Namoura is the Lebanese version of Basbousa. A classic Middle Eastern semolina cake baked with ghee, yoghurt and tahini and soaked in sugar syrup flavoured with orange blossom water and or rose water. What is great to know is Namoura cake is easy to make and comes together in just one bowl – no mixer required.
In my initial days in Yanbu, F got me a box of bakery-bought basbousa and it was the first time I had a basbousa! I couldn't believe that I could say no to a sweet made with semolina. You all know my love for Rava, right? I guess it was the orange blossom water flavour that was new to my tastebuds. But guess what? within months I was asking for more Arabic sweets and our weekend trips to Saadeddin pastry for our baklava fix became a ritual. Though orange blossom water is an acquired taste, if you don't like it at all, then you can skip it.
Namoura vs. Basbousa
Namoura is similar to Egyptian Basbousa or Palestinian Harisseh or Greek Revani or Turkish Sambali or Algerian Kalb el louz (many more that I may not have heard) but each has its distinct character and only the owner would know. Having learnt that the Namoura and the other variations are not technically a Basbousa, I don't want to say this recipe ticks the box for all the different types. But you cannot deny that Basbousa is so popular around the world that a Middle Eastern semolina cake often gets labelled as Basbousa, at least on my side of the world. You just nodded right?
There is more than one version of this sweet and they are different by name, ingredients and even by method! Some recipes use flour with egg, some use farina, some use coarse semolina and some fine and some both! Not only that, some use milk or yoghurt or just plain water! It is impossible to test every version to decide which to blog about so I am sharing a basic Namoura recipe because you know I lean on Levant food! 😍 You can easily tweak this recipe to make other variations or fusions like my Mango Basbousa.
Recipes evolve with generations and with cross-culture families, it is hard to say what is authentic, but we continue to share our best finds or family recipes because we want to celebrate food. Though there is a recipe for Namoura in my favourite Lebanese cookbook, I took the time (a year!) to read some of my favourite Arab food blogger versions too.
What is Namoura made of?
Namoura is a classic Lebanese semolina cake baked with ghee, yoghurt and tahini and is soaked in aromatic sugar syrup flavoured with orange blossom water and or rose water. You need the coarse semolina to make Namoura. In this recipe, Tahini is only used to grease the pan but you may add a spoonful to the batter too. Lebanese Namoura is not melt-in-mouth like Egyptian Basbousa.
- lemon juice
- orange blossom water (optional but highly recommended)
- rose water
- coarse semolina
- fine semolina (you may replace this with desiccated coconut)
- baking powder
- melted ghee (you may use melted butter)
- thick yoghurt (or greek yoghurt or labneh)
- sliced almonds
How to make this semolina cake?
- Prepare the syrup and let it cool to use
- Prepare the namoura batter and let it rest
- meanwhile, prepare the cake pan
- fill the pan with batter, score lines to diamond or square pieces and studd with almonds
- bake in preheated oven
- Pour cooled syrup over hot namoura
- Rest to cool and serve
- The type of semolina used will determine how much liquid you will need.
- If you don't have fine semolina, you can grind the coarse or skip and use desiccated coconut or just use more coarse semolina and adjust the yoghurt and ghee a bit while mixing the dough.
- If you use all fine semolina you can achieve a soft melt-in-mouth basbousa. But I prefer a light cakey with a crispy top. I have tried with fine, coarse, roasted or plain semolina and they are all equally delicious or I am just being biased to semolina. 😄
- I have never given a resting period before and after baking, but I tested it with this batch to know if it will make any difference. I rested 30 mins before baking and an hour after baking. I am not sure if ‘before baking’ made any difference but resting after pouring the syrup is a must. I am including it in the recipe notes because it may be a factor that might work for you.
- Also, in some random browsing, I saw someone suggest using a plastic knife to score the basbousa and I must say it was indeed a brilliant idea. I can't seem to remember who... so will link here when I do.
Namoura or Basbousa | Middle Eastern Semolina Cake
For the aromatic simple syrup
- ½ cup sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 1 green cardamom
- a squeeze of lemon
- 1 teaspoon orange blossom water optional but recommended
- 1 teaspoon rose water
- ¾ cup coarse semolina
- 2 tablespoons fine semolina or desiccated coconut
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ cup ghee or butter melted
- ⅓ cup thick yoghurt
- 1 teaspoon orange blossom water
- 1 teaspoon rose water
- 2 teaspoon tahini to grease the baking dish
- 10 to 15 almonds whole or sliced
Prepare the syrup
- Add the sugar, water, and cardamom (if using) into a deep pan and heat over low to medium flame until all of the sugar dissolves. You don't want to stir this.
- Bring to boil and add the lemon juice. Don't stir too many times. Lower the heat and let simmer for 5 to 8 minutes.
- Switch off and allow it to cool before use. The syrup should not be too thick so take it off while it is still flowy as it will thicken while cooling. You can make this ahead and keep refrigerated.
Prepare the Namoura batter
- Combine the semolina, sugar and baking powder in a large mixing bowl.
- Stir in the melted ghee or melted butter and use a spatula to make sure all of the semolina is coated with the fat.
- Next, stir in the yoghurt and orange blossom water and lightly combine to obtain a thick batter. Do not overmix.
Prepare the baking pan
- Grease a square brownie pan or a round 7-inch pan with tahini. Spread the batter evenly using a spatula. Smooth the surface with wet hands. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to even out the batter. Cover the pan and let it rest for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven towards the end of the resting time. Use a plastic knife to score lines for a square or diamond shape. Studd the centre of each piece with almond slices.
Preheat and Bake
- Preheat the oven to 180℃ with the rack in middle. Bake the Namoura for 25 to 35 minutes or until the edges start to brown and leave the sides.
- To acquire a browned top, you may brush the top with some butter and put it back in the oven with a Flat grill or broil mode on. Keep an eye and remove it when it reaches a caramelized colour.
Soak in syrup
- Remove from the oven and pour room temperature sugar syrup (approx ⅔ to ¾ cup or all of it) all over the hot Namoura.
- Let it cool for at least an hour before you can cut along the scored lines.
- Carefully remove one piece using an offset spatula. Once a piece is out the rest of the pieces can be picked out easily. Serve with more nuts and dried fruits or some Arabic coffee.
- Store any leftovers in an airtight container for up to two days and refrigerate after that It tastes great cold too but you may warm up in the oven before serving again.