Stories of food, radical love & creative social justice.

Radio. Podcast. Writing. Recipes. 

Basbousa: Syrian Semolina Yogurt Cake

Basbousa: Syrian Semolina Yogurt Cake

Basbousa, Syrian Semolina Yogurt Cake w/ Almonds, Orange Flower & Rose water syrup. 

Basbousa, Syrian Semolina Yogurt Cake w/ Almonds, Orange Flower & Rose water syrup. 

If you check the Sanctuary Kitchen facebook or instagram feed, you will be overwhelmed with pictures of delicious food and a large community of incredible refugee cooks sharing their culinary secrets. Fatema gave us this wonderful recipe (that she cooked on our show) to share on our site, but for now, other recipes from Sanctuary Kitchen cooks are only shared at the cooking classes...they can't give away all their secrets! Go to to find out about upcoming classes and events.   

Syrian Semolina Yogurt Cake w/ Almonds, Orange Flower and Rose Syrup
Recipe from Fatema, through Sanctuary Kitchen

For the cake:
4 cups coarse semolina
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla (optional)
4 eggs
1 cup ghee or melted unsalted butter (or combo of butter and oil)
2 cups of plain full-fat yogurt
Butter or cooking spray
½ cup sliced almonds, for garnish

For the simple syrup:
2 cups water
2 cups granulated sugar
1 ½ tsp crushed cardamom pods (optional)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon rosewater (not rose extract, optional)
1 teaspoon orange flower water (optional)

Preheat oven to 360°F.

To make cake:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, mix semolina, coconut, sugar and baking powder.
  2. Whisk in vanilla, eggs and butter/ghee.

  3. Add yogurt a cup at a time and stir, ensuring it’s well-incorporated before adding more.

  4. Grease and flour a 9- by 13-inch cake pan. Pour in batter and sprinkle almonds on the top. (if you have tahini, use a scant spoonful to grease the pan, instead of butter).

  5. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick to center comes out clean. Let rest for at least 10 minutes. Soak with syrup (see instructions below)

To make syrup:

  1. While cake is baking, prepare simple syrup. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring water, sugar, and cardamom (if using), to a gentle boil. Turn heat down and simmer for 20- 30 minutes or until the syrup coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice and rosewater. Let cool completely and set aside.

  2. After the cake has cooled slightly, cut it into squares or diamonds. Drizzle the syrup over the entire cake. For best result, let it sit for 1 hour before serving.

Makes approximately 18 squares

Notes & Tips:

  1. The cake batter should be fairly thick and easy to press with hands (not thin like cake or brownie batter). In the pan, the batter should be about 1 inch thick.

  2. Cut a diamond or square design in the cake with a butter knife before baking.

  3. After baking, cut the cake again along the pre-cut lines and pour cold syrup on top while its hot so it can absorb all through.

  4. Garnish with additional coconut and almonds.


Summer Thirst Quenchers

Summer Thirst Quenchers

Sanctuary Kitchen

Sanctuary Kitchen