Originally from The Glorious Foods of Greece, this is a different and elegant desert that I would highly recommend as a sweet end to a Greek feast.  It’s not overly sweet like Baklavah, and the texture is unique and satisfying.  I paired it with some apples from the farmer’s market and drizzled those with some of the leftover cinnamon clove simple syrup.  The recipe calls for these to be baked in a cake pan, but I decided to make individual servings and it worked out just fine!


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups coarse semolina
  • 2 scant teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup finely ground blanched almonds
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 4 to 5 whole cloves, to taste
  • One 1-inch strip lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons brandy


1. With an electric mixer in a large bowl, whip the cup of butter until soft. Add the confectioners’ sugar a little at a time and whip until fluffy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the vanilla and continue whipping for about 5 minutes.

2. Combine the semolina, baking powder, almonds, and lemon zest in a small bowl. Slowly add the semolina mixture to the butter and sugar, beating to combine thoroughly.

3. Preheat the oven to 375 degees. Butter a 12- by 18-inch glass baking pan. In a medium metal bowl, place the egg whites, salt, and lemon juice and whip with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Fold the meringue into the semolina mixture, working fast to combine. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until set, 35 to 40 minutes.

4. About 15 minutes before the cake is finished baking, prepare the syrup: Combine the granulated sugar and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. As soon as the sugar dissolves, add the spices, zest, and brandy. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the syrup is viscous, about 10 minutes.

5. When the samali is baked, pull it out of the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 300°F. Score it into 3-inch square pieces with a sharp paring knife. Pour the warm syrup over the hot cake and place back in the oven. Bake until the syrup is absorbed, another 5 to 7 minutes, and remove from the oven. Let cool and serve.