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Traditional Middle Eastern Syrup Cake
Syrup Ingredients
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • juice from 1 lemon (or 2 tablespoons orange juice)
  • 1 teaspoon honey(optional)
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Cake Ingredinets
  • 2 cups semolina
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • blanched split almonds
  • whipped cream (optional)
Prepare syrup first. Dissolve sugar in water in a medium saucepan. Add lemon juice and bring to a boil. Once the syrup begins to boil, add in honey. Reduce heat and allow to slowly boil for about 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour a 9x12 baking dish. Cream together butter and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine semolina, baking powder, and baking soda. Slowly add to butter and egg mixture. Stir in milk. Pour mixture into baking dish and smooth with spoon. Take a butter knife and make diagonal lines from left to right and complete to make diamond shapes. Place an almond in the center of each diamond. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove cake from oven and pour syrup over cake until no more can be absorbed. Allow to cool for 20 minutes.
Serve immediately with a dollop of whipped cream.

Basbousa is a traditional Middle Eastern dessert. It's often served at weddings and other import family gatherings. Often served with a cup of coffee or other after-meal beverage. It's the middle eastern equivalent of coffee cake. Traditionally, the cake is cut into diamond shaped pieces and served with hot cake and cold sauce. During the mixing of the batter, it's packed together and has a sandy texture.
Basbousa is routinely called "Hareesa" in arabic countries. It is said to have originated as Hareesa before subsequent movements by other countries (such as Iraq, Turkey, and Libya) who shifted the name to Basbousa.

Other popular Middle Eastern desserts include:
Tatly (custard)
Halva (Almond dessert)
Umm Ali (Mother of Ali)
Ghorayebah (Almond Cookies)

Many recipes include almonds because they are readily available.

Alan Davidson, Oxford Companion to Food