Serves a Crowd

Squidgy Mochi Besbousa (semolina cake)

December 10, 2018
1 Ratings
Photo by Claire Schmotzer
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Makes One 10x13 cake
Author Notes

Oh happy accident! Midway through making batter, I realized that I was short 2 cups of mochi flour for the matcha cake linked below. I live in a small, rural town about 100 miles from a grocery store that carries mochi. I wasn't in a place to drop everything for a 4-hour round-trip to town, so it was essential to save the cake with ingredients I had on-hand. A bit of googling led me to the addition of tapioca, but again I came up short. I did not have another suitable substitute, when I had the brilliant idea to switch out the matcha for a Middle Eastern feel.

Besbousa is another cake that takes a lot of liquid to get the right consistency. After spending the best years of my life in Saudi Arabia, adapting the traditional Middle Eastern sweet made sense. In went some semolina. And ginger in place of the matcha.

Besbousa is usually soaked in a simple syrup, but the liquid and sugar in the batter and low amount of semolina keep the cake sweet and moist without the soak. In this cake, the semolina and coconut rise to create a besbousa layer atop the squidgy, squishy mochi layer. The bottom and edges crisp. On the whole, it's a textural delight, and different from any cake I've ever had.

The ginger flavor was quite light, it could easily be increased. I'm curious to experiment with lime and rose or orange blossom water in the future, to replicate flavors usually found in Arabic simple syrups and sweets.

Adapted from Kendra Vaculin's Matcha & Coconut Mochi Cake
Claire Schmotzer

What You'll Need
  • 1/2 cup Salted Butter, softened
  • 4 Eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 12-oz. can Evaporated Milk
  • 1 13.5-oz. can Coconut Milk
  • 1 splash Vanilla Extract
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • 1 cup Sweet/Glutinous Rice Flour (like Mochiko)
  • 1 1/2 cups Tapioca Flour (I ran small pearls through a coffee grinder)
  • 1/2 cup Semolina
  • 2 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1 dash Powdered Ginger
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 10x13 pyrex. In a bowl, combine sugar, baking soda, and flours (mochi, tapioca, semolina). Set aside
  2. Place the butter in a separate mixing bowl. Add the eggs. Beat on low with a hand mixer until combined.
  3. Add the evaporated milk, coconut milk, and vanilla. Mix to combine.
  4. Add dry ingredients and mix on medium until batter comes together.
  5. Add ginger and dried coconut. Mix to combine one more time. The batter will be quite thin. The semolina and coconut will give it a bit of texture.
  6. Pour the batter into the pan and bake at 350 in the pre-heated oven until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. (I lost track of some time here- it was at least 60-90 minutes at 4,000' altitude. Your timing may vary.)
  7. Remove cake from oven and allow to cool. Or not. The cake holds together well. Once cool and cut, cover and keep on the counter top. The cake should last about a week, unless it's eaten first.

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1 Review

Betty L. July 19, 2020
Wow! I made this last night and boy, did it turn out fantastic! A couple of minor corrections on the recipe: the ingredient list has 2 tsp baking powder but in the instructions, it was listed as baking soda. Also, the instructions says to add the coconut in with the ginger but no where on the ingredient list was coconut listed. I just grabbed a handful of unsweetened coconut flakes I had on hand and added it. I also sprinkled more flakes on top of the batter before baking. I LOVE this recipe! Thank you Food 52!