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Basbousa (Middle Eastern Semolina Cake)

close up of baked basbousa with almond on top

Basbousa is a delicious Middle Eastern Semolina cake soaked in simple syrup that comes together in under an hour with minimal effort. The coarse semolina in the cake offers a unique texture distinct to this popular Middle Eastern dessert. This easy dessert is very much worth trying!

Growing up, this was one of the most nostalgic desserts that my mom would make for gatherings with friends and family. I now know why. It is easy to prepare, so tasty, and always a crowd-pleaser. So, check out what I think is the best basbousa recipe below!

basbousa
basbousa

What is Basbousa?

This beloved dessert goes by quite a few names and depends on the region. For example, in Palestine and Jordan, we often refer to this semolina cake as hareesa. Typically, hareesa is made without the use of coconut, however. In this recipe, coconut is used, so it is more recognized as basbousa which is also the name of it in countries like Egypt. Every region has a take on this dessert, but at the end of the day, it is a semolina cake soaked in simple syrup, distinguished by the almonds on top.

What is Semolina?

Now that you know this cake is made entirely of semolina, you may be wondering what that is exactly. Semolina is a type of flour made of durum wheat, so this cake, for the record is not gluten-free. You will find semolina flour sold in different sizes but typically as fine or as coarse. For this cake, coarse semolina is used. The texture of the coarse semolina makes a big difference in this cake and will yield the best result.

You can find this product at any Middle Eastern grocery store and in Indian markets. I have even found them in mainstream supermarkets in the ethnic food aisle.

How to make this recipe:

  • To start, prep a 9×13 baking dish with tahini paste. This will offer a slightly nutty taste to the bottom of the semolina cake. You can always use butter, ghee, oil, or nonstick spray in place.
prepped baking dish for basbousa
a prepped baking dish for basbousa
  • Then, you will combine the plain yogurt with the sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. This will start to bubble slightly and rise.
yogurt mixture for basbousa
yogurt mixture for basbousa
  • Then, combine the coarse semolina flour with the melted butter and coconut.
  • After that, add the yogurt mix and stir together.
  • Lastly, pour the milk and mix until you have a cohesive batter.
  • Pour into the prepped baking dish and score into a diamond or square piece. Top with almonds and bake!
  • Make the simple syrup at this point which is just sugar and water, so it is ready once the cake is baked.
  • Once the basbousa is baked, pour the simple syrup over the top while it is still hot. The semolina cake will soak all that sweetness and moisten the cake too. Please don’t be shy with the syrup; use it all!
  • Now, this is the hard part…you have to wait for at least an hour until the cake is completely cooled before digging in, or you risk it crumbling. Plus, you want the syrup to be entirely absorbed by the cake before enjoying a piece.
basbousa steps
basbousa steps
diamond cut basbousa
diamond cut basbousa pre-bake

How to Store this Basbousa Dessert:

This cake makes roughly 24 pieces depending on the size of the cuts. It is a great dessert to serve at a gathering, but if you have leftovers, this cake stores well.

I would recommend placing it in an airtight container and keeping it at room temperature for up to 3 days. After that, you can store it in the fridge, or you can do this from the get-go and take it out to keep room temperature before serving it for up to a week.

More Middle Eastern Desserts:

If you enjoyed my recipe, please consider leaving a rating and review below! Star ratings and comments help others to discover my recipes and rank with google. Thank you so much! Feel free to share your creations with me on Instagram too!

close up of baked basbousa with almond on top
Print Recipe
5 from 25 votes

Basbousa (Middle Eastern Semolina Cake)

Basbousa is one of the most popular Middle Eastern cakes. It is made of coarse semolina flour and sweetened by simple syrup. It comes together effortlesly and is always a crowd-pleaser.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time35 minutes
Total Time50 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Arab, Arabic, Middle Eastern
Keyword: almond semolina cake, basbousa, Basbouseh, hareesa cake, middle eastern semolina cake, Namoura, semolina coconut cake
Servings: 24 pieces
Author: Heifa

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Plain Yogurt
  • 1 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1.5 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 3 cups Semolina, coarse
  • 1/2 cup Butter, unsalted, melted this is equivalent to 1 stick of butter
  • 1 cup Fine Coconut Flakes in the store, this may be labeled as coconut powder or coconut macaroon. I get the Baladna brand from the Middle Eastern market
  • 3/4 cup Milk
  • 2 tbsp Tahini Paste this is used to coat the baking pan
  • Whole Almonds enough for each piece of semolina cake. approx. 24 almonds

Simple Syrup

  • 2 cups Granulated Sugar
  • 1.5 cups Water
  • Squeeze of lemon

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 375 F. Prep your 9×13 baking dish by brushing the bottom of edges of the pan with the tahini paste.
  • In a bowl, mix the yogurt, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda together. Set that to the side. You will notice the yogurt slighty bubble and rise.
  • In another bowl, stir together the semolina with the melted butter until it begins to come together. At this point, fold in the coconut powder as well.
  • Add the yogurt mixture into the semolina mixture and combine the two well. To this, add the milk. Mix until a cohesive batter comes together.
  • Add the batter into the prepped baking pan spreading it out evenly. Tap the baking pan against a surface to release any air bubbles that may be in the batter before baking.
  • The batter is thick enough to cut into pre baking. Cut into even squares or diamonds in the size of your preference. I got approx. 24 pieces out of my pan. See video above for demonstration.
  • Add a whole almond to the center of each piece just tapping it gently into the batter. You can also add a sprinkle of coconut powder over the top of the batter if you would like before baking.
  • Bake uncovered in the oven for 25-30 min on the bottom rack until the edges start to brown. Then, move the pan to the top rack for another 5-10 minutes so the whole cake gets a beautiful light brown color.
  • While the cake bakes, prepare the simple syrup by stirring together the sugar and water until the sugar is completely dissolved. Let this simmer for about 8 minutes until it thickens and add a asqueezeof lemon at the end.
  • Once the cake is out of the oven, re-inforce the previously cut lines by going over it again with a sharp knife. Then, pour the warm syrup all over the top of the semolina cake. The cake especially when warm will soak it up.
  • Allow for the cake to cool completely for at least an hour before taking the slices out or you can risk it crumbling. You also want the cake to absorb all of the syrup. Enjoy a slice with a cup of tea or coffee!
basbousa
basbousa

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41 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This basbousa recipe is absolutely divine. It’s not overly sweet which I love and the texture is perfect! not too crumbly or dense.

  2. 5 stars
    Definitely one of the best recipes out there! I have a few recipes that I swear by, and this one has become one of them! It’s very fluffly and I loved the texture! A must try

  3. 5 stars
    This semolina cake is a must have and the perfect treat for anyone who needs a quick fix, or to satisfy a sweet craving. It’s perfectly moist and I love that it holds shape really well and doesn’t fall apart when trying to eat it. Its fragrant coconut taste is a game changer, it’s delicious. I can’t recommend this recipe enough. I definitely want to make it soon!

  4. 5 stars
    I’ve tried a couple of recipes and non worked for me! This recipe was so easy to follow and came out absolutely delicious mashallah! I’m not a fan of this sweet but my hubby and kids are! I even had 2 pieces and They loved it and wanted more 😂😂
    100/100 !!!
    Thank you for this recipe! It’s going to be my go to for basbousa from here on!

  5. 5 stars
    It was my first time trying basbousa and I absolutely loved it!! It’s the perfect amount of sweetness, and the texture is excellent: not too moist or too dry! It was also very simple to put together; it took me less than 20 minutes to put in the oven. I look forward to making it more in the future; it’s the perfect treat to serve to guests as well! I highly recommend this recipe to everyone!

  6. 5 stars
    I’ve been gluten free for 2 years now, but as a Palestinian I miss all the amazing sweets. I trust Fufus recipes to taste great and so I experimented with semolina substitutes and I found the perfect thing (krusteaz honey cornbread mix). It tastes perfect, even my mother in law said so.

  7. 5 stars
    I made this basbousa and it was absolutely devine. The recipe was easy to follow and the outcome was amazing and so moreish, such a delicious and simple recipe- will definitely be making it again!

  8. 5 stars
    Made this as an extra dessert to my sons birthday cake and my husband said it was the best he’s ever had. Both he and my older son are tough critics so this was a big deal. Tbh all your Arabi Sweet recipes are my go to. They always come out amazing. JAK for your hard work and efforts in providing us a pathway to continue to create and cook delicious traditional authentic dishes in our second generation homes.

  9. 5 stars
    I made your Basbousa recipe and my husband could not get enough of it MashaAllah. It even tasted nicer the next day and he made sure he took every last crumb 🤣. It was soft, pillowy and moist! Thank you so much 🙏

  10. 5 stars
    I’ve made this basbousa recipe 2 times already and everyone loves it! 💕 way to impress guests 🥰 thank you!!

  11. 5 stars
    I recently got married and still so nervous about cooking/baking! My husband told me this was his absolute favorite dessert so I tried to surprise him with it during Ramadan. Of course I couldn’t try it until Iftar so I was nervous about him trying it too but once we did it was SO GOOD!!!! He said it was the best he’s ever had and believe me he’s a very picky eater! Thank you for posting this and for making it so easy to follow with the steps, pictures and ingredients!!

    This is delicious!!!!!

  12. 5 stars
    Thank you soo much for your hard work on helping us make recipes we love but we’re scared to try! Thank you

  13. 5 stars
    I made this recipe for Eid, and it turned out AMAZING!! The only change I made was to do half coarse semolina and half fine semolina, but I followed everything else exactly as described. The cake was gone before Maghrib. We baked another one to share with the kid’s teachers, and they all requested the recipe as well. Definitely recommend!!

  14. 5 stars
    I love this and have been craving semolina cake for the past few days. I live close to a Yemen coffee shop and semolina cake is available there, as well as other delectable desserts. I am so happy to have this recipe. Thanks for the recipes, I love Middle Eastern food and can’t wait to try many things. Best wishes to you.
    Rebecca, [email protected]

  15. 5 stars
    I love this and have been craving semolina cake for the past few days. I live close to a Yemen coffee shop and semolina cake is available there, as well as other delectable desserts. I am so happy to have this recipe. Thanks for the recipes, I love Middle Eastern food and can’t wait to try many things. Best wishes to you.
    Rebecca

  16. 5 stars
    I made this for my partner today. I’ve tried many different recipes and it “wasn’t right”. This recipe is finally the one! He was very happy, and kept asking for more. It’s very light and not too sweet. Absolutely delicious!! Thank you for sharing!!

  17. 5 stars
    wanted a simple to make recipe for my daughters culture day. Thus was perfect and tasted great! Tried to only have one slice but couldn’t help but have another! thank you

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