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Semolina-Sesame Cake

16-18 Servings

4¼ hours 30 minutes active

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The start-to-finish time is long, but this tender-crumbed, syrup-soaked cake, very loosely based on Lebanese sfouf, is simple to make and requires little hands-on effort. We toast the semolina, coconut and cornmeal to heighten the flavors and aromas, then after cooling, we allow them to hydrate in a mixture of yogurt, tahini and water. This results in a uniformly moist, evenly textured crumb. Because it is soaked with syrup, the cake keeps well, so it can be made in advance. Tightly covered, it will keep for a day at room temperature; after that, store it in the refrigerate for up to two more days, but bring to room temperature before serving.




Don’t add the yogurt to the toasted semolina-coconut mixture until the mixture has cooled for about 30 minutes. If added when hot, the semolina quickly absorbs the yogurt and the cake bakes up with a crumbly texture. Also, don’t allow the cake to cool for more than 10 minutes before pouring on the syrup; the crumb soaks up the syrup more readily and more evenly when warm.

4¼ hours

30 minutes active


  • 6

    tablespoons (¾ stick) salted butter, cut into 6 pieces, plus more for the pan

  • 170

    grams (1 cup) semolina flour


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Kristine M.
January 1, 2023
Buttery, tasty and easy
This was a big hit with guests. It took a long time, but it was easy enough. It was unexpectedly buttery.
Patricia O.
March 11, 2023
Switching from kosher salt to table salt?
Team - thank you for your excellent work, I love the show and the recipes. QQ - you mentioned in a response to Lynn C. that you've switched from kosher salt to table salt. Can you say more about why you made that change, and is it across the board in all your recipes? Thanks much.
Beth M.

This looks amazing but we have a small household with no chance of friends during the pandemic. Have you tested how it freezes?

Lynn C.

Hi Beth -

We didn't test freezing it, but I think it would probably do pretty well since it's already so moist with the simple syrup that's poured on top. To store it, I would wrap it in plastic wrap, foil, and then add it to a zipper-lock freezer bag to fully ensure it's safe from freezer burn.

The Milk Street Team

Linda S.

What is the correct amount of table salt? In the ingredients list you have 3/4 teaspoon table salt, divided, but in the directions you ask for 1/4 teaspoon and then later in the recipe the remaining 1 teaspoon … which of course adds up to 1 1/4 teaspoons not 3/4 teaspoons?

Lynn C.

Hi Linda -

Thanks for pointing out the typo. We recently switched our baking recipes from kosher salt to table salt and missed that switch from 1 teaspoon (the amount when it was kosher salt) to 1/2 teaspoon (the correct amount of table salt). We've updated the recipe to reflect the correct amount. Sorry for the confusion!

The Milk Street Team