Preparation / Directions:
*Note: Use blanched, peeled almonds.
Combine 1-1/2 cups of the sugar with the cold water in a saucepan and cook until dissolved, then add the cinnamon stick, cloves, and orange peel and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the flavorings. Cool.
Using an electric mixer, beat the butter in a large bowl until fluffy. Gradually add the remaining sugar, beating on medium speed, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition, without rushing. Meanwhile, sift the flour, semolina, baking powder, and almonds together. Very gradually add to the batter, beating on medium speed, then pour in the vanilla and brandy and give the batter a last whirl on high speed for a few seconds.
Pour immediately into a buttered 9 x 12 x 3-inch cake pan and bake on the center rack of a moderate oven (350F) for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cake springs back when touched by a finger. Remove from the oven and set the pan on a cake rack. Using a sharp knife, score the cake into diamond shapes. Spoon the cooled syrup over the entire cake and cool.
Note: Each piece may be attractively garnished with a candied or maraschino cherry slice in the center and almond slivers angled on each side.