Not all cakes have to involve three layers, chocolate frosting and birthday candles. At Comal in Denver, Vian Alnidawi and Sara Nassr have become known for their basbousa, a Middle Eastern semolina cake that's flecked with coconut and soaked in a sweet syrup. While Alnidawi and Nassr soak their confection with a simple syrup flavored with a hint of lemon, you can also substitute a few splashes of rose or orange-blossom water for a more fragrant take.
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Basbousa (Semolina Cake)
Recipe adapted from Vian Alnidawi and Sara Nassr, Comal Heritage Food Incubator, Denver, CO
Yield: 12 to 16 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes, plus cooling time
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes, plus cooling time
For the Cake:
2 cups fine semolina
2 cups dried, unsweetened coconut
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the Sugar Syrup:
1¼ cups granulated sugar
1¼ cups water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Finely chopped pistachios
1. Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°. In a bowl, combine all of the cake ingredients into a thick batter and press into either a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or a 10-inch springform pan that's been greased and lined with parchment.
2. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the center is set. Turn the oven to broil for 3 to 4 minutes to brown the top of the cake. Let cool.
3. Meanwhile, make the sugar syrup. In a saucepan, combine the sugar and water over high heat; boil until the sugar is dissolved. Add the lemon juice and allow the syrup to cool slightly before slowly pouring the syrup over the cake until it's completely absorbed.
4. To serve, cut into pieces and garnish each with the chopped pistachios and more coconut.