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Sudan's Sweet Guilty Pleasure: Basbousa

Sudan's Sweet Guilty Pleasure: Basbousa

A delicious semolina cake soaked in syrup known as Basbousa, also known as Hareeseh or Revani, is popular throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Although it did not explicitly originate from Sudan, it has become famous throughout the region under many names and with minor recipe modifications. Beyond its flavor, Basbousa has a fascinating history that weaves together cultures and cooking customs, illustrating the varied countries it has touched.

Ancient Egypt, where Basbousa was first known as " arīsa," is where the dish's ancestry may be found. The ancient Egyptians' palates were thrilled by the sweetness and moistness of this forerunner of modern Basbousa, which was produced from farina soaked in honey. This dessert set out on a trip through the Arab world, absorbing new ingredients and skills as trade routes grew and cultural connections thrived.

Semolina, which adds a distinct texture and flavor, became the main ingredient as the recipe changed over time. The term "Basbousa" is most likely derived from the Arabic verb "basbasa," which means to "soak" or "drench." This alludes to the cake's distinctive cooking technique, which involves soaking it in a flavorful sugar syrup after baking so that it can soak up the flavors and develop into a decadent dessert.

Although it may not have originated in Sudan, its popularity there highlights the cross-cultural influences and cultural interchange that have formed the region's cuisine. Similar to many other nations, Sudan has adopted Basbousa as a cherished dessert and customized it to suit regional tastes and preferences.

Preparation Time

40 minutes


For the cake:

1 cup fine semolina

1/2 cup unsalted butter (melted)

1 cup plain yogurt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup desiccated coconut

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

For the syrup:

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup water

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon rose water or orange blossom water

Slivered almonds or coconut flakes


  • Grease a baking dish with butter.
  • Combine the semolina, desiccated coconut, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl. 
  • Add the butter, yoghurt, and vanilla extract to the dry mixture. 
  • Pour the batter into the greased baking dish and spread it evenly, smoothing the top with a spatula.
  • Using a sharp knife, score the surface of the batter into diamond or square shapes for easier baking.
  • Place the baking dish in the preheated oven and bake for about 30 minutes.
  • Combine the sugar, water, and lemon juice in a saucepan, reduce the heat and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes. 
  • Add the rose water or orange blossom water to the syrup and stir.
  • Remove from heat and let it cool slightly.
  • Remove the cake from the oven and immediately pour the warm syrup over the hot cake, making sure to cover all the scored lines. Allow the cake to absorb the syrup and cool down.
  • Garnish the top of the cake with slivered almonds or coconut flakes.
  • Once the cake has completely cooled and the syrup has been absorbed, cut the cake along the scored lines into individual pieces.
  • Serve and enjoy!