Sfouf is a Middle Eastern semolina cake that stands out for its vibrant yellow color. Sfouf gets its distinct appearance and earthy taste from turmeric. Originally from Lebanon, Sfouf is a hugely popular cake across the Middle East.
In this article I’m going to show you step-by-step how to prepare this Lebanese semolina cake at home.
What is Sfouf?
Sfouf is a Lebanese semolina cake flavored with turmeric that is known for its vibrant yellow color and earthy taste. Sfouf is one of the most popular cakes in the Middle East that can be served on special occasions, birthday parties, family gatherings and for afternoon tea with friends.
Although some ingredients are the same, Sfouf is very different from Namoura / Basbousa, another variety of Middle Eastern semolina cake. Sfouf is an easy cake using staple ingredients that you’ll find in many cakes. It’s often thicker and less sweet than Namoura. Namoura on the other hand contains yogurt and coconut flakes, which Sfouf doesn’t. Namoura is typically soaked in sugar syrup which makes it much sweeter than Sfouf.
To make Lebanese semolina cake, you’ll need the following ingredients:
- Semolina: For the best texture, I recommend that you use both fine and coarse semolina (50:50). If you don’t want to buy both, use only coarse semolina.
- Flour: All-purpose flour is commonly used for this cake.
- Sugar: Regular white sugar.
- Baking powder: Baking powder (not soda!) will give your cake the right texture and fluffiness.
- Turmeric: Ground turmeric (turmeric powder) is where this semolina cake gets its vibrant yellow color from. It also contributes to the taste, so make sure to use high-quality turmeric powder.
- Milk: Whole-milk is traditionally used. To make the cake vegan, you can substitute whole-milk with almond milk.
- Vegetable oil: Sunflower oil or canola oil are most suitable. They are mild in taste and can be used for high temperatures, which makes them so popular for baking. Don’t use olive oil for this cake.
- Tahini: Tahini is a sesame paste home to Middle Eastern cuisine. You need it to brush your baking tray (instead of butter). Tahini will not only prevent your cake from sticking to the tray, it will also contribute to a beautiful and delicious crust. If you don’t have tahini available, you can use unsalted butter instead.
- Almonds: Sliced almonds (sometimes almond slivers) are used as a topping for the cake. Depending on your liking, you can add more or less almonds onto the cake. I like to use a generous amount of almonds for my semolina cake.
Note: Quantities can be found in the recipe card at the end of this recipe and can be adjusted according to the amount of servings you’d like to make.
How to Make Sfouf (Step-by-Step)
Ready to make Sfouf? Yallah, let’s get started!
Step 1: Combine dry ingredients
Before you begin, preheat your oven to 190°C (375°F) to ensure it reaches the right temperature for baking. In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients. These include semolina (both fine and coarse varieties), flour, sugar, baking powder and turmeric powder. Stir these ingredients together until they are well combined.
Step 2: Add wet ingredients to the batter
Once the dry ingredients are thoroughly mixed, it’s time to add the wet ingredients to the bowl. Pour in the milk and the oil. Use a whisk to blend the ingredients together, ensuring a smooth and consistent batter.
Step 3: Brush the baking sheet
Take a baking tray and brush it with tahini paste. You can use either a pastry brush or your hands to evenly spread the tahini paste across the bottom and sides of the tray. This step helps prevent the cake from sticking to the tray.
Step 4: Pour batter into the tray
Now, pour the prepared batter into the baking tray. Make sure it is evenly distributed, covering the entire surface of the tray.
Step 5: Sprinkle with almonds
To add some extra flavor and texture, sprinkle the batter with sliced almonds. Feel free to adjust the quantity according to your preference.
Step 6: Bake
Place the baking tray into the preheated oven. Set the timer for 30-35 minutes, allowing the cake to bake until it turns golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Once the baking time is up, carefully remove the tray from the oven using oven mitts or heat-resistant gloves. Be cautious as it will be hot.
Step 7: Leave to cool
It’s important to let the cake cool before serving to prevent it from breaking. Leave it on a cooling rack or a heat-resistant surface until it reaches room temperature. Once the cake has cooled down, you can cut it into squares. This will make it easier to serve and enjoy.
What to Serve with Semolina Cake?
Like most other Arabic cakes, Sfouf is traditionally served with Arabic tea or coffee. While Sfouf is a rather simple cake, it’s often served during special occasions such as Eid (end of Ramadan) or weddings. Sfouf also makes a great cake for an afternoon tea or coffee with family or friends.
Storage & Make Ahead
Sfouf can be perfectly made ahead of time. Before storing the cake, be sure that it has cooled completely, as it might become saggy otherwise. Place in an airtight container and store in a cool, dry place. Don’t store Sfouf in the fridge as it would dry it out. Consume within 2-3 days.
Semolina cake can also be frozen. Wrap in plastic wrap and store in an airtight freezer bag for 2-3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator (to preserve moisture), then bring to room temperature before serving.
Any Questions or Feedback?
If you liked this recipe, I’d appreciate it if you could leave a star rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ below. In case you’ve any questions or feedback, please leave me a comment (down the page). I’m happy to help you make delicious Middle Eastern food at home.
Lebanese Semolina Cake (Sfouf)
- 125 g (0.75 cups) fine semolina
- 125 g (0.75 cups) coarse semolina
- 200 g (1.5 cups) all-purpose flour
- 250 g (1.25 cups) sugar
- 10 g (2 tsp) baking powder
- 1 Tbsp turmeric powder
- 500 ml (2 cups) milk
- 250 ml (1 cup) vegetable oil
- 3 Tbsp tahini sesame paste, for brushing the baking sheet
- 50 g (1/3 cups) sliced almonds
- Before you start, preheat your oven (190°C / 375°F). Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl: semolina (fine and coarse), flour, sugar, baking powder and turmeric powder. Stir to combine.
- Add the milk and the oil to the bowl. Whisk well to combine to a smooth batter.
- Brush a baking tray with tahini paste (use a pastry brush or your hands to do so). Make sure the bottom and the sides of the tray are covered.
- Pour the batter into the baking tray.
- Sprinkle with almonds.
- Add the baking tray into the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.
- Remove from the oven. Leave to cool before serving to avoid the cake from breaking! Once cooled, cut into squares and serve with tea or coffee.
- For the best texture, use a mix of fine and coarse semolina. If you don’t have both, you can also stick to one type of semolina (i.e. only use coarse semolina).
- Tahini is a Middle Eastern sesame paste that you can find in any Middle Eastern grocery store or online. Don’t have tahini? You can use vegetable oil or butter for brushing.
- Vegan Sfouf? Use a plant based alternative to regular milk. Almond milk works best.
Nutrition information is only a rough estimate and may vary depending on factors such as the cooking method, exact weight, type, and brand of ingredients used.