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Nammoura: Sweet Middle Eastern Semolina Cake

Nammoura is the Lebanese name for a sweet, syrup-soaked cake known by many names and made throughout the Middle East and areas along the Mediterranean. The dessert is made with semolina flour. It's incredibly moist and delicious and perfect for an afternoon treat with strong tea or coffee or for a special dessert. Nammoura is easy to make and requires no special equipment. Bake the cake while you simmer the syrup--a mixture of sugar, water, lemon juice, sweet spices, and a touch of rose water--to pour hot over the top of the hot cake. Then let the cake cool to room temperature. The syrup will sink into the cake leaving you with a dense, rich but still light cake. The texture is somewhat like a cornmeal cake but far damper. You usually can find semolina flour at international grocery stores for far less money than at gourmet grocery stores or on line (Bob's Red Mill also supplies it). Similarly, look for rose water at an international grocery store. Rose water is wonderful in puddings as well as in cakes. I don't usually include coconut in the nammoura I make, but many people do. Feel free to add 1/4-1/2 cup of coconut to the batter before you bake it.


Nammoura -- Makes a 9 x 13-inch Pan


1 1/2 cups of semolina flour

1 cup of plain, fat-free yogurt

1/4 cup of melted butter

1/4 cup of canola oil

1 cup of sugar

1 teaspoon of baking powder

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon of butter flavoring

Whole almonds


1 2/3 cups of sugar

1 cup of water

1/4 cup of lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon of cardamom

2 tablespoons of rose water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a 13 x 9-inch pan with parchment paper or coat the pan with non-stick cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine the semolina flour and baking powder. In another bowl, combine the melted butter, canola oil, yogurt, sugar, vanilla, and butter flavoring and whisk them well. Stir in the dry ingredients and coconut, if you're using it, until combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth it out evenly. Space almonds in 6 rows, a couple of inches apart (or you can mark the batter with a knife and space the almonds in the squares you mark). Bake the Nammoura for about 30 minutes until firm to the touch and lightly browned. While the Nammoura cooks, make the syrup. In a large saucepan over medium high heat, combine the sugar, water, lemon juice, cinnamon, cardamom, and rose water and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring it frequently. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let the mixture cook for about 15 minutes, stirring it periodically, until it's thick, syrupy, and reduced in volume by about one-half. As soon as you pull the hot cake from the oven, pour the hot syrup evenly over the top of the cake. Score the Nammoura into squares and then let it cool completely. Re-cut the squares before serving the Nammoura.


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