Basbousa – A Middle Eastern delicacy

For me a semolina cake is reminiscent of my childhood! Mom baked it often to celebrate our small  successes or on joyous occasions. What set this semolina cake apart from the flour cake was its distinctive texture as a semolina has a coarser texture than the all purpose flour. 

I wanted my daughters to have the semolina cake and decided to tweak the recipe a little bit to make it more exotic. Actually, this semolina cake is really a take on the Middle Eastern cake made with semolina called Basbousa. In fact it is found in Middle East, Balkans and North Africa under different names : in Arabic it is called as Basbousa or Basboosa or Nammoura or Hareesa, in Armenian it is Shamali, Greek and Turkish it is Revani. 

I love to flavour my version of this semolina cake with citrus fruits and soak it with citrus flavoured syrup. Also I replaced a part of the semolina with almond flour to make it healthier and richer. Here is the recipe :


For the cake :

  1. Butter – 110g
  2. Caster Sugar – 100 g
  3. Finely grated juice and rind of 1 orange and 1 lemon
  4. Fine Semolina – 100 g
  5. Almond flour – 75 g
  6. Baking Powder – 1 tsp
  7. Eggs – 2
  8. Roasted almonds chopped roughly  50 g
  9. Butter milk – 60 ml
  10. Salt – a pinch

For the soaking syrup:

  1. Juice and rind of 1 lemon
  2. Granulated Sugar – 50 g

For the icing :

  1. Chakka or Hung Curd : 200 g
  2. Icing Sugar : 75 g
  3. Zest of 1 orange


  1. Grease and prepare a  7 inch round cake tin and preheat the oven to 175 ° celsius.
  2. For the icing, beat the hung curd, icing sugar and the zest of the orange together and refrigerate.
  3. For the cake, beat butter and sugar together. Add the citrus zest and beat to incorporate.
  4. Beat in the eggs one by one. Fold in the semolina, almond flour, half of the roasted almonds, salt and baking powder along with the buttermilk and citrus juices, till just combined.
  5. Drop the batter in the prepared tin and bake for 40-45 minutes at 175 °C or till done.
  6. While the cake cools, boil the soaking syrup ingredients together till the sugar dissolves completely.
  7. Poke the cake with skewer or tooth pick and drizzle the cake with the syrup.
  8. Serve with yogurt icing and with the remainder of roasted almonds as garnish.

I love this cake not only because it is  luscious, but also because it is healthier than the regular flour cake. Don’t forget to use fine semolina. Those of you who are fond of rose flavour can also use rose syrup for baking instead of citrus flavoured one. The cake also needs to be flavoured with rose essence. But not for me because I am a citrus person out and out 🙂

As I put this cake for baking, the sweet smell of baking filled my house and it took me down the memory lane. Why don’t you just do that ?