From Beirut to London in 100 Dishes

Sfouf — Yellow Lebanese Cake with Turmeric

Sfoof: Sfouf, Yellow Lebanese cake DSC_0248

 The smell, the feel, the look of this cheap, delicious Lebanese cake all fill me with an intense nostalgia.  I can still remember debating with myself as a teenager in Beirut with the latest bombardment of shells intensifying around us whether I could just keep working a little more in our kitchen in our sixth floor apartment on the recipe that might finally deliver the perfect sfouf.  That or racing down to the basement where everyone in the block would be taking shelter.  My old cookbook from back then still has the light yellow stains from those intense sessions. Even when I was in the shelter, I would be thinking about the sfouf still baking upstairs and wondering — hoping — whether this time I would get it right.  It was always different, always a surprise when I got back upstairs.


I tried for years to get it just right — the exact mixture of turmeric, tahini, milk and sugar.  It seemed so simple.  But I never succeeded until a Lebanese friend of mine here in London showed me how.  For her, too, it always comes out a little different, but it is still always absolutely delicious — with the springy softness and moistness that I had never quite been able to get.  With her help, I finally cracked it.  And it wasn’t a moment too soon as my elder daughter had by now developed an addiction to sfouf and needed me to provide a proper hit.  She loves turmeric — and like me finds the wait for the sfouf to cool down — as its exotic, Arab scent wafts through the kitchen — torture.


As for the name, sfouf, it’s always been a mystery to me.  But I’ve read that it’s because in arabic the word means rows — as in a row of school desks — and I suppose when you look at it cut into diamond shapes that sort of makes sense.


200g of self raising flour 

400g of fine semolina 

3 tea  spoons of ground turmeric 

3 tea spoons of baking powder

400 ml of full fat milk or Almond milk

350g of caster sugar

250 ml of sunflower oil

100g of pine kernels or almonds

2 large spoons of tahini to seal the tray





  • Put the flour, semolina, turmeric and baking powder in a large bowl and mix the ingredients very well
  • In another bowl put the milk and sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved
  • Add the  vegetable oil and stir well
  • DSC_0276Add the milk to the flour mix and stir for few minutes or until all the runny mixture has turned yellow.  Use an electric blender if necessary. Leave to rest for 30 minutes.
  • Rub the tahini all over a non stick baking tray – approximately 25 cm wide and 35 cm long
  • Stir the sfouf one more time and pour evenly into the baking tray
  • Sprinkle the pine kernels or almonds on top and put on the lower shelf, in a preheated oven, 180 degrees, for 35-45 minutes, or until slightly golden
  • Remove from oven and leave to cool down for 15 minutes
  • Cut the sfouf into small diamond shaped pieces and serve cold with mint tea
  • Please note this cake is best eaten 3 days later. Put in a tin and seal properly. Suitable for Vegans




  1. perla

    I just found your blog and I absolutely love it : great recipes and mouth watering photos . what more could I ask for ?! I can see that you have been working on this recipe for a long time so I thought that I should give you my mom’s. we have been using her recipe for many many years now . here is it:

    3 cups of fine semolina
    1 cup of flour
    2 tbsp of turmeric
    4 tbsp of powdered milk
    1 cup of vegetable oil
    2.25 cups of sugar
    2 cups of water
    3 tsp of baking powder
    1/2 cup off pine nuts
    tahini for the pan

    preheat the oven to 180C
    mix all ingredients together ( semolina ,flour , turmeric,powdered milk,oil,sugar,water, baking powder).
    Grease the baking dish with Tahina and pour batter. Make sure it’s flat and even. Sprinkle with sesame.
    Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until golden-brown. Allow to cool for 15 minutes. Cut in pieces and serve.

    looking forward for more recipes:))
    keep up the good work. best of luck!!


  2. perla

    oh , my pleasure !
    I love food blogs and yours got my attention!
    please try my mom’s recipe and let me know 🙂
    will be coming again soon
    happy cooking =)


  3. M

    I followed your recipe to the letter and it turned out wrong so I wanted to ask you if you are sure about the measures. When I mixed them, I did not get a runny mixture at all and I had to spoon it into the baking tray. I am no baking expert but maybe less flour? Anyway, it was a big fail – sorry I don’t mean to be mean, but I was just wondering why this happened and if we can fix it.
    Difference between your steps and what I did:
    – I used a non-stick tray not stainless steel
    – I did not use any almonds or pine kernels or other on top

    In the end I panicked and called in my mother-in-law who just put the tray closer to the top of the oven and lit the overhead to bake the surface. The flavour in the end was ok but it was as hard as stone :S.


  4. Susannah

    Samara, thank you so much for posting this recipe. I just finished “A Game for Swallows” and the story, nor the mention of sfouf, will leave my mind. Your mentioning your experiences in Beirut are akin to the stories I read in the book. I was researching recipes to try and found your blog. I love it! Thank you so much.


  5. Pingback: Spice Auntie Guest Post – Lebanese Sfouf | Spice Spice Baby

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