Semolina Cake (Nammoura)

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet…”

Shakespeare was on to something when he penned those famous words… The fact that semolina cake is known by so many different names does diminish the fact that it’s quite delicious! Semolina cake originated in Egypt. Assyrians call it “nammoura,” while others refer to it by it’s Arabic name, “basbousa.” Greeks call this cake “ravani,” and other Middle Eastern regions refer to it as “harissa.” One thing everyone can agree on is the fact that this cake is quite unique and surprisingly scrumptious!

 

Endless Variations

There are many variations to this recipe. For example, if you are fasting from dairy, you can substitute the yogurt with 3/4 cup of orange juice. Some add eggs, while others choose to omit them. Orange blossom water may be used in the syrup, or more commonly, rose water. Most mix the coconut in the batter, still others sprinkle the coconut on top. Occasionally you’ll see this cake baked in a round pan, and cut into wedges. However, traditionally, it’s cut into squares, each having an almond in the center.

 

It’s In the Texture

You might be used to cake having a moist or delicate texture. Get that expectation out of your head. Semolina cake is very unique, and unlike any cake you’ve ever had. In fact, this cake is quite dense, and has a texture that is reminiscent of cornbread. That’s right, cornbread, only sweeter and drenched in syrup!

Semolina cake is usually served alongside a perfectly-brewed, cup of tea, or “chai” as we call it in the Middle East. I’m not talking about tea made with a seeped teabag, no thank you! I’m referring to loose leaf (earl grey) tea, perfectly seeped, with extra cardamom. I don’t know what it is about cardamom, but it makes everything better in my opinion. Chai beautifully complements the dense texture of this cake. Try it for yourself to see what the fuss is all about!



Print Recipe
Semolina Cake (Nammoura)
semolina cake
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
pieces
Ingredients
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Syrup
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
pieces
Ingredients
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Syrup
semolina cake
Instructions
Batter
  1. Before you start on the batter, blanch 16 whole almonds. To do this, pour boiling water over the almonds. Allow the almonds to soak for a few minutes. Drain the almonds when their skin can be easily removed. Remove the skins from all the almonds; set aside until needed.
    semolina cake
  2. Mix semolina with baking powder and baking soda.
    semolina cake
  3. Mix yogurt, butter, sugar, vanilla, and coconut.
    semolina cake
  4. Add the yogurt mixture to the semolina. Mix until combined.
    semolina cake
  5. Spray an 8”x8” glass pan with non-stick cooking spray. Spread the batter in the pan; score into 16 squares. Add one almond in the center of each square. Bake for 45 minutes.
    semolina cake
Syrup
  1. Once the cake is in the oven, mix syrup ingredients and stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Boil for 15 minutes, or until thickened. The syrup will thicken further as it cools.
    semolina cake
  2. Remove the cake from the oven once browned; cut into 16 squares.
  3. Drizzle the cake with the syrup. The syrup will soak in as the cake cools off. Serve with a hot cup of chai!
    semolina cake
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