Basbousa or namoura is a semolina cake soaked in a lemon, rosewater, and honey syrup. This gluten-free basbousa recipe replaces semolina with cornmeal.
Gluten-free basbousa is a cornmeal cake that is rich, dense, and full of flavor. It is the sort of cake that improves with time as the syrup soaks into the cornmeal.
Recipe options and replacements
Wondering how you can make this recipe your own? Here are a few swaps and switches that may suit your taste.
This cake is fairly similar to honey-soaked cornbread. I used cornmeal for this recipe because it is quite similar to the coarsely ground semolina that is traditional for basbousa. However, it is also quite dense and dry.
- Feel free to use polenta instead of cornmeal for a less gritty texture.
- Or add a bit more protein to this cake by replacing 1/2 cup of cornmeal with almond flour.
I’m really not a sweet tooth. So this recipe already contains far less sugar than a typical semolina cake. It’s also possible to completely eliminate all of the sugar.
However, I don’t recommend skipping the honey syrup altogether, or it will be a very, very dry cake.
- For an all honey treat, replace the 1/2 cup of sugar with 1/4 cup of honey. For a total of 3/4 cup of honey. The sauce won’t thicken in the same way as it does with sugar, but it will still taste delicious.
Fermenting with dairy
Soaking and fermenting the cornmeal isn’t necessary. However, fermentation will help break down the cornmeal, making it more semolina-like.
- Homemade yogurt or unflavored and non-thickened store-bought yogurt is traditional.
- Don’t use Greek yogurt. It’s too thick and won’t have enough liquid to soften the cornmeal.
- Feel free to use cultured buttermilk or milk kefir instead.
There are a few different ways to play with the flavor of this cake.
- Use ground almonds instead of coconut.
- Replace the rosewater with orange blossom water or vanilla extract.
- Top the cake with walnuts or pistachios.
Gluten-Free Basbousa or Namoura
This is a traditional basbousa or namoura made with a gluten-free twist! It is rich and sweet with the flavors of lemon, rosewater, and honey.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Total Time: 45 minutes
- Yield: Serves 16 1x
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Fermented
- Cuisine: Lebanese
- Diet: Gluten Free
- 1 1/2 cups cornmeal
- 2 cups yogurt
- 1 cup of shredded coconut (unsweetened)
- 2 eggs
- 2 Tbsp butter (melted)
- 1 lemon (zest and juice)
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 12 to 16 whole almonds
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup sugar (optional -see section above)
- 1/4 cup water
- 4 Tbsp butter
- 1 Tbsp of rose water
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- Mix the cornmeal and yogurt in a large glass bowl. It is best if the cornmeal is left to soak and ferment for at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours. The liquid should be completely soaked into the cornmeal before the rest of the ingredients are added.
- When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Mix the coconut, eggs, butter, lemon, baking soda, and salt into the cornmeal and yogurt mixture.
- Grease an 10 cup baking dish, and scrape in the cake batter, smoothing out the top with a spatula or the back of a spoon.
- Decorate the top of the cake with whole almonds.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes. The cake is ready when it is cooked through and the edges are golden.
- Make the syrup while the cake is cooking. Mix the honey, sugar, and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer until the sugar is dissolved.
- Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and stir in the butter, rosewater, and lemon juice.
- Allow the syrup to cool to room temperature. It should thicken slightly as it cools.
- Remove the cake from the oven and slice the top into serving-sized pieces. (I tried cutting on an angle for the photo above… what a failure! Simple squares are fine.)
- Pour the syrup over the cake right after slicing. You want the cake to still be hot so it can absorb the flavor syrup.
Keywords: semolina, namoura, soaked, Middle Eastern, Gluten free, cornmeal, almond, refined sugar free
Can you make this recipe with semolina instead of cornmeal?
Yes! This recipe is a GF version of a traditional semolina cake. However, I haven’t tried it (because I’m GF) so if you do, let me know how it goes!
Hello, I attempted to make the cake but it turned out very thick, solid in fact. Which type of cornmeal do you use? I used FINE and expect that to be the mistake…
I did use coarse cornmeal and will update the recipe accordingly. However, it will always be a bit dense. It’s a honey-soaked cake and is best eaten like a pudding, not like a sponge cake. Cheers!
Lovely recipes….My favourite is the cornmeal syrup..I have been making this cake for a long time as my cousin-in-law is from Cyprus and she made hers with 1/2 ground almonds 1/4 oo2 italian flour, but the syrup mixture was the same as yours….Cheers Querino..
Love the idea of adding ground almonds. Definitely going to try that the next time I make this! Thanks!
I tried this recipe last weekend… it was so GOOD! Being GF, I miss all those filo pastries. This isn’t the same, but it has similar flavors. Thank you!
Glad you liked it!