This delectable syrupy sponge cake, or as it’s known locally h’risseh, is a Syrian dish famously topped with mixed nuts – the sticky sweetness is tempered divinely by the crunchy nuts. This irresistibly sweet dessert, by Lebanese cookbook author Anissa Helou, is very simple to prepare and wonderful for parties or family feasts.
In Dubai there is a popular Syrian bakery called Arabesq, where I would go to just for this cake. The name is confusing as it also describes a Lebanese savory dish, a kind of porridge made with wheat and meat. In Dubai, however, there is no mistaking the name for anything but this delectable syrupy sponge cake topped with mixed nuts. This irresistible dessert is very simple to prepare. I make mine a little less sweet than is conventional, but it still drips with sugar syrup; I love the way the sticky sweetness is tempered by the crunchy nuts.
syrian semolina + nut cake recipe
- one and a half cups of semolina flour
- six tablespoons of unsalted butter, at room temperature
- a quarter of a cup of castor sugar
- one and a half cups of yogurt
- a half of a teaspoon of baking soda
- one teaspoon of tahini
- one third of a cup of blanched almonds, sliced
- one third of a cup of hulled unsalted pistachios, chopped
- one third of a cup of walnuts, chopped
- one third of a cup of unsalted cashew nuts, chopped
- two cups of castor sugar
- one and half teaspoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
- one half a cup of water
- one tablespoon of rose water
- one tablespoon of orange blossom water
Preheat the oven to two hundred degrees celsius for about twenty minutes.
In a mixing bowl add the semolina flour, butter and castor sugar and work together using a spatula until well blended. Add the yogurt and baking soda and combine until you have a firm batter.
Using the tahini, grease a medium-sized round cake pan with sides about five centimeters high and spread the batter evenly across the prepared pan. Flatten the batter gently with the back of a spoon and cover with plastic wrap, taking care not to let the plastic touch the top of the batter. Let rest in a cool place for around two to three hours.
Once allowed to rest, scatter the nuts all over the surface of the batter and bake until the cake is golden, roughly thirty to forty minutes.
While the cake is baking, prepare the sugar syrup by putting the sugar, lemon juice and water in a saucepan and place over a medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Boil for another two to three minutes, and then add the rose water and orange blossom water. Mix well and remove from the heat and leave to cool.
Once the cake is golden, remove from the oven and pour the sugar syrup all over. Leave the cake to absorb all the sugar syrup before serving.
Store the cake in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one day.