Easy Lebanese Sfouf includes fine semolina flour for a rustic, slightly nutty flavor. Unlike labor-intensive Lebanese Baklava, Sfouf is a super simple, quick, one-bowl recipe that comes together in no time. My delightful podcast guest Amale, who contributed this recipe, says her mom makes it whenever she needs something quick an easy to serve to guests or simply as a sweet treat to enjoy with a cup of tea.
However, if you are looking for something a little fancy for a holiday or a celebration, there is something undeniably special about Sfouf. Just a single tablespoon of turmeric makes this cake the color of sunshine: bright, golden, and cheerful. Dress it up with chopped pistachios or roasted nuts and cut it into diamonds for an elegant treat.
FAQ About Sfouf
What does Sfouf mean?
"Sfouf" is the Arabic word for "lines" or "rows". There seem to be a few different theories on how this name was derived. One possible is that its common to cut the cake with diagonal lines into diamond shapes. Another is that the Sfouf is commonly decorated with neat rows of single nuts (generally walnuts or pine nuts), one to each slice.
Is Lebanese Sfouf a dense or fluffy cake?
Sfouf is definitely dense. There are no eggs in the recipe, so all the lift comes from baking powder.
Although it is dense, it is not at all dry. In fact, Lebanese Semolina Cake is quite a moist cake, thanks to the high proportion of oil.
Dense, moist, rustic and not at all too sweet - just perfect to pair with a cup of coffee.
Does it matter if I use coarse or fine Semolina flour?
Yes, definitely, the outcome will be different. That is not to say one is better than the other. Amale's recipe calls for very fine semolina flour - the same type you would use in making pasta. Your package may say very fine, ultra fine, or pasta flour.
How can I make Lebanese fit into a Vegan diet?
Replace the milk powder & plain water with plant-based milk like Almond Milk, Oat milk, etc;
How do I cut Sfouf into those trademark diamond shapes?
Use 12 toothpicks (3 on each side) to divide each side of the cake tin into quarters. Once you have your sides divided into quarters, use a knife to lightly score a long line from the top left corner to the bottom right. Using the toothpicks and the diagonal line you've already drawn as a guide, lightly score from the 1st toothpick along the top of the pan to the 3rd toothpick along the right of the pan.
Use this diagram to help place your toothpicks and score your lines.
Once the lines look good, simply cut deeply along each to end up with perfect diamond shapes!
What type of oil is best in Lebanese Sfouf Cake?
Amale's recipe calls for Canola Oil, which I used. Some recipes call for Olive Oil, but Wheel of Baking notes that IF you choose to use olive oil, absolutely do NOT use Virgin or Extra Virgin Olive Oil - the taste is too strong and will make the cake dense and heavy.
Are there any mistakes to look out for when making this Turmeric Cake Recipe?
Just make sure that it’s baked through well. This cake is easy to underbake because it achieves that perfect golden brown color so quickly (thanks to the turmeric powder). Make sure you really check a couple of places to make sure that a knife or toothpick comes out clean. (I'll tell you a secret: I underbaked mine. 😉 Amale says: "It will not deflate in the oven if you open the oven door."
What brand of semolina flour do you recommend?
Amale recommends King Arthur flour products for semolina and flour. As mentioned above, using fine semolina flour is the most important thing for the outcome of this recipe.
A lot of recipes call for anise powder or anise seeds - can I add those to this Sfouf recipe?
Sure! A lot of families in the Middle East also add cardamom to the cake. Feel free to experiment - it's just always a good idea to start with a pinch and add to taste, of course.
How long does Sfouf last?
Thanks to the high oil content, this yellow cake stays fresh for a long time. Keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.
About Sfouf and our guest, Amale Chamseddine
Sfouf is a gorgeous golden Lebanese cake that’s very easy and quick to make. In Lebanon, Amale and her family would just buy Sfouf from the famous Lebanese bakeries, where it is made daily.
On the Storied Recipe Podcast you can hear more of Amale's story. When Amale was still a child, the prime minister of Lebanon was assassinated. Her family immediately understood the fortunes of Lebanon had reversed in that one act and Lebanon would not be the same for a very long time.
Within weeks, Amale and her family, who were also US citizens, were evacuated away from their beautiful home on the coast of Lebanon to the Northeastern US. So to Amale, Sfouf now represents the extra effort they’ve had to go to to preserve their culture and live as ambassadors of it to their American friends.
In the episode, Amale talks about her years in Lebanon, the current situation there, and how art and baking were her dreams as a child and have now helped her through some of the toughest times of her life. She also shares tips on making that famously delicious Lebanese chicken (Check out the show notes for her chicken recipe, by the way) and shares freely about wearing the hijab and so many other topics.
Amale's Memories of Sfouf
This is an old traditional recipe in Lebanon that my mom makes at home because my dad loves it and so do many of her friends and guests. It's an easy and flavorful cake that she can whip up anytime. In Lebanon they sell it in sweet shops next to baklawa.
Traditionally it's not topped with nuts and they broil the top to give it a golden color, but at home we add some nuts for flavor. It's a great recipe for the winter because it includes turmeric which has anti- inflammatory properties. For me, I didn't used to love it when I was younger, but I grew to love it when we moved back to the U.S. and my mom started making it at home. I grew to appreciate it because my mom made it for my dad out of his love for sweets.