Skip to content

Basboosa – Semolina Cake

26 de June de 2010

I received an email with an invitation more than delicious: it asked if I would like to visit the kitchen, bakery and pastry chef of one of the tastiest restaurants in Sao Paulo – the Arabia. Don’t know about you, but I love Lebanese food  and even coming from an Italian/ Spanish family, I grew up eating sfihas, kibehs, rice with lentils, tabbouleh and an eventual turkish delight every now and then – Sao Paulo received a lot of Lebanese immigrants in the end of the XIX, so their delicious food became very common around here.

Everything was very clean and efficient, a real assembly line of delights, and right at the entrance I bumped into this:

Put that in my wish list, please: a giant stand mixer. I wonder how many cupcakes could I make at a time?

Before and after: the sfihas assembly line

After passing through the assembly line of sfihas and bravely resist to stick one in my pocket , we reached the part that matters – the pastry kitchen.

Clear syrups bubbling in huge pans, beautiful confections everywhere and a delicious orange blossom water aroma in the air. Chef Samih Abou Ali, authentic Lebanese citizen and very friendly,  handles everything with skill, an d was kind enough to answer all of my questions.

From top right, clockwise: cashew nuts flowers waiting for the orange blossom syrup; chef Samih rolling out Phylo dough until the thickness of a tissue paper; skilled hands closing the sweets; the divine semolina cake; Knef being prepared in the hot copper plate; walnut beklawa

I asked the chef the recipe for the semolina cake, which seemed the most possible to be made at home. He patiently said ok, but warned me it was not so easy to make at home. Still, I came across the challenge, because if there’s one thing I like is a mocking recipe.

Back at home…

Chef Samih was right, the thing seems simple, but  it depends a lot on the kind of semolina you will use – the ideal is a medium ground semolina, not too powdery, and not too coarse (like couscous). I attempted the cake twice, and  In my first attempt, I didn’t add enough milk to the batter and got a delicious semolina BRICK.

It must be prepared one day in advance because the batter has to rest overnight before baking.

Semolina Cake (20cm/ 9-inch square baking dish) – for measurement conversions, please check the link on the right side bar

For Syrup:

  • 625g sugar
  • 200ml water
  • Drops of lemon
  • 1 teaspoon orange blossom water
  • 1 teaspoon rosewater

For the cake:

  • 400g semolina
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 40g unsweetened desiccated coconut
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons of the syrup ready and cold
  • 150ml milk (this is the minimum you will need, but you may need more, according to your semolina)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 30 g melted butter
  • tahini (sesame paste)
  • blanched almonds

Make the syrup:

In a small saucepan, combine sugar and water. Bring to heat and cook, stirring until it boils. Add drops of lemon and boil for 3 minutes. Let cool and mix the rose and orange blossom water.

Make the batter:

Grease a baking dish with tahini and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix semolina, sugar, coconut and baking powder. Make a hole in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the butter, vanilla, syrup and milk gradually. Mix with your hands. The semolina will absorb the milk  – add more little by little, until the batter looks and feels like a thick porridge. Pour the mixture into the greased baking dish, cover and let rest for about 12 hours.

Preheat oven to 400F (or 200°C). With a knife, mark 3cm squares in the dough, and place an almond in each square. Bake until dough rise a little and pass the toothpick test, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven, cut squares where once you’ve checked the lines and return to oven for a few minutes to brown.

Heat the syrup. Soak the hot cake with the syrup while hot and let cool very well to remove from the pan. Serve with the remaining syrup.

30 Comments leave one →
  1. 27 de June de 2010 4:50

    this looks delicious! I made Basboosa too but a different recipe. this one looks more moist and yummy and am trying it next 🙂 this is the link to my post

  2. 27 de June de 2010 21:59

    You are so lucky to get an invitation! The semolina cake looks wonderful!

  3. 29 de June de 2010 4:09

    This semolina cake is divine indeed! Thank you for sharing the recipe, warning about its challenge and all. It may take a while before I gather the courage to try it; in the meantime, I’ll enjoy looking at the lovely one you’ve made here!

  4. 15 de July de 2010 23:53

    These pictures are so beautiful and everything looks so delicious!

  5. Haley permalink
    17 de August de 2010 6:37

    Hi, just wondering is this the same as Namoorah? or are they slightly different? I’m busy cooking Ramadan sweets to take to peoples houses and stumbled across your page, can’t wait to eat the basboosa it looks just like I remember in Lebanon 😉

    • thecookieshop permalink*
      18 de August de 2010 0:41

      Hi, Haley!
      I just checked for you – basboosa and namoorah are the same sweet. I hope you enjoy it – happy baking!

  6. 30 de October de 2010 13:15


    Just discovered your page, and its amazing!

    All the best!

  7. 2 de December de 2010 2:42

    This looks delicious! Sounds like you had a great time and experience!

  8. 13 de February de 2011 20:08

    it looks so moist !! how lucky you are to have such a friend !!

  9. 2 de March de 2011 20:45

    These look incredible – I wish I had the skills to replicate this in my own kitchen. I love baklava – thanks for sharing.

  10. food maven permalink
    29 de May de 2011 14:47

    Hi! Just got back from my first visit to Sao Paulo. Had some excellent eats there. Am going to try your semolina cake recipe today, but I think I’ll add some toasted pistachio nuts for color. I’ve also had this cake with little dots some kind of spice in it – the man told me that it was fenugreek seeds, but I think it is a rare spice called something like birds of paradise. Perhaps your Lebanese bakery is familiar with it?

    I look forward to getting to know you through your recipes!

  11. 20 de October de 2011 4:08

    I made this & blogged it here:

    Was really delicious. I love your blog, I wish you still updated it.

    • thecookieshop permalink*
      20 de October de 2011 11:45

      Hi Elli! Your blog is beautiful, love the photos!
      I still update my blog, in the Brazilian/Portuguese version – I’ve been working too much and couldn’ find the time for both blogs.
      If you’re up to some google translation, check it out:

      • 21 de October de 2011 2:47

        Thank you kindly 🙂

        I tried that link and for some reason it isnt working, may just be my work computer though. Will check it out. Thanks for your reply.


  12. 21 de October de 2011 2:48

    I’m a doofus! it is working now. Thanks xo

  13. 6 de January de 2012 1:21

    Wow – I could almost smell the amazing flavours through your words. It must have been such an incredible experience! Great post 🙂 HAPPY NEW YEAR!

  14. Sarah permalink
    1 de February de 2012 13:34

    The basbousa looks awesome and so original compared to others I’ve seen on the net.
    If I use ghee instead if butter do I have to melt it?
    And also is the picture of the basbousa the one you personally made or is it from the chef?

    Please reply me back as I’m desperate to make this wonderful basboussa

  15. 18 de July de 2012 12:48

    I love this cakes! I want to learn how to do them!

  16. Ann Garga Australia permalink
    24 de July de 2012 12:19

    looks delicious. Is Semolina used coarse or fine.
    Please advise

  17. Ann Garga Australia permalink
    24 de July de 2012 12:29

    Since the batter needs to be left for 12 hrs , should we leave in the fridge covered or outside?
    Since it has milk it will get spoiled if left outside. Will appreciate your reply.

  18. 15 de September de 2012 0:22

    Your blog is very inspiring! I love looking at all your great recipes. I nominated you for the Leibster Blog Award! Check it out at

  19. 30 de November de 2012 3:04

    This is an amazing cake … this is my first time to know that there is semolina cake … well in fact I was really amaze o the shape of it! i agree with the comments of others really awesome cake!

  20. 30 de November de 2012 21:37

    i love anything with semolina! I will have to try these, they look delicious 🙂
    by the way i like your blog, i just discovered it 🙂

    PS. there is a giveaway on my blog with baking/cooking stuff, have a look:

  21. 12 de June de 2013 12:48

    Hi there! I just wish to give an enormous thumbs up for the nice information you will have right here on this post.
    I will probably be coming again to your blog for more soon.

  22. 22 de October de 2013 16:48

    Your Basbousa looks totally professional. I’m Egyptian and Basbousa is very popular over here, but we almost always buy it because of how difficult it is to get right at home. Thumbs up on your great job:)

  23. Aizhan permalink
    30 de January de 2014 15:44

    Basboosa is one of my favorite cakes. I make it without rose and orange blossom water and usually use buttermilk instead of plain milk. VERY VERY delicious, I highly recommend this to everyone.

  24. 2 de June de 2014 22:52

    Great article and recipe, thank you! This recipe is exactly the same as my aunt makes it, except my aunt is from Pakistan! Aren’t cultural food links fascinating? But I’ve also spent a lot of time in Lebanon too so your article made me nostalgic all over the place =)

  25. 19 de September de 2014 17:01

    Yummy….super mouth watering deliciousness!

  26. Arlette Halima permalink
    1 de February de 2019 3:28

    Next week going to try it


  1. A Super Sweet Blogging Award! « sinsationscakes

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: