Monday, December 25, 2006

a cake by many names

this cake originates from the mediterranean and middle east and goes by many names depending on who is making it. sephardic jews called it tishpishti, chamali (shamali/samali) or gâteau de semoule. in arabic, it can be called basboussa or h'risa or namoura. it is also called revani by the greeks. a few of the names can also indicate what is in it (like those with coconut) besides where it is from. i am sure i have missed a few, so forgive me if i haven't mentioned them.

some versions are made with yogurt and some with milk. this recipe can use soy milk to ensure it can be eaten at a meal with meat and includes oil instead of butter. amongst sephardi jews, this cake is seen often at either rosh hashanaha or passover where it is made using matzo meal. it traditionally has (wal)nuts and cinnamon in it. in all versions, like many of these types of cakes, a syrup is made from either sugar or honey (or a combination of both) and is poured over the baked cake to absorb.

this is a very popular cake with young and old. it is made in a 'tifsin' [round pan here, in this case]. this version has no nuts (it is the one i make for a friend who is allergic to them) and the batter is not pre-scored as is usually done in many recipes for it. the measurements for this recipe [and some others i have] are done with 'la kupa', or a turkish tulip-style teacup [also called 'le verre'].

until i measured it to write out the recipe, i had no clue how much it equaled. try getting an exact measurement for some of these recipes — that's old-world ancestor recipes for you!! so for convenience and recipe translation, it adds up to a 1/2 cup in standard measurement (4 oz). it is also used to measure out portions for turkish coffee — but only up to the first line!

tishpishti, hold the nuts

cake ingredients:

1/2 c oil
1/4 c sugar
3 large eggs

1/2 c AP flour
1 c semolina (fine grind; not pasta flour)
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt

1/2 c milk, yogurt or soy milk [or analogue - almond/rice milk, o.j., water]
1 1/2 - 2 tsp vanilla or almond extract
1 tsp orange zest if wanted
1 tsp orange flower water [m'aa zaher] or rosewater

syrup ingredients:

1 1/4 c sugar
2 tbsp honey [optional]
1 1/2 c water
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 tbsp orange flower water or rose water

the original was/is:

1 k(upa) olive oil
1/2 - 3/4 k. sugar
4 small eggs

1 k. flour
2 k. semolina
1 [pkg] levure chimique
1/8 tsp soda / salt

1 k. yogurt/milk/water
almendre, vanille
orange zest & m'aa zaher

2 k. sugar + 1/2 k. honey
3 k. water
demi citron
m'aa zaher
pistaches moulues (p décorer)


make the syrup. put all but the orange flower water or rosewater in a small pot, stir to mix and cook over medium heat about 15 minutes until you get a very thin syrup. it is thinner than, say, maple syrup. remember it will thicken when it cools and this must absorb into the cake. add the flower water and set this aside to cool.

if it gets too thick — something you do not want in this instance — you can try adding several tablespoons of water to thin it to what you need but i don't suggest it. just keep an eye on it. again remember, you don't want a viscous syrup.

remember, the rule of thumb is hot syrup to cold pastry or cold syrup to hot pastry. we are working with the latter method.

now, preheat oven to between 375 and 400F [190C].

grease your baking tin with margarine or butter. don't use oil as it does not adhere well to the pan which you need. (you can use a round 8 inch but it should not have very short sides as syrup will be added and it may not contain it).

place all the dry ingredients in a bowl. add the oil and eggs. stir well.

add the milk, extract, flower water and stir again. put this batter into the pan and give it a gentle whack or two on the counter to release any bubbles.

put it in the oven to bake for 55 minutes to 60 minutes.

you will notice that it will have pulled away from the sides and condensed. the surface will seem a little oily, that is normal. it will also be a dark golden colour.

pour the cooled thin syrup over the hot cake.

after a few minutes, the cake will start to absorb the liquid and it will eventually disappear. they may be a bit left over. this is fine and normal.

about 15 - 20 minutes later cut it into diamonds. the procedure is as follows:
  • make cuts all the way through cake spaced about 2 inches apart from top of pan to bottom;
  • make same cuts now at a 45 degree angle and you will end up with diamond shapes (draw it on a piece of paper first if you can't imagine it, to get the idea before you cut);

  • the little uneven ones are for noshing or giving to kids. adults [guests] usually get the perfect diamonds.

let it absorb for a few hours. serve at room temperature. don't refrigerate the cake. store on the counter covered with tin foil. it will be good for a day or two.

et voilà. enjoy with turkish coffee or mint tea.


Chanita Harel חני הראל said...

I love semolina in my cake !
מצויין, נכון שיש לך חתיכת עוגב בשבילי..

burekaboy — said...

מה פתאום ... אשלוח לך חצית העוגה. אני גם אוהב סולת בכל מיני מאפים

yum! :)

Kelvin said...

Hello & Seasons Greetings from down under in new Zealand. I hope you had a good day. Great recipe - I'll have to bribe a friend to make it for me (hehe) All the very best.

Beenzzz said...

I love turkish coffee and this cake would be a delectable treat to have with it! YUM!

Anonymous said...

YUM YUM YUM!!!!! the cake looks super..... I love moist cakes!!!!! Greetings of the season!!!!! :)

Mrs. M. said...

That looks yummy. I once made revani using a recipe of Armenian origin from Anya von Bremzen's Please to the Table cookbook. It was very good, but I'd like to try yours, which seems less fussy.

burekaboy — said...

kelvin - hey kelvin, thanks for dropping by. happy holidays to you, too. hope you're successful getting your friend to bake for you!

beenzzz - they do go very well together!

rooma - hey rooma! happy holidays. nice to know the dentist has a sweet tooth!! bad girl :)

yulinka - hi yulinka! nice to see you. i have been interested in looking at this book. sounds like it is a good read. the title cracks me up because it is really is representative of how sayings get translated.

this cake is very straightforward and forgiving. i hope you like it, if you try making it one of these days.

thanks for stopping by and happy holidays to you. :)

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

I love that cake!!! Yours looks wonderful...

burekaboy — said...

rosa - me, too! thanks :)

Sketched Soul said...

Hello Burekaboy,

Just leaving some feedback, since you went to all the trouble of sharing your recipe(s) with us.

Anyway this is so awesome! There are many versions of 'basbousa'.. I really like this one, it's easy and tastes great! Oh man, my family were 'saving' pieces for when they break their fast. Ha! :D

I however made a slight change, I used orange juice in the syrup instead of lemon.

I'll definitely be making this again. Thank you.

Take care,

PS: make sure this one goes in the book! :P

burekaboy — said...

hey farhana - wow, you actually made it? i really appreciate the feedback, especially that you're family really liked it and you'll make it again. it makes the effort of posting all these recipes and pictures worth it. i had to laugh about the hoarding part to break fast! :)))

as for the syrup, we also sometimes replace orange juice for the lemon. you're right on the mark, as they say!

LOL about the book. i should really work on it, huh? :)) thanks for the vote of confidence.

you're also right, there a TONS of recipes for basboussa. if only i had the time to test them all, hehe :)

wishing you an eid mubarek. peace and happiness to you and your family. thanks for your visits and comments - much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

hi bb..yes this is called revani in my country,in Turkey..we love it:)sometimes we add some grated orange peel in batter..