Syrian Nut Cake (H’risseh) (Photo courtesy International Cuisine)

Recipe Corner: Syrian Nut Cake (H’risseh)


“International Cuisine is a culinary and travel adventure. We enjoy sharing recipes and travel tips from every country in the world, and exploring the world through food. Our mission is to promote cultural appreciation by cooking our way across the world, one nation at a time. To discover the struggles and joys that have influenced the people, to gain an appreciation of their land, culture and traditions, and to feel the hospitality that only sharing a meal can convey,” says Darlene Longacre, the food and travel blogger at International Cuisine.

Namoura cake, also known as Basbousa or Harissa, is a traditional Middle Eastern sweet dessert, made with semolina flour and topped with assorted nuts and a simple sugar syrup. “This cake is one of the most popular in the Middle East and North Africa, and also in some Balkan countries such as Greece, Bulgaria, Albania, and in Turkey or in Armenia. It can be found everywhere, in restaurants, in bakeries, and there will always be someone to offer you a piece. Use coarse semolina flour (not fine) to achieve the proper texture. Additionally, it calls for superfine sugar. Rose water and orange blossom water are used in the syrup. The batter is made with butter and yogurt that results in a light, airy cake. Use whatever nuts you like, but the recipe calls for this cake to rest in a cool place for about 3 hours so be sure to plan ahead when you make it.”

“Syria is thought to be one of the original and oldest civilizations on earth and  believed to be part of the Fertile Crescent, where the earliest people practiced cattle breeding and agriculture. Archeologists have uncovered skulls and bones of Neanderthals that date back roughly 700,000 years. Historically, the name Syria, referred to a much wider region than its borders of today. It was known as al-Sham in Arabic, which included: Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine and much of Turkey and of course modern day Syria.”

“Interestingly, the name h’risseh (harissa) in Lebanon is a savory dish, a porridge made with wheat and meat. In Syria, however, there is no confusion, everyone knows this Syrian cake,” says Darlene. “This is the most famous treat in the city of Nabk in particular, and in the Damascene countryside in general. Its most important ingredients are semolina and ghee, or unsalted butter, and it is prepared in a special way where the dough is placed in a large tray and sprinkled with grated pistachios or walnuts. It is then baked and soaked in sugar syrup. The city of Nabk is known as a popular stop for travelers going to and from Damascus who look forward to enjoying the famous dish. This recipe is relatively easy to make. And because it’s soaked in syrup, it stays moist without drying out for about a week if stored properly.”

Darlene Longacre, International Cuisine/Food and Travel Blogger and Photographer (Photo courtesy International Cuisine)



Get the Mirror in your inbox:

1 1/4 cups semolina flour (not fine)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup superfine sugar

1 1/2 cups yogurt, whole milk

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1-2 teaspoons tahini for greasing the pan



1/3 cup blanched almonds

1/3 cup pistachio nuts

1/3 cup walnut pieces

1/3 cup cashews, unsalted


Fragrant sugar syrup:

1 cup superfine sugar

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon rose water

1 tablespoon orange blossom water


Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease a 10-inch round cake pan with tahini.

In a large bowl, combine the semolina, butter and sugar together with a spatula and blend together. Add the yogurt and baking soda, and mix well.

Spread the batter in the cake pan and smooth with a spoon. Cover with plastic wrap, and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.

Remove the batter from the refrigerator and scatter the nuts over the top. Bake until the cake is golden brown for about 40 minutes. While the cake is cooking, make the sugar syrup.

In a saucepan add the sugar, lemon juice and water and place over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Let it boil for 3 minutes then add the rose and orange blossom water. Stir and remove from heat. When the cake is done pour the syrup over the cake and let it stand for 30 minutes. It may look like it is too much syrup, but it will be absorbed by the cake. Slice cake and serve with hot coffee or tea.

For this recipe, go to:

For more Syrian recipes, see:



For Armenian recipes, go to:

For Derevi Sarma Yalanchi (Stuffed Grape Leaves), see:

For Khorovats (Lamb Shish Kebab), see:

For Nazook (Puff Pastry with Walnut Filling), see:

For Lavash, see:

For Baked Lamb Kibbeh, see:

Connect at:

Copyright © 2023 International Cuisine All rights Reserved


Get the Mirror-Spectator Weekly in your inbox: