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Basbousa - semolina cake with poppy seeds

Ghillie Basan / 25 November 2020

Basbousa is a popular Lebanese semolina and poppy seed cake with a zesty lemon drizzle.

Semolina cake with poppy seeds
This semolina cake, also known as basbousa, is topped with a lemon drizzle

Preparation time

15 minutes

Cooking time

30 minutes




To make the basbousa

  • 115g/4oz butter
  • 175g/6oz sugar
  • 30–45ml/2–3 tbsp white or blue poppy seeds
  • 5–10ml/1–2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 450g/1lb fine semolina
  • 5ml/1 tsp baking powder
  • 2.5ml/½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 175g/6fl oz Greek-style yogurt
  • 16 blanched almonds, halved

For the syrup

  • 250ml/9fl oz water
  • 450g/1lb sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon


There are many types of semolina cake, but there is something special about poppy seed cakes, basbousa. The Jewish community of Lebanon thinks so too as these are baked for the festival of Purim. Blue poppy seeds give a pretty speckled appearance, or you can use white poppy seeds.

First make the syrup. Boil the water with the sugar, stirring constantly, until dissolved. Stir in the lemon juice, reduce the heat and simmer for 10–15 minutes, until the syrup coats the back of a wooden spoon. Leave to cool. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4 and grease a 20 x 30cm/8 x 12in baking tin.

Cream the butter with the sugar, beat in the poppy seeds and vanilla, and beat in the eggs one at a time. Sift the semolina with the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and fold it into the creamed mixture, then stir in the yogurt.

Transfer the mixture to the tin, spreading it to the edges. Arrange the almonds on top, and bake for about 30 minutes, or until firm. Pour the syrup over the hot cake. Cut into squares or diamonds and leave to cool in the tin before lifting out.

Extracted from The Lebanese Cookbook by Ghillie Basan, published by Lorenz Books, ISBN 9780754834694, £20

Looking for food ideas? Visit our sections for Middle Eastern recipes and baking recipes


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.