Basbousa Revani Semolina Cake with Orange Syrup

Basbousa/Revani Semolina Cake with Orange syrup

I love my desserts, especially Middle Eastern desserts.

The one ingredient I hate is Rose Water. Yes, it’s a harsh word, but seriously, I hate, hate hate it!. I just can’t get my head around the taste.

Have you seen the Devondale Milk ad series currently on Australian TV where the man tries a soy milk based drink and pulls the most disgusted face, relishing in the aftertaste? There’s a few different versions, but my favourite one is when his poor daughter enters the room and assumes her idiotic father is pulling faces at her lovely painting.

Here’s the hilarious clip for my overseas friends:

Well, that’s exactly what I end up doing when I taste even a smidgen of rose water. I can’t help it, it’s a reflex! My face distorts, tongue automatically protrudes and stays that way till I change the taste in my mouth.

So what happens is if we’re dining out and I eye some glistening Baklava or Basbousa in the shop window? I have to get hubby to take a lick of the syrup. If he gobbles the piece afterwards in one go, I’ll know it was laden with rose water (well, I have to take his word for it!!)

I’ve had packet of semolina sitting in the cupboard, lonely for a long time. It was time to let it shine with a delicious Semolina Syrup Cake. This recipe is so well known throughout the Wog World with different names depending on where you’re from; Basbousa in Egypt, Namoura in Lebanon, Ravani/Revani in Greece and Semolina Syrup Cake or slice for the rest of us!

Most countries do a version that uses Rose Water in the sugar syrup, however if you’re anything like me and just can’t stand the taste, rose water can easily be substituted for Orange Blossom water or Lemon juice in pretty much all sweets or sugar syrups.

Semolina Cake with Orange Syrup

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 2 cups fine semolina
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • ¾ cup yoghurt (plain)


  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • juice of half an orange
  • 2-3 pieces of orange rind. More if you like it zesty!

Preaheat oven to 180 degrees

Start by making the Sugar Syrup by combining the sugar, water and lemon juice and briging it to the boil. Boil rapidly for 5 minutes, reduce the heat to medium and let it reduce for 20 minutes. Stir frequently. Remove from heat and let it completely cool.

orange syrup

To make the cake: In a bowl, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla essence until fluffy. Add the two eggs, one at a time.

Sift the Semolina, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into the creamed butter mix. Fold in the yoghurt until well mixed.


Basbousa/Revani Semolina Cake with Orange Syrup

Spread the mixture into a baking paper lined shallow baking dish and bake for 25 – 30minutes. When the cake is golden brown and cooked, run your knife through the cake to make diamond like shapes and gently pour all the cold sugar syrup over the top of the hot cake, and hear it sizzle!

Basbousa/Revani Semolina Cake with Orange Syrup

Serve with some double cream and a cup of tea!

Basbousa/Revani Semolina Cake with Orange Syrup


63 thoughts on “Basbousa Revani Semolina Cake with Orange Syrup

  1. Not sure about rose, it’s lavender I really don’t like in food… keep it for the bath salts! Your cake sounds fab though, the syrup must give it a lovely flavour.

  2. Lisa, I read this post on my IPhone and I couldn’t believe what I was reading. You don’t like rose water!! It can’t be true! Rose water is heavenly!! Now orange blossom water … I don’t like. It smells of 4711.

  3. I love the texture of semolina, especially in syrup soaked cake. I also adore rose water, almost as much as I love orange blossom water, but it is a very strong and particular flavour 😉 That ad is hilarious!

  4. Oh you don’t like rose water? wow I never even thought that somebody in this world might not like the flavor. I think so I would add a dash to your recipe when I get a chance to try it.

  5. I’m not much for rose water either, I think it was some bad experience as a child with over dousing of rose water in some dessert..ugh. I however love orange blossom and thats what I use in all my ME desserts. I actually prefer basbousa with orange blossom water. Looking at your beautiful thick slices of basbousa, I realise its time to make some soon. It’s been awhile.


  6. I have never heard of a basbousa revani cake but I do know syrup cake. I love syrup cakes because the syrup always makes them so moist. I have to tell you I love rose water however I also love orange blossom water so I’d be happy to have this either way. It looks lovely and you tell a good story xx

  7. I am with you Lisa. If I taste rosewater in anything, on comes the nasty face. I think it is probably the only middle eastern flavouring that I don’t like. I absolutely adore those Devondale ads and I agree, the Dad one is the funniest. I love this recipe so will try it this weekend. Blood orange might be nice as well so will try that.

  8. I love your honesty Lisa! It’s true Rose water’s hard to stomach but Rose Water syrup? That addition to any European sweet always makes the best difference! Whenever I eat this Basbousa dessert, I find it heavy on the stomach.Perhaps it’s the “overdose ‘ of the Lebanese cuisine we’re always having. Great post and the best ‘Laugh out Loud’ commercial ever! xx

    • oh Lina, I can’t do ‘rose’ anything! I’m not a fan of the flavour at all! You’ll have to try my version, it’s not as buttery as others I’ve tasted, but it’s still light and fluffy. Thanks for your lovely comments x

  9. I’ve not had rose water, that I know of, but I’ll take your word for it, Lisa. Besides, I really love a citrus glaze on cakes, so, even if I had tasted rose water, I would still prefer citrus — every time. Not to cast aspersions upon your DH and raised bed builder, do you think it possible that many of those sweets he’s tasting are rosewater-free but he’s saying that they have rosewater just so that you both will move on to the next shop and he can get another treat? 🙂

  10. I heard eating Turkish Delight described as ‘licking a little old lady’ today. I guess that’s sort of your sentiment! I don’t mind a little but anymore and it’s overpowering!

  11. Have to admit to being quite partial to rose water, I think it’s as much the romantic Arabian nights feasting it brings to mind as much as the taste! Your cake looks lovely though, I’ve tried a similar one with ground almonds but not semolina, yummy.

  12. I couldn’t stop laughing reading this. I’m exactly the same with rose water although it sounds like such a weird thing for an Arab to not like it!! 😀
    This basbousa cake looks so delicious, I tend to eat the original Harissa (that’s what we call basbousa in Syria) more than the cake version of it. But both are delicious!!

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