This semolina-olive oil cake was inspired by a dessert I had at A Voce restaurant in Manhattan. Semolina flour, the finely ground endosperm of durum wheat, adds a rustic note to this cake and gives it a slight crunch. The olive oil gives it a light texture, the syrup makes it moist, and the grapes are a surprise addition. Serve small glasses of the Moscato wine with the cake as a special treat.

A slice of semolina-olive oil cake on a plate

Semolina-Olive Oil Cake with Drunken Grapes

5 / 2 votes
Semolina-olive oil cake is a rustic cake with a toothsome texture, made even more moist with a wine-infused syrup. Grapes add bursts of  juicy sweetness throughout, and the use of a fruity olive oil adds layers of unexpected flavor. 
David Leite
Servings10 servings
Calories434 kcal
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time45 minutes
Total Time1 hour 45 minutes


  • 3/4 cup Moscato
  • 8 ounces seedless grapes, 30 to 40, halved
  • 1/3 vanilla bean
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup semolina flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated cane sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup delicate extra-virgin olive oil with tropical notes*


  • Pour the wine into a small bowl. Add the grapes. Scrape the vanilla seeds into the bowl and add the bean as well. Macerate the grapes for 30 minutes.
  • Lift them out with a slotted spoon and reserve the wine, vanilla seeds, and bean.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C), positioning the rack in the middle. Line the bottom of a 9-by-3-inch round cake pan with parchment paper.
  • Sift both flours, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
  • Put the eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat with the paddle on medium speed, gradually adding 1½ cups of the sugar. Turn to medium-high speed and beat until well combined, about 2 minutes.
  • Turn the mixer speed to low. Add the vanilla extract. With the mixer running, gradually add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the olive oil in 2 additions (start and end with the dry ingredients). Fold half of the macerated grapes into the batter with a spatula.
  • Pour the batter into the pan and bake until the top is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes.
  • Let the olive oil cake cool completely, still in the pan, on a rack. Run a table knife around the edge of the pan and invert the cake onto a plate. Peel off the parchment paper and turn the cake right side up onto a serving platter.
  • Poke holes with a skewer at 1-inch intervals in top of the cake, stopping before reaching the bottom.
  • Make a sugar syrup by boiling the reserved wine mixture with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar until it reduces by half. Strain the syrup.
  • Spoon the warm syrup over the cake. Serve with the reserved macerated grapes.


*What does olive oil do when used in cakes?

Using olive oil in baking isn’t anything new, it’s been used in traditional recipes for generations. Cookies and cakes baked with olive oil have a light and unique flavor. The fruity aroma of olive oil can also bring out other flavors commonly used in baked goods, like chocolate, nuts, spices, and fruit.

Adapted From

The New American Olive Oil

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Serving: 1 sliceCalories: 434 kcalCarbohydrates: 64 gProtein: 6 gFat: 16 gSaturated Fat: 3 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 65 mgSodium: 159 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 39 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2009 Fran Gage. Photo © 2021 David Leite. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

The semolina-olive oil cake recipe is simple and very good. The semolina gives it a unique texture and the olive oil blends perfectly with the drunken grapes. Those Muscat soaked grapes are simply delicious, I can snack on them by themselves. The cake also acquired a wonderful slightly crusty and a bit chewy crust which I loved. I’ll definitely make it again.

What a marvelous cake. I loved almost everything about it—the semolina added such a great texture, the macerated grapes were so flavourful with the vanilla bean, the cane sugar was lovely (I’m always on the look out for cane sugar uses) and the syrup was so delicious. This is really one of my new favourite cakes—it would be perfect for a company brunch.

This is a very simple cake to make. The semolina gives it a slight crunch, and there’s a faint hint of the olive oil in your mouth. It’s a wonderful cake to have with a dessert wine—the cake is neither too sweet nor too dry.

The olive oil flavour wasn’t too bossy; in fact the people I served it to were surprised when I told them it was a major player. The texture of the cake was dense like a pound cake, I guess from the semolina, and the grapes folded into the batter helped to keep the cake moist. I found that it’s even better the next day when the flavours have a chance to develop.

The macerated grapes disappeared pretty quickly so they didn’t have a chance to be evaluated the next day. The grapes would be really good over ice cream or with zabaglione. I would definitely make this again.

This cake was very easy to prepare and it doesn’t take much time or any elaborate ingredients. I baked it in my Viking oven for exactly 43 minutes and it came out perfect! This is a very classic Italian cake—simple, not too sweet.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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