Basbousa is the Mediterranean sweet for those who like extra juicy highly sugary cakes. This soft semolina cake is a favorite in many Middle Eastern countries, and most especially in Egypt.
Called Nammoura in Lebanon and some Mediterranean countries, this cake is called Basbousa in Egypt where it enjoy the most popularity. Other sweets are also popular there too, but this sweet and very simple to make cake enjoys the highest demand. It is one of the rare Middle Eastern sweets that do not contain nuts. Its very short list of ingredients and the simplicity of preparation make it the most popular cake to bake at home on a short notice.
It is considered a cake, but it is really different that the regular cake you would encounter in birthday parties. It is cut into small squares and very heavy in sugar syrup. Its semolina dough put it in the same category as some cookies like Maamoul and Karabij, but those are filled with nuts and dates rather than being soaked with syrup. Basbousa is often compared to Sfouf which is another cake also made from semolina and very well known in Lebanon. This latter one however is dry and has a yellow color due to the presence of turmeric in its ingredients.
Basbousa is usually available in two flavors. The original type is usually topped with almonds. There is another flavor however where coconut flakes are mixed with the dough and also placed on top of each piece. The original type is still the one more popular. It is very common for Mediterranean cakes and cookies to come in different flavors. Maamoul for example comes in three flavors: pistachios, walnuts, and dates. Most assorted Baklava types also come in pistachios, pine nuts, cashews, or walnuts flavors.
The most striking characteristic of Basbousa is how sweet it is. This cake is not dipped in sugar syrup, it is soaked in it. This makes it very juicy and soft. It is probably the sweetest cake you might encounter. The semolina dough is let absorb as much syrup as it can. It is really made of just semolina, butter, yeast, and sugar. If you make a lot of cakes you can notice how short this list of ingredients is. This makes it very simple to bake at home. In Egypt, almost everyone knows how to bake Basbousa. Even though many stores sell it, most people bake it themselves. Its dough is very easy to make and the sugar syrup is nothing butter sugar dissolved in boiling water.
Even though some assorted Baklava types like Borma and Ballorieh are rich in sugar syrup, nothing is even close to this cake. No other cake even compares to it in terms of sweetness. These two Lebanese pastries, even though are known to be very rich in sugar, look sugarless when compared to this cake.
In summary, Basbousa is a sweet, soft, and juicy semolina cake that is very easy to make at home. If you like extra sweet treats, this is yours.