This soft, melt in the mouth Namoura – Lebanese semolina cake – is a wonderful soft semolina sponge soaked in a sweet, fragrant orange blossom water syrup. This delicious cake is perfect with strong coffee, or served with a scoop of ice cream for dessert.
What is Namoura?
Lebanese Namoura, also referred to as Basbousa in Egypt and Libya, and Revani in Turkey and Greece, is a sweet semolina cake with a fragrant sugar syrup. This soft Middle Eastern dessert has a lovely texture due to the use of semolina in the cake batter, making it pleasantly slightly grainier than using plain wheat flour. Once baked, the cake is is soaked in a simple syrup, a little like a drizzle cake, to make it extra moist and sweet.
Why we love this recipe
- This cake recipe produces a soft and moist semolina cake. The semolina adds a lovely texture and the finished cake is drenched in syrup, making it sticky and moist.
- This easy cake recipe with yogurt is soft and light, and is a great recipe to use up leftover yogurt.
- This Middle Eastern semolina slice is sweet but not too sweet. After testing various recipes and finding them too sweet for my tastes (Lebanese Namoura can traditionally be very sweet!) I have reduced the quantities of sugar in the cake and syrup.
- Like my chocolate orange drizzle cake, this is an eggless cake recipe.
Ingredients notes and substitutions
- Semolina – ground durum wheat. You can buy coarse semolina and fine semolina. Use coarse to make Lebanese namoura. In Australia use semolina and not semolina flour.
- Baking powder – to provide that lift to make a light cake.
- Yogurt – plain unsweetened yogurt. I like to use full fat Greek yogurt for flavour but you can use regular plain yogurt. Full fat is best for flavour and texture of the cake.
- Butter – unsalted butter. This adds a rich flavour to the cake so I recommend you use butter rather than margarine. The butter is melted before being added to the cake batter so no need for room temperature butter.
- Sugar – white sugar / granulated sugar is used in the cake, and caster sugar is used to make the syrup.
- Vanilla – vanilla bean pasta or extract.
- Blanched almonds – used to decorate the Namoura.
- Orange blossom water – orange flower water. This floral water is made from orange blossoms and is use in Middle Eastern cooking in both sweet and savoury dishes.
- Lemon juice – adds a slight sharpness to the flavoured syrup to balance the sweet rose water. To use up the rest of the lemon, add to a lemon chicken traybake or use in tuna pesto pasta.
How to make this semolina cake recipe
- Heat the sugar, water and lemon juice in a saucepan stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then turn the heat up and bring to a simmer. Simmer until thickened and syrupy, then add the orange blossom syrup.
- Melt the butter and add to a large mixing bowl with the semolina, baking powder, sugar, yogurt and vanilla.
- Mix until well combined.
- Spoon the mixture into a tin lined with baking paper and flatten down the top to create a smooth surface. Lightly mark into pieces.
- TIP: marking the cake in to pieces before cooking not only guides you to where to put the almonds, but it helps cutting the cake after it is cooked.
- Gently press a blanched almond into the middle of each diamond shape.
- Place in to the preheated oven to bake.
- Once the top of the cake is golden brown remove from the oven.
- Spoon the orange blossom syrup all over the top of the cake.
- Return to the oven and cook for 2 minutes, then leave to cool in the tin.
Semolina is made from durum wheat, and is mainly used for making couscous, pasta and desserts or cakes. It is especially popular throughout North Africa and the Middle East.
Semolina provides a delicious texture in cakes, crispy and slightly chewy/ grainy.
No I do not recommend you make this cake with plain flour in place of the semolina, it will change the texture and taste, may not work.
My recipe tips
- Don’t over-bake the cake as this can cause the Namoura to become hard. If the cake has been in the oven for 20 minutes but isn’t golden on top, insert a skewer in the centre of the cake. If it comes out clean the cake is cooked.
- Don’t be tempted to make less sugar syrup or skip it altogether, it is what makes this cake so special! And the quantity of syrup is just right for the cake.
- As with rose water, a little orange blossom water goes a long way and if you add too much it can make dishes taste soapy.
- Enjoy the cake on its own, served with coffee; or serve with a dollop of yogurt and sprinkle with edible rose petals.
- For a special dessert serve with a scoop of vanilla or passionfruit ice cream.
- Serve it after maghmour (Lebanese moussaka) for a Lebanese inspired meal (I could eat this meal every day of the week!)
Namoura cake keeps well stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days. I do not recommend you freeze this semolina slice.
- Use rose water instead of the orange blossom water. Rose syrup can easily be very overpowering and make the cake taste soapy so take care when adding to the syrup.
- If you don’t have rose water or orange blossom water, just leave them out.
- Tahnini namoura – some Lebanese namoura include tahini in the batter. If you are a tahini fan I suggest drizzling the namoura with a teaspoon or two of tahini once it is baked, or spread a teaspoon over the base of the tin before spoon in the cake batter.
More easy baking ideas from around the world
Namoura (Lebanese Semolina Cake)
- 20cm x 20cm (8 inch x 8 inch) square baking tin
- 160g (⅔ c) Caster sugar
- 75ml (⅓ c) water
- ½ tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon orange blossom water or ½ teaspoon rose water.
- 180g (1 c) semolina
- 110g (½ c) butter
- 110g (½ c) white sugar / granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste / vanilla extract
- 180g (¾ c) plain Greek yogurt
- 8- 12 blanched almonds for decoration
- Line a 20cm x 20cm (8 inch x 8 inch) square baking tin with baking paper.
- Preheat the oven to 180˚C fan / 200˚C / 356˚F convection / 390˚F.
Make the syrup
- In a small-medium saucepan combine the caster sugar, lemon juice and water and place on a medium heat, stirring every so often until the sugar dissolves.
- Turn the heat up slightly and bring to a simmer. Simmer for around 10 minutes, until thickened and syrupy. Remove from the heat, add the orange blossom water and leave to cool in the pan while you prepare the cake batter.
Make the cake batter
- Melt the butter, either in a small saucepan or in the microwave.
- In a large mixing bowl combine the semolina, baking powder, white / granulated sugar, vanilla and yogurt, then mix in the melted butter.
- Stir well to combine then pour in to the lined tin.
- Smooth the batter to the edges of the tin and flatten the top with the back of a spoon. Lightly cut in to diamond shapes, then place a blanched almond in to the centre of each diamond.
- Place into the preheated oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
- When the cake is golden, take out of the oven and spoon the cold syrup all over the top, then return to the oven for another 2 minutes.
- Take the cake out of the oven and leave to cool completely in the tin.
- Keeps in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
- Enjoy on its own or serve with a dollop of yogurt or whipped cream, and coffee.