Algerian Basbousa – a citrus semolina cake soaked in sugar syrup.
Flavoured with citrus fruit and lightly with orange blossom water this sweet, soft, fragrant and ‘moist’ cake will have you coming back for more.
I wanted to bake Basbousa as part of our sweet breakfast tray for Eid al Adha. By the time I got hold of some lemons it was too late my cake/cookie box was full.
I waited a few days after Eid and soon enough the cookie stash was completely gone so I set to scouring the interweb for an Algerian Basbousa recipe.
Algerian you ask? I name it so for point of difference among all the other Basbousa recipes out there. Basbousa is a popular middle eastern semolina cake originating in Egypt.
It has been a long time since I made Basbousa. The first time many years ago was with coconut and if I remember rightly yogurt was an ingredient. I don’t really like coconut so it wasn’t a hit for me. This Algerian version and all the home-made Basbousas I’ve eaten here in Algeria so far are flavoured with either orange or lemon, no coconut in sight thankfully.
Algerians use desiccated coconut to decorate sable biscuits.
While I’ve added a splash of orange blossom water to the sugar syrup it’s not essential, although I do love both the smell and taste it brings to sweet treats.
One of my sister-in-law makes Basbousa partly on the stove top. In an old frying pan that’s missing a handle, she cooks the base on the stove then said handless frying pan goes into the oven under the broiler (we call it a grill in UK) to cook the top. I love her Basbousa which she makes with orange zest during the winter here in Algeria.
It’s still a little early for oranges so I used lemon to flavour my Algerian Basbousa. Lemons here are often green. At first I thought they may not be totally ripe due to the lack of rain / irrigation we have in Algeria but apparently there are green lemons and yellow limes. Check this article.
Wikipedia suggests Basbousa is known as Qalb el Louz in the french speaking Maghreb which I strongly disagree with. Qalb el Louz while being a semolina based cake soaked in syrup, it has no eggs or milk like this basbousa. Also it has a louz-almond layer.
Basbousa if often decorated with nuts on top. Here in Algeria and as everywhere really, nuts are expensive so I have left them off.
I adapted my recipe from The Taste of Algeria youtube video. Note the video contains music. I opted to cook mine in a larger pan, yielding a thinner Basbousa which I prefer.
I will try reducing the amount of sugar in the semolina cake and/or using some honey instead of sugar in the syrup the next time I bake Basbousa.
Sometimes you have to try it the traditional sugar-heavy way first. Also this is not an everyday kind of cake, then again what cake is?!
The children kept requesting seconds and thirds of this sweet dessert and I was more than happy to oblige them, to save it from myself.
I’m weak when it comes to lemon desserts and semolina based sweets. Very weak.
If you try this or any of my other recipes, snap it and #halalhomecooking on social media. I love to see your re-creations.
A citrus semolina cake soaked in sugar syrup flavoured with a hint of orange blossom water.
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup granulated sugar (can be reduced to 3/4)
- 1/2 cup oil (sunflower or a mix of olive and sunflower)
- 1 cup milk
- 2 cups medium (coarse or extra coarse) semolina
- 2 tablespoons plain flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 lemon, zested
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 cups water
- 1 lemon, juice of
- 1 tablespoon orange blossom water
- In a medium size saucepan bring sugar and water upto a boil, stir only until sugar has dissolved. Add lemon juice and orange blossom and continue to boil for 12-15 minutes until a light syrup consistency. Set aside.
- Pre heat oven 350F / 180C / gas mark 4 . Lightly oil a round baking pan. I used a 35cm round pan.
- In a large mixing bowl beat together with a fork/whisk the eggs and sugar until light in colour and frothy. Continue beating while adding oil, followed by milk, vanilla and lemon zest. In a seperate bowl mix together semolina, flour and baking powder then gradually add and mix the dry mixture into the wet mixture. Do not over mix.
- Pour into round pan, bake for 20-30minutes or until a fork inserted into the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and prick all over with toothpick or fork then using a ladle, pour syrup all over cake until well soaked. You may not need all of the syrup. Best to allow the cake a few hours or overnight to soak up the syrup well, so that it is easy to cut. If you resist. Serve with your favourite hot beverage.