Orange semolina cupcakes

Orange semolina cupcakes

orange semolina cupcakes drying

I could hardly wait to share this recipe with you as I think you’ll love these syrup-infused orange semolina cupcakes! Last time I baked these was before I went vegan and I remember it well for a reason.

I made them into a cake for the French TV crew who came to film us for an episode of a French travel show Echappées Belles. The episode was about several Cycladic Islands and foreigners who chose to live on them. The producers seemed quite keen on our back story of escaping the rat race in the search of Aegean-tinted bliss.

Duncan did a lot of stand-up comedy back in London so he was quite comfortable in front of the camera. I, on the other hand, looked like I should have downed some whiskey before the filming started (I wish I had thought of that).

The worst off though was our poor cat, Noodle. The producers were quite keen to include him in one of the ‘domestic bliss on a Greek island’ scenes but, as luck would have it, two days before the filming, we applied a “spot-on” flea treatment on him. Being new and very inexperienced pet owners, we must have applied the medication incorrectly as Noodle managed to eat it and fell seriously sick the day after. He was really, really poorly and so he ended up looking extremely miserable on camera. Poor thing! Luckily, he pulled through.

Sick cat episode aside, it was funny and a little bit cring-e-y to see yourself on TV. And the cake went down so well that I’ve decided to have a crack at veganising it and re-packaging it in the form of cute, individual cupcakes. They turned out great and all my omni neighbours were scoffing them down with approving murmurs so I’m confident you’ll like them too.

orange semolina cupcakes glazing and decorating

orange semolina cupcakes on a rack

orange semolina cupcakes stack

orange semolina cupcake for dessert

orange semolina cupcakes with coffee

12 cupcakes
20 min
30 min
12 cupcakes
20 min
30 min


  • 135 ml / ½ cup + 1 tbsp mild olive oil
  • 180 ml / ¾ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 120 g / 3/8 cup fine-cut orange marmalade
  • 6 tbsp / 3/8 cup apple purée*
  • 3½ tbsp aquafaba**
  • grated zest of 1 orange


  • 50 g / ½ cup desiccated coconut
  • 60 g / scant 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 70 g / ½ cup + 1 tbsp plain flour, sifted
  • 135 g / ¾ cup fine semolina (for cakes)
  • 1½ tbsp ground almonds / almond flour
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • chopped pistachios or almonds, to decorate (optional)


  • 360 ml / 1½ cup orange juice
  • 100 g / ½ cup sugar (I used brown)
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180° C / 350° F. Oil a 12-hole standard muffin tin with a bit of olive oil or line the tin with cupcake liners.
  2. In a medium bowl combine all the dry ingredients apart from chopped pistachios.
  3. In another large bowl, whip aquafaba** until it has soft peaks.
  4. Whisk in the rest of wet ingredients until marmalade dissolves completely.
  5. Mix dry ingredients into the wet ones slowly, until well combined. The mixture should be quite runny.
  6. Distribute the mixture evenly between 12 muffin holes. Bake in the pre-heated oven until tops are lightly browned and an inserted toothpick comes out clean (about 30-35 minutes).
  7. While the cupcakes are baking, combine syrup ingredients in a small pot and bring to a gentle simmer.
  8. As soon as the cupcakes are out of the oven, brush them with hot syrup several times allowing it to soak into the cake between each go.
  9. Return leftover syrup to the stove for 5-10 minutes, let it come to the boil and thicken slightly. Brush thickened syrup onto the cakes and sprinkle with pistachios (or almonds). Thicker syrup will keep them in place better.

 *To make simple apple purée, simply peel and core two sour apples (we used Granny Smith variety) and pop into a small pot with a lid. Add a splash of water so that the apples do not catch on the bottom and simmer, covered, on a very low heat until they are falling apart soft. Blend in a blender or mash with a fork if you do not mind a slightly chunkier purée.

**Aquafaba (AF) or bean brine is leftover cooking water from cooking most legumes. I use chickpea water and have not tried using any other type yet. You can get it from a can of low sodium chickpeas or make your own. In this recipe, I used tinned AF, but when making sweet recipes I always make my own to avoid added salt. When making your aquafaba, soak dry chickpeas in lots of water overnight, rinse and put in a large pot with lots of water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 1 hour (until beans are soft). Remove cooked chickpeas with a slotted spoon and what’s left in your pot is aquafaba. If it is too runny (ideally it should resemble egg whites), you can concentrate it a bit by simmering it on a low heat (without a lid) until it reaches the desired consistency. Cool it down before using.

Cup measurement I use is 1 cup = 240 ml (rounded up from 236.6 ml). As baking is a science, I recommend weighing all your dry ingredients and using metric volume measurement for liquids. I have converted metric measurements into cups, but some values do not lend themselves well to this conversion so they are approximations only.

This recipe is an a vegan adaptation of Yotam Ottolenghi’s ‘Semolina, coconut and marmalade cake’ from his gorgeous ‘Jerusalem’ cookbook.

25 g
14 g
4 g
3 g
40 g
*per cupcake
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2 reviews, 21 comments
Carolyn Donovan:
Oh...mygawd. This was amazing. Mine looked exactly the photo! And that never happens!
For me, though, this took a long long time to make, mostly because I stayed true to the ingredient list and bought oranges so I could make the "freshly squeezed orange juice." I thought I only needed to squeeze enough for 3/4 cup--because of COURSE I didn't read the entire ingredient list through--but it turned out to be 2 1/4 cups in total, and that was a lot of squeezing ;-)
BUT - the result was fan-fan-tastic, and we had honestly never had a muffin that was so gorgeous (looks and taste). My husband ate four of them in less than 24 hours...
I will definitely make this again, only maybe with really really good commercial orange just :-)
    So pleased to hear that you and your husband enjoyed these so much and sorry about all the squeezing ;) - as I wrote this write when I lived in Greece I were a bit of a purist about using freshly squeezed orange juice...but now that I am back in the UK, I am willing to adjust my stance a little ;) I'm really happy to hear that you are planning to make these again and I really appreciate you taking the time to review, thank you x Ania
What alternative can you use for aquafaba, ? Thanks
    Possibly a flax egg, but I have not tested that so cannot be sure it will work as well. Ania
Becky Philpott:
Hi Ania, Can I use an egg replacer (Bob's Red Mill) instead of the aquafava?
    Hi Becky,
    I would love to help, but I have never used it so I cannot comment, I'm afraid. Hope it works out! Stay well. x Ania
Hi again, I forgot to ask, can I use the cooking liquid from harricot beans instead of chickpeas for the aquafava?
Hi! These look delicious! Can I turn this into a cake? If so, what's the size of the pan and how long would you recommend bashing it for?
Many thanks!
    Hi Charlotte,
    I'm not sure as I have not tried making these as a cake. Yes, apparently harricot beans cooking liquid works in the same way, having said that I haven't tried using it myself. Ania
Hi Ania,
This looks awesome I will try it today, do you know how long it can last in ambient temperature and in the fridge ?
    Hi Pushkar,
    About 3-4 days in an air-tight container, I would say. Ania
Hi ,
Your recipe looks so yummy.. I'm gonna try this weekend!
    Thank you, Ashwini. Hope you'll enjoy these cupcakes. Ania
Hi Ania,
I made the cupcakes today. I halved the recipe. The taste was awesome but the cake was very heavy as I thought it should be light and fluffy because of the semolina. I used ready made apple pure and the chick peas water from the can. Could you please let me know where I went wrong?
    Hi Anu,
    So thrilled to hear that you made these cupcakes, although sorry to hear that they came out heavy. Ready made apple pure and aquafaba from a can both sound fine provided you measured everything and followed the instructions, which I'm sure you did. By design, these cakes aren't as light and airy as a sponge due to semolina and the fact that they are soaked with lots of syrup, but I would not describe them as heavy either so not sure what went wrong. Was your oven hot enough and how long did you bake them for? Did you get a good rise on them?
Can I substitute the orange marmalade for orange juice.
    I'm afraid not as they have totally different consistency / composition. You could, however, swap orange marmalade for an apricot or peach jam.
Wendy Gerster:
Ania, your recipes always look so amazing and really inspire me! Can`t wait to try this one out. Wish it had less sugar in it, though ... I`m trying to cut back, though I have a sweet tooth, so it`s hard! But if I don`t eat too many at once ...! Do you think I could use finely ground polenta instead of semolina, cos I have a slight wheat intolerance?
    Hi Wendy,
    Thank you for your kind words, I really appreciate them. I know what you mean about having a sweet tooth - I'm the same! I have to force myself to do a lot of exercise to compensate for all my taste testing :) Quick Internet search reveals that polenta will not yield the same results, I'm afraid. It is coarser so it will make your cakes more crumbly and a bit hard on the teeth. Sorry for not so good news - perhaps try subbing it for some ground almonds and some for more flour. It might work but you'll need to do more experimenting, I'm afraid. What I tend to do is to divide the recipe in 3 or 4 and only bake 4-3 little muffins as a test until I nail the end result. Good luck!
      Wendy Gerster:
      Ania, thanks so much for checking that out for me and saving me a big disappointment! I`ll try it as it is, then experiment a bit, as you suggest.
        My pleasure! Hope you'll like them, Wendy!
Thalia @ butter and brioche:
love these little cupcakes! especially the addition of semolina. it's one of those ingredients that i love to bake with, but rarely do! it always makes everything so moist and delicious.
    Thanks for kind words, Thalia :) I agree, semolina is an awesome ingredient. It's very widely used here in Greece and they do know how to make a moist and indulgent cake, that's for sure!
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