Basbousa - Semolina (Sooji) Cake with Rose Syrup


I have made cakes with all-purpose flour all the time, so this time I decided to try something new. While looking for ethnic cake recipes, I came across this one called "Basbousa", which is a typical middle-eastern dessert (mainly Egyptian) with Semolina as a main ingredient. Also, unlike the traditional way of making cakes, this is unique as it uses a sugar syrup topping for a plain cake, which in fact induces the softness, flavor and sweetness to the cake. Also, almonds and lemon juice are an important part of the traditional recipe. I was excited with the idea of making a cake with semolina, or sooji as it is known in India, as it sounded healthy and different. I have to say this was one of my favorite and satisfying baking escapades!

The concept of using sugar syrup was fascinating, as I've made a Tres Leches Cake before which uses milk syrup in the same way. As I'm not too huge a fan of lemon flavor in my cakes, I cut down on the lemon juice a little and added Rose essence instead as I thought it would give a nice aroma and a mildly sweet taste that would accentuate the recipe. The result, a perfectly moist and healthy cake with a distinct taste, flavor and texture, thanks to the semolina, almonds and rose essence.

Ingredients
1/2 cup butter - unsalted
3/4 cup sugar
1 tspn vanilla essence
2 eggs
2 cups fine semolina (sooji)
1 tspn baking powder
1/2 tspn soda-bicarbonate
3/4 cup plain or vanilla-flavored yogurt
12-15 almonds - blanched and split

For the Syrup Topping
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
2 tsp rose essence
1/2 tsp lemon juice

Method
Take a bowl and mix the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat well.

Sift the semolina, baking powder and soda in another bowl. Add this slowly into the butter mixture alternately with yogurt. Beat well so you can allow semolina to expand once it gets into the oven.

Now grease a cake pan and spread batter into it. Pinch in the almonds on top of the cake at equal distances so that when you cut into pieces later, each piece has an almond topping in the center.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F and bake for 30-35 minutes until cake is cooked.

Making the Syrup
To prepare the syrup topping, dissolve sugar in water over medium heat, add the lemon juice and the rose essence and bring to a boil.

Let it boil for 5-7 mins, then allow to cool by placing the container in another larger bowl filled with cold water (indirect cooling).

Assemble the Cake
When the cake is done, slowly pour the cooled syrup over the hot cake. Let the cake soak the syrup and set it aside for 15 mins or so. Once it is completely cooled, cut into diamond or square shapes. Serve each piece topped with whipped cream or desired fruit topping!

Basbousa, or Semolina Cake as I'd call it, is a perfect traditional dessert and we really enjoyed its light and spongy texture. I'll surely be making this again, perhaps with shredded coconut next time!

Similar Recipes:
Coconut & Poppy-Seed Coffee Cake
Raspberry Jelly Swiss Roll Cake
Festive Chocolate-Banana Bread/Cake


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53 comments :

musical said...

That sounds exciting! Cake with rava has to eb good :).

bee said...

i used to make this often and had a recipe that used yogurt and was almost fat free. can't locate it now.

i agree, it's delicious.

c e e d y said...

This is a cool site - I love experimenting with food and cooking - am going to book mark you and let you know once I try one of your recipes.
thx in advance

Nalini said...

Wow, you are innovative girl! have to give you credit:) semolina and yogurt-sounds interesting..and if you say this cake does come out good, I think I'll trust your judgement and give it a try!

-Nalini

Nabeela said...

I had a middle eastern friend who used to say basbousa is a type of baklava...wonder why she said that since it's not made with phyllo pastry.
I've had basbousa numerous times and the best part for me is the sugar syrup...they do use rose essence in it, so you were right to sub essence for lime/lemon juice.
Btw, where did you get the recipe?

RedChillies said...

Wonderful and unique recipe Mansi. I love cakes that do not have All purpose flour in them. I should try this soon.

Swapna said...

Mom used to make sooji cake and add bananas to it..Try it too..Great recipe!

Madhu said...

Semolina in cake, bet it gives very nice texture to it. Looks delicious Mansi.

Latha said...

I have had this cake several times at Lebanese eateries. Never made out that sugar syrup was poured over. Infact whenever i ordered Baklava, my husband preferred this one:) Thanks for sharing...

Happy cook said...

I love this cake, sometime i buy them frm the turkish shop.

Puspha said...

Looks divine. Thanx for sharing the recipe.

meeso said...

This sounds very good, I'm going to write it down now and try it so so soon!

Jeena said...

Great recipe it looks real tasty Mansi . I love Middle Eastern food and sweets too. :)

Kribha said...

Whoa Mansi...slow down please. How do u come up with all these delicacies so fast? That cake is so creative and looks very good.:)

Namratha said...

My, this sounds fabulous...thanks for the lovely recipe..I'm surely gonna make some!

Mansi Desai said...

Nabeela - I had this at a dessert cafe once, then heard about it from a friend's frind..she shared her recipe with me and I verified it in my home:) so I'm sre it'll work for you:)

Glad all the others liked it too!

Kribha its Diwali time...festivities are in order!

Nags said...

i love rose flavour.. i can almost smell those cake pieces from here :)

Hima said...

It looks so moist and can't make out that it is made with sooji. I may want to try this.

Sirisha Kilambi said...

wow Mansi...they look so cute......Simple delicacy....I really want to taste one now :-)

Susan said...

It's very hard for me to resist anything with rosewater. (I love lemon, but would choose rosewater hands down.) I have semolina in the house for homemade pasta, but haven't thought to bake a cake with it. Thanks for the idea, Mansi.

Ranjan said...

The no of things you have here is amazing !! Keep it up. Will definitely ask my mom to take a look at this! cheers.

Cynthia said...

I won't mind have a piece of this cake right now. You are such a good baker.

Mallow said...

Oooo yum! This is going on my list of keepers!

Cris said...

I love basbousa! We can get it here, I had it last month when visiting a county market!!! Thanks for sharing this recipe! First time I come across one and it sounds so good!

AnuSriram said...

Nice recipe! Will try it out.... Looks delicious..

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Thanks for giving me something to do with the semolina and rose extract I've had sitting around my kitchen for a while. These look sooo good!

Mansi Desai said...

Sure Deb - you are always welcome! do make these and lemme know how it goes:)

ceedy, ranjan, meeso, mallow - welcome to my blog..glad you liked this recipe and others and look forward to seeing you guys more often!:)

neetu said...

Hi Hey this looks great, any chance it could be made without eggs?

Mansi Desai said...

Hi neetu - I haven't tried these without eggs, but if you are ready for some challenge, which may not turn out perfectly well:), try this suggestion...

Skip the eggs in the recipe, use 1 cup butter, 2 tsp baking powder, and add 1/2 cup milk to the list. I think it just might come out good, though a little less soft...but if you happen to try it, do let me know so I can add the eggless experiment to the post!:)

Sylvia said...

A long time I be searching this recipe, I only eat in Arabian's restaurants or grocery in Sao Paulo, and I love love this cake . Thanks for share Mansi

Chris said...

As a lebanese, let me provide some insight on this sweet:

a) we have the best sweets ;) ...and food
b) these semolina cakes are also known as Sfouf

It's nice to see them get exposure on Tastespotting, etc because in truth beklava is only a very small fraction of middle east sweets. The middle east has so many variety of sweets we put the french to shame.

As someone mentioned, some people also call them baklava. That's because while in the USA baklava is just the phylo-pastry, in the middle east it is more of a 'catch all' term for small finger-food deserts.

Judging by your picture, you nailed the desert moisture level exactly right. If it's done wrong, it's not very good. If you put too little syrup, Sfoof comes out very dry and sandy (because of the semolina texture). You put too much syrup and it's over-sweet and soggy.

Anyone who is making this recipe, look closely at the texture and moisture in the picture, because she got it exactly right. They're very easy to make, so please do try, but it may take a few attempts to get the right moisture level. Good news is, its easy to fix, start with less syrup and add more as needed. Just keep in mind that it takes a while for the syrup to soak through. Finally, cover it with plastic wrap or in tupperware when not in use or it dries up quickly since the syrup is mostly water. Keep some extra syrup to drizzle on top if needed.

Sfoof go very well with unsweetened tea or coffee, which is it's traditional purpose ... as a mid-day tea break or treat for guests.

Thank you for reading and have a great 2008. :)

Mansi Desai said...

Chris, if readers had any doubts or inhibitions after reading my post, your comment surely cleared them!!:)

Thanks so much! and you have a fab 2008 too my friend:)

Mercedes said...

To Chris-
I'm afraid you are confused about the name of this pastry. Sfoof are indeed very similar cakes, however, sfoof are drier cakes made without syrup and colored yellow with turmeric. These semolina-syrup cakes are known as nammoura in Lebanon (and occasionally also basbousa). Both cakes look very similar but it's important to note the differences. Any lebanese cookbook will verify this.

In the Middle East, the term baklava can be used as a catch-all for syrup-soaked desserts.

Chris said...

Mercedes is right, they're namoora. They're very similar looking to sfoof.

Anu said...

What size cake pan did you use? Thanks for the recipe :)

Mansi Desai said...

Anu - I used a 9x9 square pan. This cake will not rise as much as regular cake, but I'd advise you to fill up the batter upto half of the container and leave some part for it to fluff up...let me know how it goes!:)

Belra said...

I don't have rose extract, but I have rose water. Do I add more rose water to the recipe? If so, how much more? Thanks for the recipe. I will make it this weekend for my family Algerian dinner.

Mansi Desai said...

Hi belra - if you are using rose water, then just use 1 1/2 cup rose water, and not other water or rose essence. DoNOT ADD any more water, because then thhe syrup will become very liquid, and you need it to be a little thick and viscous.

So eliminate essence and plain water from the recipe, just use 1 1/2 cup rose water. It would be good if you could find rose essence b'coz that gives more flavor and smell than rose water.

Good Luck! tell me how it goes:)

Swathi said...

Hi Mansi,
I couldn't wait anymore to try basbousa, though I earlier planned to do it in the later half of the week :) and oh boy! It turned out delicious.

I used 'egg replacer' and the end result is still satisfactory. I will try and use real eggs next time to see if it makes the cake even better.

Thanks so much Mansi for all the wonderful recipes you have on this blog.

Swathi.

Mansi Desai said...

I'm so glad the cake turned out nice for you Swathi:) this one's really a classic, and I love it more because it's not made of flour and yet it so soft and tasty:)

your comments are my lifeline...so do keep them coming:)

belra said...

I made the semolina cake last weekend. I used a 8 x 8 pan, but will buy a 9 x 9 pan next time. I think I will bake the cake longer. I used the rose water since I couldn't find any rose extract. I followed the recipe as you suggested. I will cook the syrup longer next time to make it a lot more thick. When I added it to the cake, there was way too much syrup, just too sweet. So, I think next time I will cook the syrup for 15 minutes to make it thick enough. I will make this again because it is a very delicious dessert and it reminds me of what I had before in Algeria. Thank you. I will let you know how it turns out next time when I make it again.

Anonymous said...

OMG I can't wait to make this it sounds sooo good. I'm doing a project for school and it's about ancient egypt and
I get to make food for my class I can't wait... and I really want to see the difference between the lemon juice and rose essence! Thanks again.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Your Basbousa looks terrific and extremely delicious! I love that kind of flavorful cake... Yummy!

Cheers,

Rosa

Aparna said...

This is a very tasty cake. A friend of mine used to make this and it was a hit everytime.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mansi,

Quick question on this one. Should I use the regular Sooji like the one we use for upma or the one we get in the stores her which is like a powder (I was at Whole foods and they had semolina which was way more powdery than our regular Sooji).

Please let me know.

Mala

Mansi Desai said...

HI mala - you just need regular semolina/sooji for this, not the powdery one. you can choose the finer sooji rather than the very coarse one, but even if you use the one for upma, it should be fine. actually, the texture will be better and granular with the regular sooji:)

hope this helps! and I hope it comes out well for you:) thanks for visiting Fun & Food!!

rk said...

This is great because I used to make Basbousa many years ago from a recipe I got from an Egyptian friend. I lost the recipe somehow and now I have found it! Can't wait to make this again, thanks!!!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I just made the cake it turned out perfect... almost as good yours! But I personally felt it was far too sweet so next time I will definitely be adding less sugar. Thanks for recipe.

Anonymous said...

i compared your recipe with this guy's:
http://mideastfood.about.com/od/dessertssweetspastries/r/basbousa.htm

and he adds even more sugar than you (1 c vs. 3/4 c). But people have still commented here that the 3/4 c. is too sweet--is it the actual cake or the syrup which is excessively sweet?

Mansi said...

hi Anon - this cake will be a bit sweeter than regular unfrosted cakes, but its the syrup that lends most of the sweetness....semolina holds more sugar than regular cake flour, but I wouldn't say its excessively sweet without the syrup...

hope this helps!

Astha said...

i was really tempted after seeing this awesome cake recipe....nd finally I have tried it yesterday...nd it came as a fantastic nd mouthwatering cake..i have ever made..everybody in my family liked it very much ..nd i hv requests to make it again:)Thnks for sharing this recipe with every possible details..tht makes it real fun trying ur recipes for a pathetic cook like me too:)

Olga Tikhonova said...

Mansi, I've included your recipe in the Vegetarian Ramadan round-up on my blog - hope you'll find it interesting to check out the rest here. Have a great weekend)

Anonymous said...

wow...this looks a lot like Greek revani cake, which is also made with semolina and syrup. i never would think to make it with rose water. i'll have to try it your way one day.