Friday, November 2, 2007

Basbousa - Semolina (Sooji) Cake with Rose Syrup

I have made cakes with all-purpose flour all the time, so this time I decided to try something new. While looking for ethnic cake recipes, I came across this one called "Basbousa", which is a typical middle-eastern dessert (mainly Egyptian) with Semolina as a main ingredient. Also, unlike the traditional way of making cakes, this is unique as it uses a sugar syrup topping for a plain cake, which in fact induces the softness, flavor and sweetness to the cake. Also, almonds and lemon juice are an important part of the traditional recipe. I was excited with the idea of making a cake with semolina, or sooji as it is known in India, as it sounded healthy and different. I have to say this was one of my favorite and satisfying baking escapades!

The concept of using sugar syrup was fascinating, as I've made a Tres Leches Cake before which uses milk syrup in the same way. As I'm not too huge a fan of lemon flavor in my cakes, I cut down on the lemon juice a little and added Rose essence instead as I thought it would give a nice aroma and a mildly sweet taste that would accentuate the recipe. The result, a perfectly moist and healthy cake with a distinct taste, flavor and texture, thanks to the semolina, almonds and rose essence.

1/2 cup butter - unsalted
3/4 cup sugar
1 tspn vanilla essence
2 eggs
2 cups fine semolina (sooji)
1 tspn baking powder
1/2 tspn soda-bicarbonate
3/4 cup plain or vanilla-flavored yogurt
12-15 almonds - blanched and split

For the Syrup Topping
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
2 tsp rose essence
1/2 tsp lemon juice

Take a bowl and mix the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat well.

Sift the semolina, baking powder and soda in another bowl. Add this slowly into the butter mixture alternately with yogurt. Beat well so you can allow semolina to expand once it gets into the oven.

Now grease a cake pan and spread batter into it. Pinch in the almonds on top of the cake at equal distances so that when you cut into pieces later, each piece has an almond topping in the center.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F and bake for 30-35 minutes until cake is cooked.

Making the Syrup
To prepare the syrup topping, dissolve sugar in water over medium heat, add the lemon juice and the rose essence and bring to a boil.

Let it boil for 5-7 mins, then allow to cool by placing the container in another larger bowl filled with cold water (indirect cooling).

Assemble the Cake
When the cake is done, slowly pour the cooled syrup over the hot cake. Let the cake soak the syrup and set it aside for 15 mins or so. Once it is completely cooled, cut into diamond or square shapes. Serve each piece topped with whipped cream or desired fruit topping!

Basbousa, or Semolina Cake as I'd call it, is a perfect traditional dessert and we really enjoyed its light and spongy texture. I'll surely be making this again, perhaps with shredded coconut next time!

Similar Recipes:
Coconut & Poppy-Seed Coffee Cake
Raspberry Jelly Swiss Roll Cake
Festive Chocolate-Banana Bread/Cake

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