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.
Basbousa September 2017
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 too was an ingredient. I didn’t really like coconut back then so it wasn’t a hit for me.
While I’ve added a tablespoon of orange blossom water to the sugar syrup it’s not essential. Though 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.
I adapted my recipe from The Taste of Algeria youtube video. Please note the video contains music.
Updated Basbousa Recipe 2021
I’ve tweaked the recipe here and there over the last 3 years and thought it’s about time I let you all know about it.
Previously I suggested you can use medium-grain or large-grain semolina for this recipe. While I still think you can, I much prefer the texture of the cake when using large-grain semolina. Known as extra coarse semolina in the UK and semoule grosse in Algeria, France etc.
It’s now baked in a rectangular 9 x 12 inches baking pan, instead of a larger round pan. Giving us a slightly thicker cake and making it easier to cut. Yield 8 slices, or 16 squares.
I reduce the amount of sugar in the cake from 1 cup to 3/4. I did recommend this before and as I always stick to it now, I believe you should too.
Finally, so the cake isn’t as teeth-itching sweet, I now make the sugar syrup slightly differently; by making a wet caramel first and then turning it into a syrup. I do this by quickly (& carefully) pouring the caramel into a pan of simmering water mixed with orange blossom water and lemon juice and simmering for 10 minutes.
The children still polish off this sweet treat far too readily. I can’t blame them really as I’m just as weak.
If you try this, or any of my other recipes; tag your photos @halalhomecooking and #halalhomecooking on Instagram and please leave a star rating for the recipe below.
Algerian Basbousa / Basbousa Algérien
A citrus semolina cake soaked in orange blossom flavoured sugar syrup.
- 1 cup Sugar (white granulated)
- 3¼ cups Water (divided)
- 1 Lemon (Juice of)
- 1 tablespoon Orange Blossom Water
- 4 large Eggs
- ¾ cup Sugar (white granulated)
- ½ cup Oil (neutral)
- 1 cup Milk (semi-skimmed)
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla
- 1 Lemon (Zest of)
- 2 cups Semolina (large-grain or extra coarse)
- 2 tablespoon Flour (white, plain / all-purpose)
- 2 teaspoons Baking Powder
- 1 small pinch Salt
- In a medium saucepan bring 3 cups of water, lemon juice and orange blossom water upto a boil then reduce heat to a slow simmer.
- Meanwhile, In another medium saucepan over medium-high heat add sugar in an even layer then pour over ¼ cup water. Cook 5-10 mins to form a caramel – swirling pan every now and then to avoid burning and to achieve an even amber colour. Do not leave the caramel unattended at any stage. As soon as the caramel is a medium amber colour, carefully pour into the saucepan containing the simmering water mixture. Stir until crystallised caramel has dissolved. Increase heat to a rapid simmer and cook syrup for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and set aside. Syrup should be thin not thick.
- Pre-heat oven 350F / 180C / gas mark 4.
- By hand using a fork or whisk In a large mixing bowl: beat together eggs and sugar until well combined. Beat in oil followed by milk, vanilla and lemon zest.
- In another bowl combine semolina, flour, baking powder and salt. Mix dry ingredients into wet, being careful not to over mix.
- Pour batter into baking pan (doesn’t have to be lined with parchment) and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until a skewer/cake tester inserted into cake comes out clean – free from crumbs.
- Remove Basbousa from oven and directly pour all the syrup evenly over cake. Allow it to absorb syrup for at least 10 minutes before cutting and serving.
- Any citrus zest can be used in the cake. I would stay with lemon juice in the syrup to help prevent it from crystalising.
- For baking in a conventional gas oven: place rack one shelf up from the middle to bake for first 15 mins, then cook cake under grill/broiler (same shelf) to achieve a golden top.
- Baking times are an estimate and will vary depending on style of oven and size of baking tray you use.
- Sometimes after I pour syrup over cake, I return it to the turned-off oven for a few minutes so it absorbs the syrup faster.