This Basbousa Recipe, also known as Middle Eastern Semolina Cake, features sweet honey and vanilla flavors and the rich, satisfying crunch of Hazelnuts nuts. Baked in 30 minutes, it has a soft and moist interior with a crisp, golden-brown exterior for a delightful blend of textures perfect for satisfying your sweet tooth. Serve it on its own or with a cup of hot tea or coffee for a dessert that can’t be beat!
Basbousa is one of our favorite Ramadan foods to serve for iftar! However, if you’re looking for more sweet recipes to break your fast, you might also want to check out our atayef with cream cheese filling and our chocolate hazelnut stuffed phyllo, too!
What is Basbousa?
Known as many different names such as semolina cake, hareesa, and بسبوسة, basbousa is a type of Middle Eastern cake that is made from base of semolina, sugar, and yogurt or milk. Depending on who is making it and which region of the Middle East you’re in, it can be found in a variety of different falvors and variations.
For instance, it is sometimes flavored with coconut water or orange blossom water. In addition, it can be found soaked in a sweet simple syrup mixture of just sugar and water. Or, it can also be infused with lemon juice or rose water for a slightly sweet, floral taste.
No matter what flavors are used, the dessert always has a unique texture that is slightly grainy yet moist and tender like a cake. To serve, it is often sliced into diamond-shaped pieces and garnished with nuts like almonds or pistachios before being served with tea or coffee.
Is Revani the Same as Basbousa?
Yes. Basbousa is an Arabic word. Revani is the Persian name for the dessert. You’ll most often hear the dish being called revani in Greece. However, its name changes depending on where you go!
Is Basbousa the Same as Kunafa?
Not quite! Both recipes are popular Middle Eastern desserts. However, basbousa is cake-like and made from a batter made of semolina and soaked in syrup. Meanwhile, kunafa is a type of pastry made from shredded phyllo dough filled with sweet cheese and soaked in a simple syrup
Although they’re both delicious, basbousa and kunafa has very different ingredients and methods of preparation. As a result, their taste and texture are completely different from each other.
What Does this Basbousa Recipe Taste Like?
Basbousa tastes different depending on the specific ingredients you use. However, our recipe has a rich, buttery mouthfeel with warm notes of sweet honey, sugar, and vanilla. Soaked in a lemon simple syrup, it’s vibrant and refreshing without being cloyingly sweet or overpowering. It’ll melt in your mouth and leave you feeling satisfied!
What You’ll Need
Although this basbousa recipe looks super gourmet, it comes together with simple ingredients. Here’s everything you’ll need:
For the Middle Eastern Semolina Cake:
- Semolina Flour – This forms the base of the basbousa recipe, creating the dense, gritty texture that makes it unique.
Note: Many recipes use farina flour instead. It works just as well but creates a smooth, velvety texture more similar to traditional American cake.
- Unsweetened Coconut Flakes – These are folded into the batter to create a chewy texture and provide a sweet, slightly toasted flavor.
- Salt – Just a pinch helps enhance the rest of the ingredients.
- Milk – Whole milk works best for the richest flavor, but any milk you have on hand can be used.
- Sugar – Regular granulated sugar enhances the sweetness of the cake.
- Butter – Unsalted butter is crucial to create that melt-in-your-mouth texture that makes basbousa truly irresistible.
- Honey – You’ll find this in every basbousa recipe to add sweetness to the cake that’s slightly earthier than if you just used sugar.
- Vanilla Extract – Splurge for high-quality pure vanilla extract. We promise you can taste the difference, and a little goes a long way!
- Hazelnuts – Skinless hazelnuts are pressed into the top for extra crunch and a savory, nuttiness we love.
For the Simple Syrup
- Water – This forms the base of the syrup.
- Sugar – Melted down for a saccharine taste.
- Lemon Juice – The acidity helps cut through some of the heaviness of the sugar and fat for a light, fruity flavor, and a well-rounded taste.
Semolina vs Farina
Often used interchangeably in basbousa recipes, semolina and farina are both types of flour made of wheat. However, they are produced differently and are used in different ways in a variety of recipes.
For example, semolina is coarse and made from durum wheat which is high in protein and gluten. As a result, it is a popular option for making items like pasta, couscous, and bread.
Meanwhile, farina is fine in texture and made from a soft wheat that is low in gluten. You’ll find it in more delicate items like cream of wheat as well as being used as a thickener in soups, sauces, and gravies.
Semolina has a slightly yellow color and is thicker and grainy in appearance. Opposingly, farina has an off-white color and is almost sand-like in texture. However, both can be used to make a tasty basbousa recipe!
How to Make this Easy Basbousa Recipe
Basbousa can seem intimidating because it requires a handful of steps. Don’t worry, though! It takes a little bit of patience, but it’s really easy to make.
- Mix the Wet Ingredients. In a saucepan over medium heat, add the melted butter, milk, sugar, vanilla, and honey. Heat, stirring continuously until the sugar is dissolved. Do not let the mixture come to a boil!
Pro-Tip: For a quick option, heat the ingredients in a microwave, and stir to combine.
- Combine the Dry Ingredients. In a large mixing bowl, add the semolina flour, coconut flakes, and salt, mixing to combine.
- Add the Dry Ingredients to the Wet. Pour the warmed milk mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients. Stir until the ingredients are combined and completely coated.
- Chill. Pour the mixture into a round, buttered baking dish, pressing it down to flatten it into an even layer. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Add the Nuts. Gently press the hazelnuts into the top of the semolina cake.
- Bake. Bake until the top is deep golden brown in color.
- Create the Simple Syrup. In the meantime, prepare the simple syrup by bringing the water and sugar to a boil in a saucepan. Simmer for 3 minutes. Then, remove the mixture from the heat, and stir in the lemon juice.
- Combine. Pour the simple syrup over the basbousa as soon as it comes out of the oven, coating it completely. Then, let it stand for 30 minutes before slicing it and serving.
How to Cut Basbousa
To save time, we tend to slice our Middle Eastern semolina cake into squares. However, one of the biggest appeals of any basbousa recipe is the beautiful appearance of its diamond-shaped pieces. Here’s how to cut your basbousa properly and with ease:
- Once cooled, flip your basbousa over onto a large plate or cutting board.
- Use a sharp knife to slice the basbousa into equal-sized rectangles or squares. Just be careful not to press down too hard and smash the cake!
- Next, make diagonal or “vs” shaped cuts across each square to form diamond shapes. Make them as big or as small as you like!
- Using a spatula or cake server, gently transfer the diamond shapes to a serving platter. Or, place them on individual plates!
- Add any additional garnishes, and they’re beautiful and ready to serve!
Pro-Tip: For clean pieces, dip your knife in butter or ghee before you slice! Then, wipe it off, and repeat.
Depending on how large you cut your pieces, you can end up with quite a few servings of this basbousa recipe. Luckily, they store well and taste great for days!
Room Temperature: Transfer the pieces to an airtight container, and keep them at room temperature for 2-3 days.
Refrigerator: For a slightly longer-lasting option, place the pieces in an airtight container, and store them in the fridge instead. They’ll last for up to 1 week.
More Dessert Recipes
Looking for more ways to satisfy your sweet tooth? We’ve got you covered with more great recipes below!
Basbousa Recipe (Middle Eastern Semolina Cake)
For the Basbousa:
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter (melted)
- 3/4 cup milk
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 Tablespoons honey
- 3 cups semolina flour
- 3 Tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup skinless hazelnuts
For the Simple Syrup:
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- In a saucepan over medium heat, add the melted butter, milk, sugar, vanilla extract, and honey. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Be careful not to boil! Remove from the heat, and set aside. Alternatively, heat the ingredients in the microwave, and stir to combine.
- In a large bowl, add the semolina, coconut flakes, and salt. Mix to combine.
- Pour the warm milk mixture over the dry ingredients, stirring until they are well combined and the dry ingredients are completely coated.
- In a buttered 14-inch round baking dish, spread the mixture evenly, flattening it out into a smooth layer.
- Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400° Fahrenheit.
- Remove the basbousa from the fridge, and gently press the hazelnuts on top.
- Bake 30 minutes or until the top is a deep golden brown.
- While the basbousa cooks, create the simple syrup by adding the water and sugar to a saucepan over medium heat. Increase the temperature, bringing the ingredients to a boil. Let it simmer for 2 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat, and whisk in the lemon juice.
- Pour the simple syrup over the basbousa as soon as it is removed from the oven, covering it completely.
- Let the dessert stand from 30 minutes. Slice it into squares or diamonds, and enjoy.
- Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days or in the fridge for up to 1 week.