This Lebanese cake squares have a special texture, given sometimes by the coconut flakes, sometimes by semolina flour, sometimes by a combination of both (as in the version I made here). It's topped with almonds and soaked at the end in a very sweet rosewater or orange blossom infused syrup. That final touch gives is its trademark Middle Eastern taste and feel - not only through the flowery flavor, but also because a lot of desserts in the area are really sweet and soaked in syrup (think baklava or katayf). All in all, I really loved this cake and I think it's very approachable: it can work both as a everyday cake (fancied up a bit, I admit) or as a special occasion cake. Enjoy.
Recipe sources: many, notably here and here.
Last year: Nashi pears in wine syrup with walnuts and walnut cream.
Two years ago: Artichoke and cous cous stuffed mushrooms (vegan).
Three years ago: Red lentil ragu with basil and ajvar.
Ingredients (for a 20 X 30 cm baking tray/tin):
- 2 cups of plain flour
- 1 cup wheat semolina
- 1 cup coconut flakes (100 g)
- 1 and 1/2 cup of sugar
- 250 g butter
- 300 ml yogurt
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 4 tablespoons rosewater
- a large handful of blanched almonds
- 1-2 tablespoons tahini for greasing the tray
For the syrup:
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons rosewater
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C. Grease a 20 per 30 cm baking tray with the tahini paste (this nice little trick will give an awesome flavor to the cake squares).
Mix the butter with the sugar until even and fluffy. Add the yogurt, the semolina, the all-purpose flour, the coconut, the cinnamon and the rosewater. Mix it all into a soft dough and pour it into the prepared tin.
Decorate with the almonds, trying to place one in the center of each future square (imagine how you're going to cut the cake).
Bake it in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes or until golden on top. Meanwhile prepare the syrup by bringing the water and sugar to a boil and simmering them for 10 minutes (until a bit reduced). Remove the syrup from the heat and mix the rosewater in it.
When the cake is done, take it out of the oven and pour the syrup over it:
Let the cake soak it up until it's cooled (it will not absorb completely, but syrupy squares are the whole point). Cut it into squares and dig in! :)