Basbousa (Semolina & Coconut Cake)

Susan, AKA Kiwicook

Written by: Susan, AKA Kiwicook

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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 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!



Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Resting Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 35 minutes
Course Dessert
Servings 18 Pieces


For the Cake

  • 11.2 oz semolina
  • 2.4 oz desiccated coconut
  • 5.3 oz caster sugar (super fine)
  • 1.7 oz plain flour (I used spelt flour)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 4.7 oz yoghurt
  • 4.7 oz butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Up to 25 blanched almonds
  • Optional: Dried rose petals (to decorate)

For the Syrup

  • 3.8 oz white sugar
  • 6.7 fl oz water
  • 1 tsp rose water
  • 1 tsp orange blossom water
  • 2 tsp 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).

For the cake:

  • 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.

For the Syrup:

  • 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.


If you find the liquid doesn’t sink in after a while, I’ve read that you can place foil over the top and put it back in the turned off oven for 10 minutes to help dry it out.
Keyword Basbousa, Semolina Coconut Cake
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Susan, AKA Kiwicook
About The Author
Susan, also known as the Kiwi Cook, hails from Levin, New Zealand, and has a unique Kiwi-Dutch-British heritage that influenced her culinary upbringing. As an artist, tutor, writer, and editor, Susan dedicates her weekends to creating delectable dishes. Her food philosophy embraces moderation and listening to her body's needs.

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