Cakespy: Brooklyn Basbousa Recipe


Note: Jessie Oleson (aka Cakespy) drops by every Monday to share a delicious dessert recipe.

When I was in college, I waited tables at a Middle Eastern restaurant on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. While the restaurant specialized in homemade falafel and pita bread pizzas, our secret weapon was really a simple semolina cake called basbousa.

Basbousa was basically our quick fix for any situation. Complaining customers received it as a pacifier. Friendly guests received it as a reward. Homeless people who were denied the use of our bathroom received a slice as consolation.

The cake's virtue is its simplicity: it's sort of like cornbread, only made with semolina. What really makes it shine, though, is that it's topped while still hot with a sweet glaze which oozes into every little nook and cranny of the porous cake. Finished off with a sprinkling of almonds on top, it makes the perfect complement to a strong Turkish coffee. This recipe tastes very similar to the Brooklyn version I remember.


  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups semolina flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (or 1 cup of whole milk)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • Blanched sliced almonds for garnish
  • For Honey Glaze
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 generous squeeze of lemon juice (or, 1 teaspoon lemon juice)


  1. Make Cake:

  2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.

  3. In a medium bowl, combine the semolina and baking soda. Set to the side.

  4. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar; once fluffy, add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated.

  5. Add the semolina and baking soda mixture bit by bit, stirring well after each addition. Once incorporated, add the yogurt (or milk) bit by bit, stirring after each addition until fully incorporated. The batter will be very thick.

  6. Spoon the batter into the greased baking pan, smoothing the top with a spatula.

  7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden around the edges.

  8. While baking, prepare the honey glaze. Once the basbousa has come out of the oven, pour the glaze directly on to the still-hot cake, being sure to cover it uniformly. The glaze will sink into the cake, but the top should be slightly sticky. Top with the almonds. Let cool for at least 30 minutes; slice into squares or diamonds before serving.

  9. Make Honey Glaze:

  10. Heat sugar, water, and honey over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar is fully dissolved.

  11. Let the mixture simmer for about five minutes; once it has reduced to a maple syrup sort of thickness, add the lemon juice and stir just until incorporated.