Middle Eastern Basbousa Semolina Cake

A dessert with many names, basbousa is a traditional Middle Eastern dessert originating in Egypt that is commonly found throughout the region. As versions of this dessert moved through the area, each country adapted its ingredients and name: Lebanon (nammoura), Armenia (shamali), Turkey/Greece (revani), Egypt/Jordan (harisa). Some recipes call for eggs, while others call for yogurt, milk or buttermilk. The syrups also can vary depending on where the recipe comes from. This recipe is based on the Egyptian version. It’s a harmony of flavors that’s a little different to the American palate for a cake, textural, extremely moist, and utterly delicious. It’s a great recipe, especially if you’re looking at skipping the frosting (trust me, you won’t miss it!).

Where to find it  

This dessert can be easily found in Middle Eastern bakeries around the US and in their native countries. It’s also a popular dessert served during Ramadan.


Middle Eastern Basbousa Semolina Cake

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Middle Eastern Basbousa Semolina Cake

  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Yield: 8-10 servings 1x
  • Category: dessert


Middle Eastern Basbousa Semolina Cake with Orange, Cinnamon, and Cardamom Syrup



For The Cake

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup fine semolina AND 1 cup coarse semolina
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • shredded coconut
  • shaved or sliced almonds

For The Syrup

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • zest of 1/2 orange
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tbs lemon juice
  • pinch of cinnamon


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Butter and sugar 9″ round pan and set aside. (I used a springform pan)
  3. Put butter in a glass bowl and melt in microwave, about 25-30 seconds.
  4. Using a stand or hand mixer, combine sugar and greek yogurt in a large mixing bowl. Slowly add in semolina, baking powder, and buttermilk. Mix well on medium speed.
  5. Add in melted butter, stirring on low until combined. Once mixed, let sit briefly until butter is absorbed, then mix again on medium low for one minute. Dough will be stiff and not runny.
  6. Pour semolina mixture in prepared pan and transfer to oven. Bake for 40-45 or until top of cake it golden brown.
  7. While the cake is baking, prepare the syrup. Place water, sugar, orange juice, orange zest, cardamom, lemon juice, and cinnamon in a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir often so sugar doesn’t burn. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 20 minutes.
  8. Remove from heat and set aside to cool until ready to use.
  9. Once the cake is finished baking, remove from oven and cool slightly.
  10. Remove from pan and pour half of syrup over the cake.
  11. Once syrup is absorbed, sprinkle cake with coconut and almonds, then drizzle a little more syrup on top.
  12. Once cake is fully cooled, slice and drizzle again with reserved remaining syrup as desired and enjoy.


  • When pouring syrup over the cake, use a pastry brush to help evenly distribute the syrup on the cake on the top and sides.


Middle Eastern Basbousa Semolina Cake