Sfouf (Semolina Anise Tea Cake)

cake 8

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.

cake 5

Lebanese sweets are usually heavy with sugar, cheese (like kashta), and lots 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 are dry and lack 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.

cake 6

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!

cake 7

Let me take you through the step-by-step recipe – as usual :)

anise seed
This is aniseed. It smells awesome. So will your cake.
brewing
Make some Anise tea by mixing boiling water with the seeds and letting it steep for a few minutes.
tea
Transfer tea to a bowl and let it cool.
anise powder
Finely ground aniseed using a spice grinder.
semolina
Mix the fine semolina (above) with the flour, turmeric powder, ground aniseed, and baking powder. Then add the tea and oil.
tahini pan pan 2
Cover the cake pan with some Tahineh (Sesame Paste)
batter
Pour the cake batter into a 23 cm (9 inch) round pan. You can also use a rectangular pan.
batter3
Decorate it. Lovely.
after
Bake it.
cake 1
Turn it on a wire rack and cut into squares.
after 2
And that’s the best part. Yum.

Makes ≈ 26 squares.
Preparation time: 25 minutes.
Baking Time: 45 minutes.

Ingredients:
2 cups water, boiling
2 Tablespoons aniseed

2 cups fine semolina
2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
2 tablespoons turmeric powder
1 tablespoon finely ground aniseed (you can use a spice grinder)
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups sugar

1 cup canola oil (or any vegetable oil)
2 tablespoons Tahineh (sesame paste)
Blanched Almonds, halved (for decoration – you can substitute with pine nuts or sesame seeds)

Directions:
1. Boil water then add the aniseed and let steep for 10 minutes.
2. Strain tea and put aside to cool a little bit.
3. Preheat oven to 180ºC (355ºF)
4. In a large bowl, mix the fine semolina, flour, turmeric powder, ground aniseed, and baking powder until homogeneous.
5. Add sugar to the tea until dissolved.
5. Add oil and tea/sugar mixture to the dry ingredients, then mix well. The batter will be slightly thick.
6. Cover the bottom and sides of a 23 cm (9 inch) round pan (or a rectangular pan) with Tahineh.
7. Decorate with blanched almonds (or substitutes – above)
8. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
9. Let cool in the pan for 45 minutes.
10. Invert on a wire rack.
11. Cut into square or diamond shapes.
12. Store in an airtight container.

8 thoughts on “Sfouf (Semolina Anise Tea Cake)

  1. Pingback: Bohsalino (Pistachio Paste filled with Kashta Cheese) | Brownie Box

  2. Hi and thank you for sharing this version of Sfouf! I would like to try and make this cake, but I would like first to double check the amount of baking powder you mentioned (3 teaspoons). Thank you!

  3. Made double batches over the week end one batch as a gift in a plate to return (gotta love our Lebanese traditions) and a batch for me and my husband – we both loved it and half way through our batch. Next time I am making in a muffin tin for breakfast – I missed this desert so much!

  4. I made this yesterday as a Ramadan dessert.. Can u say woooooow! I’ve had this dessert so many times, but this takes the reward! You really perfected the recipe!! I love that you boil the anise for extra flavor! I can’t wait to make it for my mom so she can be so impressed lol! And it’s so easy to make! The only thing I did wrong is I mixed the water in the dry mixtures while it was still really hot .. And my sfoof turned out a little reddish in color lol, but it still looked pretty and still tastes delicious. So I would advise all to actually wait until anise tea cools down. Thanks for the recipe!! I already shared it with the family.

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