Thursday, February 18, 2010

Basbousa or An Egyptian Syrup Cake

Basbousa is the sweetest of sweet delicacies from Egypt and Lebanon. Soft, sticky, fragrant, and delightful is how I like to describe Basbousa. Basically, a Basbousa is a sweet semolina cake soaked in syrup redolent with lime and rose syrup! It is popular in eastern Mediterranean cuisines, and also widely available in various Middle-East countries where it is known as Hareesa. Though Turkish Delight, Halvah, Baklava, date pastry, and pistachios cookies are available in some stores or bakeries, you would have to find a speciality store for Basbousa.

Basbousa Recipe
So, I can only say that I was pleasantly surprised to learn that its really really easy to whip up this delicious dessert at home. There are many recipes of Basbousa going around - some that even use eggs, vanilla essence, etc. However, if you have baked with semolina before, you will find that the best recipe is often the simplest one. The recipe below is one that I worked out based on our tastes at home. It yields 12 good sized pieces of the cake. It is soft and spongy once baked and not too sweet once soaked in syrup. Its perfect with warm spicy tea.

1 1/4 cup semolina
1/2 cup coconut, unsweetened, shredded
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup live yogurt
2/3 cup milk (1%)
2 tbsp sweet cream butter, melted
1 tsp baking powder
12 almonds

For the Syrup:
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 tbsp rose water

  1.  Sift the semolina, flour, and shredded coconut in a large mixing bowl. Add the baking powder and sugar and blend well.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix the milk, butter, and yogurt. Pour slowly into the flour mix to get a soft sticky batter. If the batter is too thick, add milk one tablespoon at a time to loosen it up.
  3. Grease an 8 by 8 baking pan, and pour the batter into it. Cover with foil and let the batter sit in a cool place for at least 2 hours.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350F. Using a sharp butterknife, mark out the batter into 12 squares. 
  5. Bake for 25-30mins until the top is golden brown and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  6. Prepare the syrup. Bring 1 cup water to a boil, add the sugar. Simmer until the syrup is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat, add the lime juice and rose water. Mix well and set aside.
  7. Pour over the still warm cake and allow all the syrup to absorb before serving. The cake can be stored in the refrigerator for upto 2 weeks
This version of Basbousa is delicately fragrant and mildly sweet. If you prefer a heavier syrup, add more sugar per taste. Enjoy as dessert or with your favourite warm beverage.

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  1. Looks great, like the sound Rava and coconut and sugar! YUM.

  2. love the ingredients and the cake does sounds so delicious..

  3. This is just my kind of recipe Apu, no eggs, simple ingredients and an exotic name to boot - am definitely bookmarking this :) Glad to find your blog

  4. Nice desert. Love this sweet.Looks mouthwatering.
    Thanks for dropping by and leaving your comments in my blog :)


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