Basbousa: Middle Eastern Semolina Cake

flat lay of a dish of basbousa with two small pieces on a plate and a cup of coffee

Basbousa or basboosa is a Middle Eastern semolina cake. I learned to make this dessert from a good friend from Saudi Arabia when I was in college. We would get together, drink Arabic coffee, study, and she would teach me how to make some simple Arabic dishes. This was one of my favorites. I made it for a few of my other friends from Saudi Arabia that were studying in the US, and a couple of them teared up because it tasted “like home”.

For how much I loved this dessert and how often I made it in college, I haven’t made it in about 6 years. It felt great to revisit this recipe. It tasted just like I remember. And all of those college memories came flooding back when I took a bite. It’s amazing how one bite of food has the power to bring tears to your eyes and bring back so many memories.

One of the best things about this cake is its simplicity. A handful of simple ingredients turn into a delicious cake in less than an hour. I mix everything in one bowl, so it doesn’t require too many dishes. When mixing the ingredients together, I like to mix the baking powder in last. It’s really interesting to see the reaction the baking powder has with the acidity of the yogurt. This reaction is also where the cake gets its unique texture.

ingredients of basbousa being mixed together

Once the cake comes out of the oven, a sweet syrup is poured over the cake. You can really have fun with the syrup to subtly change the flavors of the cake. I normally make my syrup with lemon or orange. But, I have also added cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, or rose hips/petals. Oh! Lavender might be a fun summer addition to the syrup too! I might have to try that next time! Many people will also garnish the top of the dessert with almonds or pistachios (whole or coarsely ground). I don’t normally do that extra step, but you absolutely can if you like!

dish of basbousa with a plate with two small pieces next to it

Basbousa

Middle Eastern Semolina Cake
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine Mediterranean

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup semolina flour
  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp baking powder

Syrup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 orange or lemon

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Whisk together all of the cake ingredients (it is fun to add the baking powder last so that you can see it react with the acid that is in the yogurt).
  • Spread the batter in a baking dish. I use a 10×10 sized, but you can use whatever size is your go-to brownie pan.
  • Bake the cake for 35-40 minutes, or until it is golden brown on the top.
  • While the cake bakes, make the syrup by dissolving the sugar in the water in a sauce pan with the zest and juice of the orange or lemon.
  • Once the cake is cooked, pour the syrup onto the cake while it is still hot.
  • Let the cake rest for at least an hour or two before serving.
Keyword cake, middle eastern, semolina

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