Basbousa (Semolina Cake)

As much as I love me a big slice of chocolate cake, sometimes I long for something a little different.  No Frosting, no icing, nothing fancy, just simple and delicious to enjoy with a hot cup of tea.  Bliss! 

Basbousa is a Middle Eastern cake made with semolina instead of flour.  This cake is absolutely delicious and like all Arabian desserts, it’s drizzled with syrup so is super sweet.  The hint of rose water takes you to faraway lands, old market streets and Bedouins in the desert.  Can you guess how much I love this?


Basbousa was the first recipe I wrote into my ‘Magic Book of Food’.  Honestly, I don’t know what I was thinking when I came up with that name! I’m sure ‘Charmed’ had something to do with it!! I remember first having this at a friend’s house and feeling no shame in asking for a second, even third slice! I can’t remember if I got this recipe from my friend or the internet, but like a lot of the recipes in my book, I’ve made changes to suit my own taste.  I omit the almonds which would traditionally be placed on top and although I normally love it to be syrupy and sticky, in this picture, I’ve used only half the amount of syrup from the recipe below.



½ cup unsalted butter (softened)             ¾ cup caster sugar

1 tsp. vanilla essence                                      2 eggs

2 cups fine semolina                                       1 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. bicarbonate of soda                           ¾ cup natural yogurt



2 cups sugar                                                       1½ cups water

2 tbsp. rose water



  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. (365 f)
  2. Grease and line a square 8” square pan. I used a silicon pan so didn’t need to line.
  3. Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla essence together until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs and beat together well. (The more air you beat in at this stage, the airier your cake will be).
  5. Sift the semolina, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda well. Then fold well into the butter mixture. Folding is not whisking. You do not want to beat out all the air you worked so hard to put in.
  6. Fold in the yogurt and ensure everything is thoroughly blended in together.
  7. Spread the mixture into your baking pan and bake for 30 minutes or until you can insert in a toothpick and it comes out clean.
  8. To make the syrup, dissolve the sugar in water over a medium heat. You’ll know it’s all dissolved properly when the syrup becomes clear again.
  9. Add the rose water and bring it to the boil. (The original recipe calls for lemon juice or orange blossom, which could be substituted if you don’t like or can’t find rose water).
  10. Boil for 10 minutes after adding the rose water, then cool by standing your pan in cold water.
  11. When the cake is cooked, spoon the cooled syrup over the hot cake. Cool thoroughly before cutting.




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