Tuesday, November 08, 2016


October 22, 2016

That beautiful Persian love cake left me with half a tub of soy yoghurt... and I thought it tasted awful! Like silken tofu flavoured with vanilla and a pinch of sugar. No way was I eating that for breakfast. I thumbed through my cookbooks and found another yoghurt cake to bake it into.

This basbousa recipe comes from the Moroccan Soup Bar cookbook. It's a cake I recall eating there and at other Middle Eastern restaurants, served in small dense diamonds and saturated with sugar syrup. I suspect the printed version hasn't been thoroughly tested - for starters, it would have you preheat your oven to 375°C! I assumed this was the temperature in Fahrenheit, and converted back to a more feasible 190°C.

The intended ingredient quantities are a bit of a mystery, too. My cake batter was too runny to press, roll or cut as directed. Even so, I was glad I ran my knife through it to trace diamond shapes before it baked - they were a handy guide when it was actually time to eat! I had about double the almonds and syrup that I thought I needed, and I've adjusted the quantities accordingly in my write-up below. (I've been drinking my leftover syrup a tablespoon at a time in soda water.)

Actually, I suspect the full quantity of syrup does make for an authentic basbousa - I'm just content to make mine a little drier and less sweet than standard. It was a cake we could steal small pieces of for a full week without perceiving that it was stale. I'm most enamoured of its dense semolina-and-coconut crumb, and the subtle citrus. And I love the sticky brown caramelised edges, even though they're drier still. 

(slightly adapted from Hana Assifiri's Moroccan Soup Bar)

1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup yoghurt (mine was soy-based)
280g butter
2 cups fine semolina
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
1/2 cup caster sugar
100g blanched almonds

1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange
1 teaspoon orange blossom water

Preheat an oven to 190°C. Lightly grease a large baking dish or rectangular cake tin.

Sift the baking powder and soda into the yoghurt and stir to combine. Allow the yoghurt to sit and expand until it's doubled in size, about 20 minutes.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan, and then turn off the heat. Stir in the semolina, coconut and sugar. Add the yoghurt and stir everything together thoroughly. Pour the cake batter into the baking dish and smooth over the top. Use a sharp knife to 'cut' the batter into diamond shapes. Place an almond at the centre of each diamond. Bake the cake until golden, about 30 minutes.

While the cake is baking, make the syrup. Place the sugar, water and zests into a small-medium saucepan and bring them to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer the syrup for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the orange blossom water. Let the syrup sit at room temperature.

When the cake is baked, pour the syrup over it. Turn off the oven, but put the syrup-soaking cake back in to caramelise in the ambient heat for 5-10 minutes. After that time is up, let the cake cool to room temperature. (It's not traditional, but it's also pretty tasty when warm!)


  1. Sounds delicious - I wonder if I should try a tablespoon of orange blossom water in our lemonade! (We make it concentrated and drink it with soda water.)

    As for yoghurt - I tried a coconut one with muesli this week and despair of finding a vegan yoghurt I can like! Guess I should try making my own some time.

    1. Hi Johanna! I've found a couple of coconut yoghurts that I enjoy, though they're very rich.

      If you like floral flavours, I can definitely recommend it for lemonade - I've had that combination at a couple of Lebanese restaurants, I think.