This classic Greek cake is moist, creamy, and delicious. Politiko Thessalonikis has a layer of syrupy semolina cake and it’s topped with a creamy custard and then dusted with lots of cinnamon. It’s absolutely decadent and so easy to make. The perfect dessert for a nice gathering.
The Layers of Politiko Thessalonikis
This dessert is moist, creamy, aromatic, and so delicious. At the first glance, it looks like a tiramisu. That’s because of the layer of cinnamon on top.
The Bottom Layer:
Samali Cake: is a semolina cake that is flavored with mastiha (mastic gum) and then drenched in a sweet rose-scented syrup. On its own, it is decadent and delicious and you can make that recipe right here. It pairs well with a hot cup of Greek coffee and some take it over the top and serve it with a scoop of ice cream.
The Custard Layer: is made with a double batch of creamy pastry cream. The cream can be made a day ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Pastry cream sets and thickens even more as it cools so be sure to lighten it up before spreading it over the cake. Do this step by whisking it together using a hand mixer or a whisk. If it has thickened too much, add a few tablespoons of heavy cream to thin it out to a spreadable consistency.
The top of the dessert has a generous layer of ground cinnamon and all of the components together taste incredibly delicious.
Make it Ahead
This is a great cake to make for a special gathering/dinner party. I love it when desserts can be made ahead of time. It makes entertaining so much easier. Here’s how to do it:
- Make the syrup up to a week ahead of time and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Make the cake up to 2 days ahead of time and wrap it in plastic, then store it in the refrigerator.
- Make the pastry cream a day ahead of time and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Whisk it or beat it with a hand mixer to lighten it up as it thickens as it cools.
- Layer it together a day ahead and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Easy peasy!
The classic flavors used to make this dessert are mastiha, vanilla, and rose water. But, you know what I always say, Your kitchen, your rules! Use your favorite flavor combinations and make it your own. Here are some great combinations:
- Vanilla Almond: 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract plus half a teaspoon of almond extract in the cake batter and a teaspoon of vanilla in the syrup.
- Lemon Vanilla: 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, the zest of a lemon, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice in the cake batter. For the syrup: a teaspoon of vanilla and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.
- Vanilla Cinnamon: 1 teaspoon of vanilla in the cake batter plus a half teaspoon of ground cinnamon. In the syrup, add a cinnamon stick and a teaspoon of vanilla extract.
- Cardamom & Rose: Add a quarter teaspoon or less of ground cardamom seeds and a tablespoon of rosewater to the cake batter. Add 2 teaspoons of rosewater plus a teaspoon of vanilla to the syrup
- Mahlepi & Vanilla: Add 1 teaspoon of ground mahlepi and a teaspoon of vanilla extract to the batter. Add a teaspoon of vanilla to the syrup.
There are so many options. Use your favorite flavor combinations and let me know what you liked in the comments section 🙂
More Syrup- Based Desserts
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I hope that you give this recipe a try and if you do drop me a comments down below. I love to read them and to see how you liked it, what you did different, etc. Post recipe requests down there too so that I can add them to my list. I hop that you enjoy this dessert with your loved ones. I’ll be back soon with another delicious recipe worth sharing!! Kali Orexi & Filakia, xx Dimitra
Watch the Video
- For the Cake:
- The Wet Ingredients
- 2 cups Greek yogurt
- 1 cup of water
- ¾ cup of vegetable oil
- 1 and ½ cups granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- The Dry Ingredients:
- 2 and ½ cups coarsely ground semolina flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Zest of a small lemon
- ½ teaspoon ground mastic gum
- For the syrup:
- 2 and ½ cups granulated sugar
- 2 cups of water
- Juice of a small lemon
- 2 teaspoons rose water
- For the custard:
- 4 cups whole milk
- ½ cup cornstarch
- 1 and ½ cups granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 8 egg yolks
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
- 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Garnish: ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350 °F, 180 °C.
Prepare the Cake Batter:
Grease a 13 by 9-inch baking pan with olive oil.
Combine all of the wet ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk until smooth.
Whisk the dry ingredients together and add them to the wet ingredients. Whisk together until incorporated.
Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan, cover with a kitchen towel, and set aside for 1 hour so that the semolina grains soften and absorb the liquid.
Make the syrup by combining the sugar, water, and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Stir together and bring to a boil and cook until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the rose water. Set aside to cool.
Bake in the center rack of the oven for 35-45 minutes or until golden on top and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
Remove the cake from the oven and poke it all over with a toothpick.
Pour all of the syrup over the cake and set aside at room temperature to allow the cake to absorb it.
Set the cake aside to come to room temperature or chill it in the refrigerator (covered with plastic wrap) overnight.
Make the custard:
In a saucepan, bring milk and salt to a simmer over medium heat.
In the meantime, combine the sugar, corn starch, cream, and egg yolks in a large bowl and whisk together for a few minutes until thick and pale yellow.
Slowly, pour the hot milk into the egg mixture one ladle full at a time while whisking.
Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, whisking constantly until thickened.
Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla extract. Whisk well.
Strain the custard into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
Refrigerate until cold.
Whisk the custard together to lighten it up and spread it over the top of the cake.
Generously sprinkle the top of the cake with ground cinnamon.
Cut it into slice and serve with tea or coffee. Enjoy!
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Misko Coarse Ground Semolina 400g
McCormick Gourmet Organic Ground Cardamom, 1.75 oz
Cerez Pazari Ground Mahlab (Mahlepi - Mahaleb- Mahlep) Mahleb Ground, %100 Natural, Premium Quality, No Additives or Preservatives, Aromatic Traditional Spice for Pastry and Baking 60 gr- 2.1 Oz