Tres Leches Basbousa

In an attempt to take a more positive approach this Ramadan, I thought of suggesting one of my own dessert recipes instead of critizing the annual concoctions with ludicrous ingredient combinations.

Soaked cakes are known all over the world and every region seems to have its own version of soaked cake. Some call it poke cake and pour jello on it, in Latin America they call it Tres Leches Cake and soak it in a mixture of three different types of milk, around the Mediterranean there is the famous semolina cake; Revani (Rawani in more Middle Eastern countries) which is soaked in simple syrup and in Egypt we gave the Revani a simpler, more dense and less cakey texture and called it Basbousa.

This year I decided to try and fuse some East and West, as you all know by now that this is my favorite thing to do in the kitchen and I present to you the Tres Leches Basbousa. This semolina cake is made using a mixture of whole milk, evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk (hence the name tres leches, which means ‘three milks’ in Spanish). Please call an ambulance before you dig in! The Tres Leches Basbousa is dense, rich, fudgey and confidently decadent. I must give credit where it is due.. I have messed around with many Basbousa recipes for the past years and none of them ever really tasted like the classic ones we get in the pastry shops here in Egypt. Most of the recipes I tried gave me a very cake-like, Revani result rather than the traditional low-profile, crumbly Basbousa. That was resolved when I finally got around to check out the recipe of the Egyptian queen of baking; Cleobuttera. This girl finally managed to crack the Basbousa code with some help from Chef Hagar Elhakeem and I realized that it is actually made in a completely different way than any other Revani, Rawani or whichever part of the Middle East you are from and whatever you choose to call it.

Basbousa is traditionally served with a small dollop of Egyptian-style clotted cream. In an effort to take this recipe to the next level, I created a light and mildly sour Qamar el Din whipped yogurt to cut through the richness of the cake.

Now let’s get started on the list of ingredients! You will need…

  • Soaking milk mixture:
    • 100 g granulated white sugar
    • 25 g sweetened condensed milk
    • 175g evaporated milk
  • Basbousa cake:
    • 150 g semolina (medium or coarse grind)
    • 80 g ghee, melted
    • 25 g shredded coconut
    • 75 g whole milk
    • 30 g sweetened condensed milk
    • 125 g granulated white sugar
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Qamar el Din Yogurt Whip:
    • 50 g whipped cream powder
    • 100 g yogurt
    • 50 g Qamar el Din (sheet, cut into 0.5cm squares)

My advice would be to prepare the Qamar el Din Yogurt Whip first and leave it in the fridge overnight, if possible. The reason for that is that it will give the little squares of Qamar el Din to dissolve into the whip, which will give you beautiful orange streaks in the white cream, when you come to serve it. To do that, simple mix the whipping cream powder and yogurt in a bowl and whip the together using an electric hand mixer. Then add the Qamar el Din pieces and mix again until the pieces are well distributed throughout the cream.

Now let’s make the soaking milk mixture. Combine the sugar, sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk in a small sauce pan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and stir continuously until the sugar fully dissolves into the liquid.

For the cake, start by preheating your oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Add the semolina, coconut and melted ghee in a big mixing bowl. Get your fingers in there and rub the ghee into the dry ingredients (please make sure the ghee has cooled down slightly after melting it and don’t burn your hands!). After you have made sure the all the semolina grains are properly coated in ghee, it’s time to add in the rest of the ingredients. Warm up the sugar, milk, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla extract together. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Pour the liquid mixture into the mixing bowl with the semolina and stir to combine. Don’t you dare over-mix it! It’s ok to have some pea-sized semolina clumps in the batter. Pour the batter into a well greased baking pan (I used a 9 x 13 inch) and pop it in the oven. Bake the Basbousa for 20 to 25 minutes until the top takes on a pleasant golden color.

For the final step, take the Basbousa cake out of the oven and pour over the cooled milk mixture while the pan is still hot. The cake will soak up the milks and become a mass of Dulce de Leche awesomeness. Once it has cooled down completely, you can start to cut it up into pieces and serve it with the yogurt whip and some additional Qamar el Din squares for garnish.

Enjoy! 🙂

Ramadan Kareem


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