November 1, 2021

Semolina & Coconut Cake

Recipe: Hisham Assaad

Try this Semolina & Coconut Cake from the new cookbook, Bayrut.

Nammoura is a fudgy, moist coconut cake with semolina and yoghurt as a base. There are a couple of recipes for it in my mom’s old recipe book, but I asked her for the easiest and most fail-safe one and here it is. The prepared batter looks very runny before baking, but the semolina absorbs the liquid and it bakes into a fine, soft cake. Don’t be afraid of the syrup quantity. The cake will absorb it and it creates the essential nammoura texture without being overly and sickeningly sweet. My mom couldn’t let go of the fact that I used half of the syrup in the first testing, so don’t make the same mistake – otherwise she’ll judge you too!


  • 40 g (1⁄2 cup) dried shredded (desiccated) or freshly grated coconut
  • 120 ml (1⁄2 cup) vegetable oil
  • 300 g (2 cups) coarse semolina
  • 400–500 g (12⁄3–2 cups)
  • plain yoghurt
  • 230 g (1 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 1⁄4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • tahini, for brushing the pan
  • 32 blanched almond halves

For the syrup

  • 375 ml (1 1⁄2 cups) water
  • 450 g (2 cups) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • handful of rose geranium leaves (if available)
  • 2 tbsp rose water
  • 2 tbsp orange blossom water


Yield: Makes about 35-40 pieces

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/gas 4).
  2. Toast the coconut in a pan or on a baking sheet in the oven until golden.
  3. In a large bowl, rub the oil into the semolina until well coated. Add the toasted coconut, yoghurt, sugar, salt and baking powder and mix well. The mixture is supposed to be quite wet and runny, so adjust the mixture depending on the thickness of your yoghurt.
  4. Brush a 23-cm (9-in) square, deep-sided baking pan with a little tahini to prevent sticking and pour the batter into it. Lightly score the top of the batter into squares or diamonds and place an almond half in the middle of each section. Bake for 20–25 minutes until the sides are browned and pulling away from the pan – that means the bottom is done.
  5. Meanwhile, preheat the grill (broiler) to high.
  6. Transfer the pan to the grill for 5 minutes until the top is golden.
  7. Meanwhile, prepare the syrup by mixing the water, sugar, lemon juice and rose geranium leaves, if using, in a saucepan over a medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Boil for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and stir in the rose water and orange blossom water.
  8. As soon as it comes out of the oven, douse the nammoura with all of the syrup. It might seem like a lot, but trust me – the cake will soak it all up when it is hot. Allow it to cool a little, then cut into the pre-scored sections and allow to cool completely before serving.

Food photography © Liz and Max Haarala Hamilton.


Bayrut: The Cookbook, by Hisham Asaad, published by Smith Street Books.