Saturday, May 8, 2010

Revani (Turkish yellow cake in simple syrup)

I realize I’ve been light on poetry lately. Something about the weather makes me feel un-literary and pro-food. Or perhaps I’m just trying to squeeze in some last-minute baking before the summer heat makes baking intolerable.

I think I forgot for a moment that I live in New England, where it’s almost always cold enough to bake. We get maybe one oppressive heat snap a year; otherwise, baking is always on the table, figuratively and literally. I have such a weakness for lame puns.
When I returned from my trip to Greece and Turkey, I had all sorts of lofty ambitions to make Turkish food on a regular basis – and by “Turkish food,” I mean “Turkish desserts.” One of the great things about them is how they’re usually soaked in sugar or honey syrup. It really eliminates the whole “my baking dried out and tasted like chalk after three days on the counter/in the fridge problem that one often encounters.

Clearly, my ambitions were greater than my motivation, but I finally got around to some fine Turkish dessert-making – or as close as I’m likely to get to it in Connecticut. A reader alerted me to the existence of Binnur’s Turkish Cookbook, and I can’t recommend the site enough. There are so many yummy-sounding confections that I wasn’t sure where to start. I had picked up semolina flour a bit back, and since semolina is included in so many Turkish desserts, I let that ingredient be my guide in making a selection.

I decided to start simple and settled on Revani. Revani is basically a simple yellow cake soaked in syrup. The semolina flour gives it a slightly more robust texture than all-purpose flour-only cakes. Probably an all-purpose flour cake would just be soggy and weird if you poured a simple syrup over it, whereas this is decadent and toothsome.

This recipe is very slightly adapted, but not by much. I made a couple of minor substitutions and added a bit of salt. Binnur recommends serving this cake with pistachios and Turkish cream. I didn’t have either on hand and have enjoyed it very well plain, but I’m sure pistachios (or almonds) and almost any kind of thick, neutral or sweet cream would be lovely. Clotted cream is probably the closest thing to Turkish cream that you’re likely to have tasted or might be able to acquire. Whipped cream is nothing like Turkish cream or clotted cream, but it would still taste good.

Adapted from Binnur's Turkish Cookbook

Dry ingredients:
1/2 cup semolina
2/3 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs

1 cup + 2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 ½ to 2 cups water
a couple of drops lemon or almond extract (or both) or lemon juice

8x8x2in pan

Preheat oven to 375. Boil the syrup ingredients for a few minutes, put aside and let warm. I let mine boil for 5 minutes, and the syrup ended up being a bit too thin. Next time, I’m going to use less water (a cup and a half) and boil it slightly longer. That way, I think the syrup will be less inclined to pool at the bottom of the baked good.

In a medium-large bowl, mix together the sugar, olive oil, vanilla, and eggs. Blend thoroughly. In another bowl, whisk together flours, baking soda, and salt.

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, and use a hand mixer to blend thoroughly.

Grease the bottom and sides of the dish and pour in batter.

Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Pour the warm syrup on top while the cake is still warm. Use a spoon or ladle to do this and make sure to do it slowly so the cake absorbs the syrup equally. Serves 9.

Printable recipe here. 


  1. If you like Turkish food, I expect our site.I'm sure you'll find what you're looking for a very.Revani was very good:)

  2. Thanks! Do you have a translator on your page?

  3. I made this tonight. Really good. Thanks for sharing. But when i realized i only had 1/2 cup flour while i needed 2/3, i added 1 tbsp cornstarch to replace the 2 or so tbsp extra flour that i was missing (2/3 cup is about 10 tbsp). It still turned out wonderful. I also added some lemon zest to the syrup, and next time i may add the zest to the cake too. Great recipe. Regine