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Syrian Cooking by Ghinwa Alameen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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Harisi (Semolina cake)


A fail-proof recipe to prepare the famous semolina (smeed) cake. It has a much denser flavor that those made with all-purpose flour. Semolina is mixed with butter, yogurt. Syrup sweetens the cake and is added after it is done. Tahini adds a surprising yet great final touch to Harisi.








  • 2 cups smeed (semolina)
  • 2/3 cup butter + 1 tablespoon ghee (or replace with butter)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup + 2 teaspoons yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 11/2 cups syrup
  • A dash of salt
  • Almond halves for decoration (optional)


  1. Preheat your oven to 375 F.
  2. Mix smeed, sugar, salt and melted butter and ghee until blended.
  3. Stir baking powder and baking soda into 1/2 cup yogurt, and then add to the previous mixture.
  4. Blend all together. Mixture will be thick as soft dough.
  5. Grease a 9'' x 9'' pan with tahini and add mixture.
  6. Level it with a spatula and add the rest of the yogurt on top.
  7. At this point, you can decorate with blanched almonds.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes until sides are brown then broil on low for 5 minutes.
  9. Once you take harisi out of the oven, cut into small squares and pour syrup all over it.


Makes 12 servings


Comments (13)
  • peter scanlon  - request for rose water pudding
    I'm sure this is delicious Ghinwa, but can you please post the recipe for the rice pudding with the rose water? I will always remember tasting that when we visited you... The website is great!!
  • Kamal  - Rice Pudding
    I agree, the rice pudding recipe should be here too.
  • fatima  - mss
    can you tell me plz what is ghee??
  • Ghinwa  - Ghee
    Ghee is clarified butter, or 'samne' in Arabic. It's usually made with cow milk, though the authentic varieties used to be made with sheep moil, i.e. 'samne arabe'. You can buy it from Middle Easter stores or make it yourself by heating butter on stove top or in microwave. The butter will seperate into fat and liquid. Take the top layer which has the fat and discard the moiky liquid in bottom. I hope this helps.
  • aBDULRAHMN Alnoaimi  - Question about storage
    Can we make the mixture and put it in the refrigerator and bake it the next day?
  • Ghinwa
    I'm not sure of the results because I haven't tried making harisi a day in advance. You can give it a try and let me know what happens. But please note that the dough contains yogurt (an acidic ingredient) and baking soda. Adding these two is meant to create a reaction to elliviate the dough, so I'm not sure of the results if this dough was refrigerated for a whole day. Plus, the texture of smeed (semolina) will change after soaking it in liquids.
  • Patti  - Tahini?
    Is tahini the same thing as flour? Do you grease and flour the pan like a traditional American cake?
  • Ghinwa  - Re: Tahini
    Patti, Tahini is sesame paste/puree. It's a bit thicker than whipping cream and you can find it in Middle-eastern or international groceries. It's a staple component in the Syrian pantry and we use it for a lot of dips and sauces too. It will give the dessert a nutty flavor and prevent it from sticking, so you don't need to use flour with it. If you don't have it, you can replace it with butter, but it will really add a nice and different flavor to the dish.
    I would like a receipt for Halwat el Jobnee..made with simolina and akawa sweet cheese please. I would like it e-mail . If anyone has this receipt I would love to get it.
  • myla  - Request Info on Smeed
    Dear Ghinwa,

    Hi there, hope you are well and your family. I tried the recipe above but didnt turned out good. It maybe from the kind of smeed that I used. The bread turned out to be like crumbs (broken into pieces). Do you have any particular smeed that is for this sweet? Thanks and God Bless.
  • Ghinwa  - Re: Info for smeed
    Hi Myla, I'm sorry the recipe did not turn out to be good. The consistency of this cake is crumbly. The dough will be really thick so you will have to level it with a spoon. Although it is crumbly, it should hold itself together (but not like regular cake). If it is breaking a lot, then it might be too dry or the oven was too hot. You probably need to leave it less in the oven or add more syrup at the end. I use coarse smeed (smeed khishen), but I know other recipes that call for the use of other ingredients (e.g. coconut flakes). There are also other types of harisi/namoura that have more syrup and/or more spongy. So depending on the type that you have experienced previously, this recipe might or might not be exactly the same.
    Hopefully this will help and you will have a yummy harisi next time!
  • Javier  - Syrup
    What kind of syrup needs to be used for this cake? Is it a special syrup or regular pancake syrup
  • Ghinwa  - Re:
    Yes, it is a special kind of syrup that we use with all Syrian desserts. Just follow the link above for the recipe (and here it is again &id=9:syrup&catid=6:uncategorized&Itemid=9)
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