Easy Basbousa Recipe (Semolina Cake)

basbousa

Basbousa is a dessert made from coarse sweet semolina, and translates as small kiss in Arabic.

Also known as Hareeseh, as well as Nammoura, it is a very easy dish to make.

It combines semolina, coconut, yogurt, sugar and simple syrup to create a truly delightful dessert.

What is Basbousa Cake?

basbousa

Basbousa cake is a dessert from the Middle East that is made primarily from a semolina flour.

It is popular throughout the Middle Eastern countries, as well as North Africa, Iran, Greece and Turkey.

In Egypt this is the main dessert served during the feasts, and holidays for both Christians and Muslims.

This is a very simple dish and a great recipe to make.

It combines some healthy ingredients that have come to be a very familiar flavor in the desserts of the Arab world.

Combining semolina flour, coconut flakes, and yogurt.

Then sweetened with simple syrup, and flavored with rose water.

This unique dish is a great one to share with your friends and family for something completely different.

Basbousa Ingredients

basbousa

As with most dessert recipes, the quality of the ingredients and how you use them makes all the difference.

Semolina

Semolina makes up the bulk of this recipe (it is a semolina cake after all!).

I’ve tried using different kinds of semolina but undoubtedly the best to use is coarse semolina.

Otherwise it has a tendency to fall apart.

I have re-tried this recipe in so many ways to get the right balance of ingredients.

I used fine semolina (just the once).

It was a miserable defeat!

The whole cake just fell apart in seconds.

So make sure to use coarse semolina for a sturdy cake.

Coconut

You’ll want to use desiccated coconut for this recipe.

It adds to the texture more so than coconut flour would.

I believe it also adds an intensity to the flavor.

The coconut taste really shines through.

It also helps bind the cake really well, giving you a lovely sponge.

Plain Yogurt

I always prefer to use sheep yogurt, it is delicious and better for you.

I find that it has a more complex, mellow flavor to it.

The richness you find in sheep yogurt also adds less tartness to recipes.

More frequently these days you can find this type of yogurt in most major supermarkets.

However, if you can’t find it or don’t want to use it, you can always use cow’s yogurt instead (or goat).

Just make sure it is a plain and a non-flavored variety.

Orange Blossom Water

I prefer to use orange blossom water instead of rose water in this recipe, but you can use either.

The flavor you find with the orange blossom water is more delicate and a sweeter fragrance.

Whenever I smell it, it always transports me back to being a kid in Jericho, Palestine.

When the orange trees were in bloom, the air would be filled with this sweet scent.

Interestingly, it goes wonderfully in a hot steaming bath as well!

How to Make Basbousa

basbousa

The main thing you need to get right for this recipe is the semolina.

You will need coarse ground semolina for this recipe in order to get the right texture, and consistency for the cake.

Fine semolina will have a tendency to crumble very easily.

So the fine variety is to be avoided.

Preheat the oven to 350°F/400°F.

In a large bowl, combine the: semolina, baking soda, baking powder, coconut, sugar and melted butter.

Make sure that all the ingredients are well mixed.

I suggest putting on a latex glove, and really getting stuck in there to combine the ingredients.

There’s nothing quite like cooking with your hands!

Next, add yogurt and mix in well, your batter will be somewhat dry.

Take a 8×8 baking dish and pour the batter in.

Make sure to press the cake batter down to a smooth flat surface.

Using a knife, score the top of the cake to create diamond shapes.

To finish it off, place an individual slivered almond on each ‘diamond’ shape that you create.

You can now place this in the oven to bake.

Once you’ve assembled your cake, place it in the middle shelf of your oven.

Cook in the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown.

If you don’t cook it enough, the cake will just fall apart.

If you overcook it, it can become hard and crumble as well.

Making the Sugar Syrup

To make the sugar syrup, dissolve the sugar in the water in a small saucepan.

Cook this over a high heat.

Once the sugar has completely dissolved into the water, add the lemon juice and orange blossom water.

Bring to a boil and then allow to cool completely to room temperature.

The syrup should resemble the consistency of maple syrup and should smell aromatic.

To finish the dessert, you need to pour the syrup over the cake so it absorbs the sweet goodness.

My tip here is to pour the sugar syrup over the Basbousa just as it comes out of the oven.

Pouring the syrup when the cake is hot makes sure it can absorb as much syrup as possible.

Print Recipe
3.93 from 13 votes

Basbousa Recipe

Basbousa is dessert made from coarse semolina, and means small kiss in Arabic.
PREP TIME30 minutes
COOK TIME30 minutes
TOTAL TIME1 hour
Servings: 16 servings

Ingredients

For the Cake

For the Syrup

Instructions

For the Cake

  • Preheat oven to 400ºF (200ºC).
  • In a bowl combine the semolina, baking soda, coconut, sugar, and melted butter.
  • Incorporate ingredients well by mixing them together by hand.
  • Add the yogurt and mix in well.
  • Press the cake batter into an 8X8 baking dish, and smooth flat.
  • Using a knife, score the top of the cake creating diamond shaped pieces.
  • Push a piece of slivered almond into each diamond shaped piece of cake batter.
  • Place in the oven on the middle rack for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

For the Syrup

  • In a small saucepan over high heat dissolve sugar in water by stirring until water is clear.
  • Add lemon juice, and rose water or orange blossom water.
  • Bring to a boil and then remove from heat and allow to cool for about 20 minutes. 

Bringing It Together

  • Remove cake once done, and cut through scored lines making sure to carve all the way to the bottom of the tray.
  • Pour syrup over the cake by evenly distributing the sugar water.
  • Allow the cake to absorb all the syrup.
  • Serve warm or at room temperature.

Nutrition Per Serving

Calories: 266kcal - Carbohydrates: 46g - Protein: 3g - Fat: 8g - Saturated Fat: 5g - Cholesterol: 17mg - Sodium: 139mg - Potassium: 80mg - Fiber: 1g - Sugar: 30g - Vitamin A: 192IU - Vitamin C: 1mg - Calcium: 25mg - Iron: 1mg
DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?Tag @cheftariqcooks or hashtag it #cheftariq!

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18 Comments

  1. I want to make this but concerned about the 2-1/2 c. sugar. How does it taste with half that amount? Or a little honey?

    1. Thanks for your question. I have never made this recipe using substitutions. However, I’m sure you can give it a try. Less sugar will make it less sweet. To substitute honey in the place of sugar can be done one for one up to a cup, after which I would use 3/4 cup honey for every cup of sugar. This is because honey actually tastes sweeter than sugar in larger amounts which could overwhelm the rest of the dessert. I hope that helps.

      1. Good morning Chef,
        I’m looking at substitute the sugar with a sweeter or Maple Syrup, as the sweetness the Syrup is quite rich.
        Also, do you have any advice for someone who never had made this before?

        Michael

  2. Your recipe doesn’t mention baking powder (only baking soda) but in your video you add both. Which is correct?

    1. Thanks so much for getting touch! I appreciate you pointing out the error. It is indeed both soda and powder as the video shows. The baking powder was omitted accidentally on the recipe card!

    1. Hello! Thanks for getting in touch. Yes doubling the recipe is fine. The only thing is you may have to add a tad bit more yogurt. The main thing with this recipe is to keep the balance of moisture. Not too much, not too little. When you double it it could go a little to the dry side, therefore a bit more yogurt will keep the moisture level where it should be. Hope that helps!

    1. Thanks for your question. I have not done this, but I don’t see why not. The egg may make it more like a traditional cake, but I’m sure the flavor will still be good.

  3. 5 stars
    I appreciate your comment about using more yogurt if doubling the recipe. I want to make it for a church group of more people.
    Your recipe is easier to follow than some. I will try the Orange Water.
    Thank you for sharing.

  4. 5 stars
    Tried it today. Apart from the semolina and coconut, I had all the ingredients at home. Bought those two. Today, decided to make it to cheer myself up as I had a horrible morning with huge stress so I decided to cheer myself up. This is a VERY easy cake to make! Really quick. You can do this with children too – just make sure they are nowhere near the boiling sugar syrup. I have, for many years, bought this from Turkish or Greek shops but been horrified at the price! Most places charge £15 per kilo!!! Unbelievably expensive! So I searched on the internet for a recipe that would not be too difficult. I found yours. Only snag, all the weights in cups – and I am from the UK. Luckily, I have some US cups here for baking. But while making it, I weighed up everything and wrote the weights down so next time, it is in metric and quicker and easier for me due to arthritis. Wish I could post a photo but it came out exactly the same as yours AND tasted FANTASTIC! Even though I am being careful with sugar consumption and trying to lose weight, I can definitely eat no more than one or two pieces every 2-3 days. It tastes as good as the shop ones, if not better as the shop ones! Thanks ever so much! Going to look at what other recipes you have.

    1. I am so delighted that you have enjoyed this recipe! Just so you know for the future, there is an option for metric measurements at the very top of the recipe. I hope you like other recipes just as much!

  5. PS I use pecan nuts instead of almonds and will also use walnuts as I love those too. I’m going to cut these up into smaller portions and freeze so that I have no more than 2-3 pieces a week as I cannot tolerate a lot of refined sugar or dense carbs and grains in my diet but find that I can get away with lesser amounts so it means I can still eat this but in limited quantities. Sugar and wheat upset my arthritis, which is why I must limit my intake, but I am not going to give it up! I am going to try this with less sugar; also try honey and other low GI sweet sources, see how these turn out! I’ll add feedback. I used goats’ milk yoghurt as I am lactose intolerant. Also, before I bought the ingredients, I read the whole page from top to bottom and was glad I did because I had to go and buy coarse semolina. Chef is right, this cake needs coarse.

    1. Thanks for your question. You can leave out the coconut but it will make the dish less moist. The coconut adds some well needed moisture to this recipe. I hope that helps.

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