This recipe for Middle Eastern Basbousa – a sweet, dense semolina and coconut cake – arrived in my inbox through the week and I was immediately intrigued.
I have ABSOLUTELY no idea how Basbousa is meant to look or taste, so frankly I wouldn’t have a clue if I’ve succeeded with this recipe! I went online to have a look at how others cooked it, and it seems there are as many different versions of this as there are Middle Eastern countries! I’ve seen it look light and tender, meltingly moist, or dense and nutty.
This version is the latter – a moist, tight crumb which tastes of coconut and almonds, even though it’s semolina and not almonds that it’s made with. There’s also a delightfully subtle nod to rose water, orange blossom water and lemon that is introduced through the syrup that’s poured on after it’s cooked.
Thanks to Dish.co.nz for the recipe. While I can’t vouch for whether it’s a good one (not having sampled Basbousa before), it certainly went down well, particularly with a strong cup of tea alongside. Enjoy!
- 320 grams (11.2 oz) semolina
- 70 grams (2.4 oz) desiccated coconut
- 150 grams (5.3 oz) caster sugar (super fine)
- 50 grams (1.7 oz) plain flour (I used spelt flour)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 135 grams (4.7 oz) yoghurt
- 135 grams (4.7 oz) butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Up to 25 blanched almonds
- Optional: Dried rose petals, to decorate
- 110 grams (3.8 oz) white sugar
- 200ml (6.7 fl oz) water
- 1 teaspoon rose water
- 1 teaspoon orange blossom water
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- Grease a 23cm (9 inch) round cake tin and line with baking paper (I just used a regular ceramic pie dish and lightly sprayed it with cooking oil - it was quite easy to cut each slice straight from the dish).
- Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F).
- In a large bowl, combine the semolina, coconut, caster sugar, flour and baking powder.
- In a separate bowl, combine the yoghurt, melted butter and vanilla extract.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well to combine (it will be very thick).
- Place the cake batter into the prepared tin. Use the back of a spoon (or the palm of your hand) to smooth out the top. Cover and rest for 20 minutes.
- Make deep cuts into the cake in the shape of diamonds. Press a blanched almond into the centre of each diamond. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown.
- While the cake is cooking, place the white sugar and water in a saucepan over a low heat. Once the sugar has dissolved, add the rose water, orange blossom water and lemon juice. Increase the heat to medium and simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until thickened and syrupy.
- Once the cake is cooked, remove from oven and immediately pour over the syrup (it will take a while for the liquid to sink in*).
- Let the cake completely cool in the tin before removing. Decorate with dried rose petals before serving.
Food Photography Info: Canon 550D (EOS Rebel T2i); Sigma 30mm 1.4 DC ‘Art’ lens / Natural lighting