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Egyptian Basbousa Cake

Suzy Karadsheh7 Comments

Basbousa is an Egyptian semolina cake drenched in syrup. This version comes from my Aunt Maha, one of the kindest and most generous women I know. Though she always serves this cake when I visit her in Toronto, she has kept this family recipe close for years.

Until now.

Semolina treats like basbousa are popular throughout the Middle East and parts of Europe. There are many variations out there, each with their own ingredient twists. Some call for eggs, others (like this one) for yogurt. Some use a honey-based syrup, others use a sugar-based syrup. Some syrups are citrus-flavored -- perhaps with orange or tangerine peels -- while others get their fragrance from spices like cinnamon or cloves. All semolina desserts are good (to be sure!), but my Aunt Maha’s basbousa is my absolute favorite.

Below is Aunt Maha’s authentic Egyptian basbousa recipe. It's my kind of fuss-free dessert, one that yields incredibly impressive results.

Recipe for Egyptian Basbousa (Almond, Coconut, Semolina Cake with yogurt)
Makes 8 servings

For the batter:
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus additional soft butter for greasing the pan
1 cup sugar
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup fine semolina plus 1 cup coarse semolina (or 2 cups coarse semolina or 2 cups original Cream of Wheat enriched farina)
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon baking powder

For the cinnamon simple syrup:
1½ cup sugar
1¾ cup water
1 cinnamon stick
¼ teaspoon lemon juice

To finish:
¼ cup sweetened shredded coconut or coconut chips
¼ cup sliced almonds

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9" round cake pan (not glass) and line the bottom with parchment.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar and yogurt. Stir in the semolina, milk, and baking powder. Slowly stir in the melted butter. Let the mixture stand until the butter is absorbed.

Transfer the batter to the prepared cake pan. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a skewer withdraws clean. (If necessary, broil briefly to brown the top.)

Meanwhile, while the cake bakes, prepare the cinnamon simple syrup. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, water, and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Turn heat to low and let simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice. Cool completely. Discard the cinnamon stick.

As soon as the cake is removed from the oven, pour the syrup on the hot cake. Let cool completely. (Syrup must be fully absorbed into the cake.)

Top the basbousa with the coconut and shaved almonds. Slice and serve. 

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Words, Recipe + Photographs by Suzy Karadsheh