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+ servings

Coconut Basbousa | Middle Eastern Dessert Cake

A classic Middle Eastern dessert cake made with semolina and coconut, soaked in rose or orange blossom flavoured sugar syrup. Simple & easy to make.
Course Dessert
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 16 servings


  • 1 tablespoon tahina (sesame paste) * see notes
  • 100 grams ghee (clarified butter) at room temperature (softened or melted)
  • 1 tin (397gram) condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 320 grams (1-3/4th cups plus 2 tablespoons) semolina/rava * see notes
  • 100 grams desiccated coconut plus extra to garnish
  • 1 cup (250ml) water

For the syrup:

  • 300 grams (1-1/2 cups) sugar
  • 250 ml water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon rose water (not essence) or orange blossom water


  • Preheat oven to 190 degrees C. Smear a 9x13 inch baking dish (glass or tin) with the tahina and keep aside.
  • In a bowl, mix the ghee, condensed milk and baking powder. Add the semolina, dessicated coconut and water to form a thick paste.
  • Pour this mixture into the prepared pan and level out the surface using a spatula or the back of a spoon. Bake in the preheated oven for 33-35 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
  • While the basbousa is baking make the syrup. In a heavy based saucepan add the sugar and water and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for 6-8 minutes.
  • Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the lemon juice and the orange blossom water (or rosewater) and let it cool to room temperature.
  • When the basbousa is done, remove it from the oven and immediately pour the prepared syrup evenly over it - to do this use a tablespoon and pour our part by part so that you cover the entire surface of the basbousa with the syrup. Take care not to dump the syrup all in one go in one are - we need the whole thing soaking in the syrup.
  • Let the basbousa soak in all the syrup - for best results, keep it aside for 45mins - 1 hour before serving.
  • To serve, cut into slices, sprinkle some desiccated coconut and garnish with berries or mint leaves.


1. Tahina is a popular condiment in Arabic/Middle Eastern cuisine. It is a thick paste made of white sesame seeds and olive oil and is popularly used in the preparation of hummus - a chickpea dip. If you don't have it you can make your own at home but since this recipe needs just 1 tablespoon of it you can skip it and use ghee or butter to grease the pan.
2. 1 cup semolina is 175 grams. 3/4th cup = 125 grams and 2 tablespoons is 20 grams of semolina. So all in all you need 320 grams (1-3/4th cups + 2 tablespoons)
3. If you are using a baking dish that is slightly bigger than the required dimensions you will need to reduce the baking time accordingly. I once made this in a dish that was 28x24cms (approx 11 x 9inches) and it took me 32 mins.
4. The syrup needs to be poured onto the basbousa when it is just out of the oven and still in the pan. Leave it in the pan to soak up the syrup for at least 45 mins. To cut, just run a knife through it and remove the pieces. If you wish you can transfer it onto a board but the pieces may break so be careful.
5. You may use almonds (skinless/blanched) to decorate - in this case, decorate them over the batter before placing the tray in the oven. You may even garnish with flaked almonds just before serving.
6. This cake keeps well for 3-4 days at room temperature. If you wish to gift it to someone do make sure you line the box/tin with baking parchment (butter paper) so that the excess ghee/syrup doesn't leak out. An airtight box would be the best bet.