Semolina Coconut Cake



Today we’re going on a trip.

Usually I tell you what’s going on in my neck of the woods and around it, but today we’re going to Middle Eastern. Do you wanna know why? Of course you do!

My friend Faith Gorsky from An Edible Mosaic just had her first cookbook released: An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair. I’m excited to be participating in her virtual book launch party and sharing a recipe from the book! She’s also having an amazing giveaway priced at $1300!!!!

The book has over 100 Middle Eastern recipes, with a focus mainly on dishes from the Levant, but also a few recipes from other areas of the Middle East. Faith spent six months living in the Middle East, where she fell in love with the culture and cuisine. Recipes in her book are authentic Middle Eastern (taught to Faith mostly by her mother-in-law, Sahar), but streamlined just a bit for the way we cook today, with unique ingredients demystified and cooking techniques anyone can follow. If you didn’t grow up eating Middle Eastern food, it can be a difficult art to master; Faith understands that, and explains complicated dishes in an approachable, easy-to-follow way. The book is available to order on Amazon and Barnes & Noble!

I was so happy when Faith asked me to bake something from her book.

I grew up in a country with Middle Eastern influences so many of the dishes found there I’m somehow familiar with.

For example this semolina coconut cake. I had no idea it’s also called Harissa until I saw the title and read the entire recipe in Faith’s cookbook. The Romanian version is still a semolina cake but kinda different. Maybe one day I’ll call my mom to tell me the recipe.

I adapted Faith recipe just a wee bit. I’ve only made one batch of syrup because I knew it will be way too sweet (even for my sweet tooth, ironic, right?) and instead of baking it in a round pan I used an 11X7 rectangle pan (even tho I had a hard time scoring the diamonds)

Semolina flour gives this cake a yellow-ish color. Once you start mixing the ingredients you’ll notice the batter is somehow lumpy, I kinda panicked for a second or two but then, as you let it sit in the pan the semolina absorbs the milk and it starts to resemble  more of a cake, with a texture similar with the cornbread. But sweet.

You can go ahead and make two batches of syrup if you prefer, but I think using just one batch was sweet enough.

Faith’s advice is to brush the sides of the pan with tahini instead of lining with parchment paper but I didn’t have any so I used parchment paper.

Semolina Coconut Cake

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

3 hours, 21 minutes

Yield: one 11X7 baking pan

Semolina Coconut Cake

Semolina Coconut Cake - a sweet syrup-y Middle Eastern cake, best served with a hot cup of tea in the afternoon


    Scented Sugar Syrup
  • 1 cup (200 g) sugar
  • ½ cup (120 ml) water
  • ½ tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tablespoon rose water or orange blossom water
  • Semolina Coconut Cake
  • 2 cups (300 g) fine semolina flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ cup (100 g) sugar
  • ½ cup (115 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1½ cups (360 ml) milk
  • 1 cup (75 g) desiccated, unsweetened coconut
  • 3 tablespoons almonds


    To make the Syrup
  1. Add the sugar, water and lemon juice to a medium, thick-bottomed saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium heat, giving the pan an occasional swirl and skimming off any foam on the surface.
  2. Turn heat down slightly and boil 2 minutes (if you want thin syrup) and up to 5 minutes (if you want thick syrup), swirling the pan occasionally. (The syrup will thicken more upon cooling.)
  3. Turn off heat and stir in the rose water or orange blossom water; cool to room temperature, then use
  4. To make the cake
  5. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line an 11X7 baking pan with parchment paper.Set aside
  6. Whisk together the semolina, baking powder, and sugar in a large bowl. Stir in the butter and then the milk until combined, and then fold in the coconut.
  7. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread it out evenly; let it sit for 10 minutes.
  8. Score the batter into 1-inch (2.5 cm) square or diamond shapes with a sharp knife, periodically dipping the knife in hot water and drying it off before continuing to score the batter; place 1 almond in the center of each diamond.
  9. Bake until the sides and top are golden brown, about 30 minutes. (If the sides are brown but the top isn’t, you can broil the cake for a couple minutes to brown the top.)
  10. Once out of the oven, cut the cake along the lines you scored. Slowly pour the cooled syrup onto the hot cake. Let the cake sit at room temperature 2 hours to absorb the syrup before serving.


Recipe slightly adapted from An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair by Faith Gorsky (Tuttle Publishing; Nov. 2012);


Sending love your way,



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    Hello! My name is Roxana and I'm a self-taught baker, wanna-be photographer and the writer behind Roxana's Home Baking, where I share original and adapted scratch recipes. 

Here you'll find no fuss, no hassle easy recipes with ingredients you most likely already have in your kitchen.  Read more ....


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  1. says

    I’d love to pick up a few of those cake bars and pop them in my mouth all at once. :) We also make this cake in Macedonia and it’s called “Ravanija”.. my dad’s all time favorite dessert. So wonderful to see all of you guys doing a recipe from her cookbook!

  2. Kim - Liv Life says

    Oh, Roxana!!! What a gorgeous treat! LOVE the flavors she has in the recipe, and your photo presentation is just beautiful. So glad she had you bake something!

  3. Suzanne Perazzini says

    You have made this dish look delicious, Roxana. I love Middle Eastern food and this book looks very interesting.

  4. Carol | a cup of mascarpone says

    I think I’m in love with this cake from Faith’s cookbook – and you made it look beautifully delicious, Roxana!

  5. Faith says

    I am absolutely thrilled to have you participating in my virtual book launch party, Roxana! I am honored, my friend.

    Your cake and photos are absolutely gorgeous!

  6. Suzanne Platt (@YouMadeThatblog) says

    What I totally missed this one.. and coconut cake is one of my favs. It looks so moist and delicious. Beautiful cookbook too!

    • says

      Hi Jess,
      As far as I know semolina is somehow coarser and have a yellowish color while cream of wheat is finer and white-ish.
      I buy mine from a middle-eastern grocery store.

    • Faith says

      Hi Jess, Semolina is actually different from Cream of Wheat. Semolina is ground wheat middlings of durum wheat; Cream of Wheat is made from farina, which is made from the germ and endosperm of the grain, then milled and sifted. Roxana is right – in my experience semolina is usually coarser and a bit more yellow in color than farina (Cream of Wheat). Cream of Wheat may work in this cake (I haven’t tested it to know for sure though); however, the result will be different – a cake made with farina will have less of a rustic texture and yellow hue. (By rustic texture, I mean that baked goods made with semolina have a coarser crumb, similar to baked goods with cornmeal.) I hope this helps, and I hope you enjoy the cake if you give it a try!

  7. Ally says

    I thought that Semolina is a part of the durum wheat, which does NOT make it gluten-free, where I found it categorized. Please correct me if I am wrong!

  8. Shanthi says

    This cake is truly divine so moist and delicous ! i just made it earlier today and its basically all been eaten! I had no butter so replaced it with 1/4 + 2 TBLS of olive oil which worked out perfectly.
    Thanks for the awesome recipe, definetely a keeper!

  9. SM says

    Haha, I made this recipe successfully last friday. One funny thing: I never label my jars because I thought I could identify all ingredients. BUT I accidentally used half white corn meal and half semolina for the cake. For the record, the smell was like corn bread but tasted JUST like semolina cake! Thanks for sharing!

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