the cake batter can be prepared very simply by hand in one mixing bowl.

Blood Orange Upside-Down Semolina Cake
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Cake, Dessert, Vegetarian
Serves: Makes one 9-inch cake
  • 4 blood orange, peeled, deseeded (if necessary) and cut horizontally into ¼-inch thick rounds
  • ¾ cup sugar, divided
  • ⅔ cup very fine semolina flour
  • ⅔ all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup whole milk (or ¼ cup milk plus ¼ cup vodka)
  1. Preheat the over to 350 degrees F.
  2. Grease the bottom of a 9-inch round pan and sprinkle ¼ cup of sugar all over the bottom of the pan.
  3. Arrange the orange slices in the bottom of the prepared pan; set aside.
  4. In a mixing bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients; set aside.
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg, olive oil, the remaining sugar, vanilla, and milk until smooth. Whisk in the dry mixture ⅓ at a time, making sure there are no lumps.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth out the top, and bake until until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes.
  7. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 45-60 minutes before inverting onto a serving plate.


13 Responses to Blood Orange Upside-Down Semolina Cake

  1. Cucinista March 14, 2010 at 5:25 am #

    That cake looks amazing. What great photos! I love these Italian cakes, a great nutty grain like semolina or cornmeal with olive oil. And the blood oranges make me think of Sicily. Bravissima!

  2. Ben / March 14, 2010 at 9:28 am #

    This sounds absolutely divine! I’ll have to go get some blood oranges.

    How does the vodka affect the flavour of the cake?

  3. 5 Star Foodie March 14, 2010 at 4:06 pm #

    Gorgeous! I love the vodka in the batter!

  4. Manggy March 14, 2010 at 4:13 pm #

    I love olive oil-based cakes. They just have such a divine richness to the crumb. Decadence. Unfortunately, there have never been blood oranges here (sigh). I’ll just content myself with your pics..

  5. Leela March 14, 2010 at 4:54 pm #

    Thanks, guys.

    Ben – To me, adding vodka (or tequila) to a dish that has citrus in it seems to bring out the best of the citrus flavor. Most people use orange liquor like Triple Sec or Grand Marnier to reinforce the orange flavor. Personally, I’ve found the orange liquor to either overcome or slightly alter the natural flavor of the citrus.

  6. pigpigscorner March 15, 2010 at 9:20 pm #

    oo wow gorgeous! I’m currently looking out for oil-based cakes and this sounds perfect!

  7. oneshotbeyond March 16, 2010 at 4:48 pm #

    That is BEAUTY full swing! YUM!

  8. Ciao Chow Linda March 16, 2010 at 7:20 pm #

    fabulous looking cake – it looks so moist too.

  9. Hungry Dog March 17, 2010 at 7:30 pm #

    This sounds wonderful. I’ve seen similar recipes before but never with vodka. I am bookmarking, thank you for posting!

  10. Arwen from Hoglet K March 18, 2010 at 4:11 am #

    That’s a pretty cake, and it’s nice to feel like you’re being healthy and cooking with olive oil.

  11. Tangled Noodle March 18, 2010 at 7:23 pm #

    There’s so much in this one cake that I love: olive oil, vodka, semolina, blood oranges . . . Thanks, Ben, for asking the question and Leela for clarifying the use of vodka. Tequila sounds good, too!

  12. Anonymous May 15, 2010 at 3:41 pm #

    Hey Leela, i came across ur page while looking for semolina cakes.. am trying ur recipe as we speak (it s in the oven) 🙂
    made a change though,used orange juice instead of the vodka since i dont use alcohol, added some walnuts too 🙂 will let you know how it turns out. one more thing, couldnt find blood oranges so am using regular ones. It smells great, the whole house smells so orangy yummy 🙂

  13. Tom September 18, 2011 at 3:16 am #

    Fantastic recipe – thanks! It turned out really well. I am going to try it with cointreau instead of vodka.

    This is a great website. I’ll definitely be trying of the more recipes you’ve posted.