Sfouf is by far one of my favorite Lebanese desserts. It’s a moist cake characterized by its intense yellow color from the turmeric spice. It is made from semolina, flour, oil, sugar, and aniseed which gives it a distinctively awesome taste. Some people say it has a “magical” taste – and hey, I don’t disagree. It is also very easy to make, you just have to mix all the ingredients in a single bowl, pour the batter in a cake pan, and garnish the cake with slices of blanched almonds before putting it in the oven.
Lebanese sweets are usually heavy with sugar, cheese (like kashta), and lots of butter! But this spongy cake is light and slightly sweet with a dense melt-in-your-mouth texture. After tasting it from renowned Lebanese bakeries, restaurants, and even home-made cakes, I found out that typical Sfouf is dry and lacks the unique turmeric/aniseed flavor. So after reviewing and adapting my grandmother’s recipe, I finally found the perfect balance of ingredients for an insanely moist, rich, and flavorful cake. The secret ingredient is the addition of brewed anise tea to the batter. Typical recipes call for plain water or milk, but I found that freshly brewed tea enhances the taste and texture of the cake.
The cake is traditionally cut into squares or diamond shapes in the baking pan, that’s why it is called Sfouf, meaning “Rows” in Arabic. After taking the first bite, I knew that this is THE recipe to follow every time I plan on baking Sfouf. And it tastes so much better the next day! It’s unbelievably good!
Let me take you through the step-by-step recipe – as usual 🙂
This is aniseed. It smells awesome. So will your cake.
Make some Anise tea by mixing boiling water with the seeds and letting it steep for a few minutes.
Transfer tea to a bowl and let it cool.
Finely ground aniseed using a spice grinder.
Mix the fine semolina (above) with the flour, turmeric powder, ground aniseed, and baking powder. Then add the tea and oil.
Cover the cake pan with some Tahineh (Sesame Paste)
Pour the cake batter into a 23 cm (9 inch) round pan. You can also use a rectangular pan.
Decorate it. Lovely.
Turn it on a wire rack and cut into squares.
And that’s the best part. Yum.
Makes ≈ 26 squares.
Preparation time: 25 minutes.
Baking Time: 40 minutes.
2 cups boiling water
1½ tablespoon aniseed, whole
300g (2 cups) fine semolina flour
240g (2 cups) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon finely ground aniseed (using a spice grinder)
350g (1¾ cups) sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon tahini
Blanched Almonds, halved (for decoration – you can substitute with pine nuts or 1/4 cup sesame seeds)
1. Place aniseed seeds in a bowl and add hot water. Let it sit for 10 minutes.
2. Strain tea and put aside to cool a little bit.
3. Preheat oven to 180ºC (350ºF).
4. In a large bowl, mix the fine semolina, flour, turmeric powder, baking powder, and ground aniseed until homogeneous.
5. Add sugar to the tea and mix until dissolved.
6. Add oil and tea/sugar mixture to the dry ingredients, then mix well. The batter will be slightly thick.
7. Cover the bottom and sides of a 28 cm (11″) round pan (or a rectangular 9″x13″ pan) with tahini.
8. Decorate with blanched almonds (or substitutes – above)
9. Bake for 35 min, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
10. Let cool in the pan for 30 min then invert on a wire rack.
11. Cut into square or diamond shapes, and store in an airtight container.