Basbousa Aka Harissa (Coconut Yogurt Semolina Cake)Who’s feeling festive today? Now, don’t let the beauty of this popular classic Middle Eastern cake fool you. It’s actually super easy to make. What if I told you it’s a one bowl “dump” cake kinda recipe?

You know that’s my favorite type of recipe. You basically pour all the ingredients (both dry and wet) into a bowl and stir with a spoon, pour into baking dish and that’s basically it.

There’s also the syrup. It’s a combination of water and sugar which is boiled for 10 mins then poured on the cake once it’s baked. The result.. Delicious moist and flavorful bars of gold. 
Basbousa (Coconut Yogurt Semolina Cake)

I’ve made cake at least a 100 times over the years and to be quite honest there’s no perfect way of making it. This cake is very popular all over the Middle East and every country makes it slightly different. For example, In Syria and Palestine they make the recipe with yogurt and coconut while in Egypt it’s called Haressa and only water is used. Some other places around the Mid-East also add eggs to make it more of a cake rather than bars.

I make it I make a few changes and try different this but this is my favorite way of making it. I use yogurt or sour cream because it give the cake a creamy flavor that’s irresistible.Basbousa (Coconut Yogurt Semolina Cake)

4.67 from 33 votes

Basbousa Aka Harissa (Coconut Yogurt Semolina Cake)

By: Layla
Cook40 minutes
Total40 minutes
Servings 8 bars


  • 2 cups coarse semolina
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted (aka 1 stick)
  • 1 ⁄3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup plain yogurt, or Sour Cream
  • 1 ⁄3 cup whole Roasted or blanched almonds, to garnish or 1/3 pistachios or cashews
  • For The Syrup
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon rosewater, not rose extract, OPTIONAL
  • 1 teaspoons lemon juice


  • Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease an 9x9 or 8x8 square pan or a 9'' round pie dish with butter or olive oil and set aside.

  • Mix the semolina, coconut, sugar, baking soda, and the butter in a large bowl. Use your hands to incorporate the butter with the other ingredients until mixed well. Add the yogurt and continue mixing with your hands until fully combined.The mixture should be fairly thick and easy to press with hands (not thin like cake or brownie batter)

  • press the mix down onto square baking dish or round pie pan.The cake mix should be about 1 inch thick.Cut a diamond or square design in the cake with a butter knife. Place an almond or any other type of nut you have on hand onto each pre-cut square.

  • Bake at 400 degrees for 30 min to 40 mins until it's a bronze brown color. If no color forms on the top turn on broiler for 1-2 minutes until the top is golden/bronze. Cut the Cake again along the pre-cut lines and pour cold syrup on top while its hot so it can absorb all through.

  • While the cake is baking, Mix all the ingredients for the syrup and place in saucepan on high until it boils. Boil for 10 minutes or until the syrup coats the back of a spoon.
like this recipe? Rate & Comment below!

Basbousa (Coconut Yogurt Semolina Cake)Basbousa (Coconut Yogurt Semolina Cake)

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  1. If the syrup is suppose to be cold and the cake hot it should be made a couple of hours before the cake. Also how much of the syrup are we putting on the basbousa?

  2. Apologies if you’ve already answered this but should the butter be UNsalted? Also, what’s the Ruffin outcomes when using sour cream vs yogurt? Thank you!

  3. Fabulous, and so easy, suggest serving it with a good dollop of plain yougurt

  4. I used the recipe four times without the baking soda, it came out very good , a little compressed but I liked it. The hand incorporation and rubbing all ingredients together worked beautifully compared to my previous attempts mixing using a whisker which created a rock style of basbousa because the whisker released lost of gluten. so yesterday I decided to add the baking soda and that unfortunately made it fluffy and after adding the syrup it came out saggy more like a regular cake soaked in honey not to mention the taste is quite different now that the baking soda is incorporated. I think a full TSP is quit a lot for two cubs of semolina, I think it should be 1/2 TSP but will have to try and see how it looks and taste. I guess I got used to the good taste of the four basbousas I made before without it and now I can taste the baking soda. not sure if B soda is added to the egyptian style of harisa or basbousa. by the way in alexandria it is called harisa which is slightly thicker than that of else where and we d’ont add coconut, coconut harisa is called Basima which is almost totally made out of coconut.
    on another note which you may to try it, I toasted half a cub of hazel nuts, coarsely ground and added to the mix after the application of the yogurt and that added a wonderful taste to the basbousa, mind you the first four, better than distributing almonds at the top, when all incorporated it taste wonderful but again the B soda ruined the last one I made could not even taste the nuts.

  5. this the besttttt foooood i ever had made yea u should try that with yogurt yea its the best food its from egypt and i am from egypt

  6. I used a 8×8 pan size, it came out thicker than I desired about 1 3/4” thick. I prefer it at about 1” thick, what size pan would yield 1” based on these qualities? I love it by the way, really good!!!

      1. What kind of coconut do u use? Flaked, shredded, sweetened, unsweetened?

        1. You can use flaked or shredded and both sweetened and unsweetened work great!

  7. I just came across this recipe & would love to try it! I have everything except I am out of semolina… Can you substitute farina? If so, what is the ratio of semolina to farina? Thank you so much for posting!

    1. Yes, you can absolutely substitute farina with a 1:1 ratio 🙂

  8. can one do in cupcake mold? great recipe

  9. This basbousa/namoura was very good, however, I would add less baking soda as I could taste it. Or perhaps I could substitute for baking powder. I added some cardamom for flavor and did not add all of the sugar syrup as it would have been too sweet. It was still plenty sweet.

  10. Can i use baking powder instead of baking soda

  11. Hello, I’ve been reading up on this cake and I can’t wait to try your recipe. Do I use desiccated coconut or fresh coconut?

    1. You can use either or! The desiccated coconut is more traditional but the bagged coconut you find it most supermarkets works great too.

  12. Great recipe!
    How much of sugar syrup should be left after boiling(in milliliters)?
    Can you also use orange flower water instead of rose?

    1. I eye boil the syrup and it should just be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Yes, you can sub with orange flower.

    2. Hi! If I wanted it to be more cakey, can I just add one egg to this recipe or would that not work?

  13. I am not a baker but I cook .Tried this for the first time, used non fat Greek yogurt and instead of the sugar syrup I used 2/3 cup of organic Agave syrup as it has low glycemic index than Regular can sugar and added to it the juice of one lemon. It came out wonderful, far beyond my expectations . It was not too sweet which we loved and was so crunchy on the out side. Gave some to our neighbors and they loved it and will be making it soon. Thanks so much

  14. i cut some sugar and instead drizzled honey on top. it was a bit dry the first time i made it with yougert and buttermilk so i will use more next time..tasty treat.



  15. Wooww…I don’t have oven. Any way to make it in non-stick fry pan? I want to make it now

    1. I haven’t tried these on the stove-top but if you do, I’d suggest cutting the recipe in half and cooking it on super low heat!

  16. Perfect recipe, exactly the same as the recipe my aunt makes and I remember since my childhood. Only thing for authenticity I know in the levant you must « grease » the man with tahini which adds a wonderfully rich r’nitty touch to the crusted bottom. Thank you this is the best and most authentic recipe I have found online, as you said this is a super easy cake avec your recipe preserves that quality perfectly 🙂

  17. We Europeans should be very thankful for alternative metric weights and measurements!

  18. Hi, can i use ghee instead of butter? If yes, how much ghee?

  19. Can we use baking powder instead of baking soda?