Basbousa (Coconut Yogurt Semolina Cake)

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)

Basbousa Aka Harissa (Coconut Yogurt Semolina Cake)

4.27 from 19 votes
Print Rate
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 8 bars
Author: Layla


  • 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.

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


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


    Can we use baking powder instead of baking soda?


    i purchased greek yogurt, is that ok to use?

    also purchased fine semolina (Bob’s Red mill)
    i will try to find the course one

    making it tonight


      Yes, Greek yogurt is perfect! Fine semolina should be fine as well but the course will make a crumbly texture.


    is it 1 1/3 cups sugar in the cake or just 1/3 of a cup in The cake?

    Swati Pithwa

    Hi there.
    Im trying your recipe now but i dont UNDERSTAND the sugar. How much i have to put?


      There is 1/3 cup of sugar in the cake and 2 cups in the syrup.


    How thick is the syrup supposed to get? i had my syrup mixture on heat for about 20 minutes and it still never got thick enough to really coat the back of a spoon. I had it on high, and it was boiling for 10-15 minutes, but it felt pretty thin to me still. any suggestions?


      It’s okay if the syrup does not coat the back of the spoon. It should thicken as it cools.


    Made this today, DELICIOUS recipe, I used olive oil instead of butter and we had it Without the syrup, I normally make basboosa using eggs but thought I’d try this recipe and it’s perfect. Thanks.


    Tried it and they LOVEd IT..Thanks


    This shouldhave said to make the syrUp first so it coUld be cooling while the caKe bakes. Now i have a cae that is going to be done in 8 minute and my syrup has just now started to boil.


      The syrup instructions are to begin making the syrup while the cake is baking. The Basbousa takes about 30-40 minutes to bake and the syrup takes about 10 minutes so there should be plenty of time for the syrup to cook while the basbousa is baking.


    awesome recipe. I made it for the first time and everyone from children to grandparents loved it. I used room temperature butter instead of melting it. Thanks so much Layla for sharing


    In india we use semolina to make a Dessert called halwa, which is essEntially a soft pudding…a while ago, basbousa caught my eye as tHe brown crust made me believe that it was going to be crisp at the top and fluffy beneath… your recipe Exceeded my expectations and i couldnt stop myself from devouring it as soon as the syrup was soaked in… the only thing i did was that as i didnt have rose water, i used dried rose petals whIle making the syrup and it Still came out well!!


    ‘1 Stick 1⁄2 cup unsweetened butter, melted’ – what exactly does it mean ?is it half cup or 1 stick. and what is one stick ? thank you for help


      Ana, it’s 1 stick (also known as 1/2 cup) I’ve changed it in the post!


    Could i use buttermilk IN place of yougurt?


    which taste better, sour cream or plain yogurt???


      I personally enjoy sour-cream or a mixture of both yogurt and sour-cream!

    Sarah Reed

    Can you use farina, instead of semolina? And if so, would the amount still be the same? (sorry all in caps, that’s all that the website allowed me to use)


      Yes, you can. Use the same amount as the semolina.


    Great recipe! Does thiS it need to be stored in the fridge or can it sit out at room temerature? And if so, how long can it sit out? Thanks so much!


    Excellent recipe, it’s really close to my mother’s basbousa. She comes from a village near Lattakia (don’t listen to the person saying that Syrians don’t call it basbousa). I’ve made this recipe a couple times now. The syrup is different from my mother’s though, so I adjusted it to fit our tastes: 3/4 tsp rose water and 2 tsp lemon juice.

    Here are some substitutions I tried and which work pretty well: I replaced the wheat semolina with corn semolina (10 oz) for someone with celiac disease (tasted a bit like corn flakes but was still very good), and I replaced the butter with 1/3 cup coconut oil and the yogurt with store-bought coconut yogurt for Lent, which was almost better than with dairy in my opinion.

    Also we’ve always made basbousa in 9×13 dishes at my house, so I make 1.5 times this recipe and it fits it perfectly. Our dish is Pyrex, though, and since it conducts and retains heat more, it’s recommended to lower the oven by 25°F. So I cook it at 375°F and it’s ready in a very normal 35 minutes.

    It’s also a great recipe for parties if you cut the 9×9 basbusa in 36 squares and add an almond to each.


      Wow, thank you so much for all the excellent tips, Elias! I will be sure to make the suggested substitutions next time I make it. I’m so glad this recipe is close to your mother’s recipe. I’m sure the basbousa is Syria is 1000x better than we can ever make it but we’re trying to re-create them because mom’s recipes are always best <3 <3 <3


    I looked at all the recipies , this one is the best I have increased the yogurt to 1/2 a cup


      Great idea! Thanks for the review 🙂


    Thanks for sharing, it’s so delicious!


    I think it tastes better without the coconut flakes. With coconut it becomes a bit chewy and coconut does not add much to the taste either.
    I also increased the amount of yogurt to one and a half cup which made it softer.


      With coconut it’s either you love it or hate it and I happen to be a big lover of coconut. I’m glad you were still able to modify the recipe and enjoy it! 🙂


    I haven’t made this yet but I was wondering….what kind of coconut, flaked, unsweetened shredded, coconut flour, sweetened shredded coconut???


      Shredded coconut, sweetened or un-sweetened will work!


    This is soo delicious and so simple to make it’s almost unbelievable.
    Thank you so much for sharing this!
    Salam <3


      I’m so happy you enjoyed it. Salam!


    Excellent recipe! this is the most authentic Egyptian basboosa recipe I found. It tastes just like the basboosa I tried when I was vacationing in Egypt. Thank you for posting it!


    I just made it and came so good! I think the day after will be better because flavors mingle among them. I have to wait till tomorrow. Thanks for the recipe!!!!


    In your instructions you do not mention what to do with the coconuts!


    In your instructions you do not say what to do with the coconuts!

    Salwa Beheiry

    Hi! I am Egyptian from Alexandria and grew up calling this dessert “Hareessa or Harissa”. When I went to study at Cairo University I was my first time for me to hear people calling this Basboussa. So who knows what is called where! It is definitely so good and so easy to prepare.
    Thank you for sharing

    PS Fam

    You have things reversed in your description. In Egypt it is not called haressa, it’s basbousa, in Syria and Palestine it’s Haressa (in lebanon its namoura). Also we make it with yougurt and coconut, though this tends to be optional. It is some times made with water or juice and oil instead of butter to make it vegan,because Copts (native egyptian Orthodox Christians) eat no animal products during periods of fasting such as Lent.


      Thanks for your input! I’ve never heard it called Basbousa in Egypt but it may vary based on location.


    What kind of semolina? There’s different grinds, from fine to coarse. Thanks!


      I’m so glad you pointed that out, Mais! I will add it to the recipe now. I use the coarse #2 Semolina. The Finer semolina does not work well with this dessert!!

    Medha @ Whisk & Shout

    This looks so delicious and the yogurt adds so much moisture to the cake 🙂