Cake with Turmeric (Sfoof)


When we were youngsters growing up in Beirut we used to go play every day at the one and only “park” in West Beirut. The park boasted one large fountain and many jacaranda and  ancient eucalyptus trees. In front of the gates, there was always a cart vendor selling these cakes, called sfoof. I was most attracted by the bright yellow color of the cakes, their geometrical shape and the fact that they were sold in the streets and that  we never ate that cake at home. This  is the quintessential plain village cake, but fragrant with anise and turmeric. It contains no eggs and can be prepared in less than 15 minutes.  A bit on the dry side, it is a perfect snack with a cup of tea or coffee. It  elicits nostalgia from anyone who had to leave Beirut and settle elsewhere ( at least it does for me)!

The recipe  is adapted from Chef Ramzi’s The Culinary Heritage of Lebanon and scaled down to just 16  servings as opposed to 50!

This cake keeps very well for about one week and can be frozen.

INGREDIENTS: Cake will yield 16 pieces (cake pan 9X13 in)

  • 2 cups semolina
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter (6 ounces), softened and cut in chunks
  • 1 1/4  cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder, a pinch of salt
  • 1  tablespoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon ground anise (optional, but better with it), preferably ground fresh
  • 1 teaspoon orange flower water, 1 teaspoon rose water (can substitute vanilla extract)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts or sesame seeds (garnish)
  • 3  tablespoons tahineh for coating the pan



mix flours & spices

mix flours & spices

smear tahineh on pan

smear tahineh on pan


decorating cake

Baked cake

Baked cake


  1. Heat the milk  and stir in the sugar until it is dissolved. Cool. Add the flower waters if using or the vanilla.
  2. Mix flour, semolina, baking powder, turmeric and anise and a pinch of salt.
  3. Rub softened butter in the dry mix until the texture resembles breadcrumbs (can do it in a food processor)
  4. Pour milk mixture into the semolina and butter mixture and mix well. Batter will be thick.
  5. Smear tahineh on pan and pour batter in the pan.
  6. Let it firm up 10  minutes in the freezer, then decorate scoring crisscross lines and placing a pine nut  on each lozange.
  7. Bake at 375F for 30 minutes. It will puff up a bit. Test it with a toothpick. Run the broiler one minute or two to give a nice golden-brown sheen to the top.
  8. Cool. Cut into  lozanges.




Some recipes for sfoof use oil instead of butter. I tried it with oil and prefer using butter.

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  1. Posted October 30, 2009 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    What a unique blend of flavors for a cake! Delicious!



  2. Posted October 30, 2009 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Sounds and looks great! We make sweet bread in Azerbaijan that also has some turmeric in it, so your cake brought back delicious memories. I am saving the recipe, to try one day. thank you!

  3. Dana
    Posted October 30, 2009 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing this recipe, Joumana. My grandpa was famous for his “sfoof”. It brings back so many nice memories. I am planning on making it this weekend.

    Thanks again!

  4. Joumana
    Posted October 31, 2009 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Hi Dana
    I have been eating several servings a day! Did your jeddo use anise or only turmeric? Some older recipes only call for turmeric, maybe anise is a new addition?

    Farida: Now I am super curious to taste the Azerbaijani version! do you have it in your blog?

    Rosa: Thanks for the comment!

  5. Dana
    Posted October 31, 2009 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    Hi Joumana,

    Sahtein :) Jeddo’s recipe did not include anise but I believe it would be a most welcome addition. I will for sure try the recipe with it.

    I have been looking for fresh olives (I know what you’re thinking, olive and Texas?) with no success. There’s an olive oil producer out of San Antonio who comes to the Mckinney’s farmer market and I asked him if he would sell fresh olives and his answer was its tough to transport and keep fresh all the way from San Antonio.

    I would love to cure my own olives as everyone back home does. Have you by any chance stumbled upon any?


  6. Posted November 1, 2009 at 6:23 am | Permalink

    salut joumana
    m’en veux pas j’ai posté un hoummous pas tres classique alors dis moi ce que tu en penses !!bizz Pierre

  7. Posted November 1, 2009 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    j adore les images!!!!!tu peux m indiquer si y a possibilité de traduire pour une nullasse en anglais… bisous

  8. Joumana
    Posted November 1, 2009 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Salut crazynonna! (tu es italienne?)
    Je te traduirai ce que tu veux avec les mesures en grammes. Indique-moi la recette qui t’intéresse! celle-ci?

  9. Joumana
    Posted November 1, 2009 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    Hi Dana
    When I lived in California in the eighties I used to see olives on the sidewalk from all the olive trees (and akeedenia trees too). I have not seen a single olive tree in the DFW area! The guy from the ranch in the hill country who is selling his olive oil is coming up with a lame excuse, I think! Probably because not many people want to buy fresh olives and cure them. Only foodies like you and me.

  10. Posted November 1, 2009 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Hi Joumana. Thanks for passing from my blog and I look forward to exploring your blog further to see some authentic Lebanese recipes. I am from Cyprus and we have adapted a lot of Lebanese recipes in Cypriot cuisine like hummus, tambouleh, kibbe etc.

  11. Posted November 1, 2009 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. Your site looks delicious, I cannot wait to try some of your recipes and explore further!

  12. John
    Posted May 1, 2010 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    I did not have sfouf cake like this for more then 30 years i am Armenian fellow leave in LA I really like spoof I made some change
    I used brown flour ( whole wheat flour)
    1/2 cup butter.
    2 tablespoon turmeric.
    no salt.
    no anise I did not have any.
    2 teaspoon rose water.
    1 cup sugar.
    5 table spoon coconut.
    Mixed it all together.
    325f 30 minutes… cheers enjoy John

  13. Ziad
    Posted August 6, 2010 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    Hi Joumana,

    Ever made any Nammoura or Maamoul Madd? They are kinda cousins to Sfouf and the best place to buy them in Beirut is Taj El Moulouk who used to specialise in Sfouf, Nammoura, and Maamoul Madd and other similar cakes filled with Ashta…

    I remember during the war when school was closed, food was one of the things that kept our lives interesting. When it was quiet enough to go out, my father used to take us to Sfouf specialty store (Taj didn’t exist at the time) and we used to get the fresh warm afternoon batch. We would take a little bit of everything, then head to my aunt’s house where my father would spend the afternoon playing backgammon with my aunt’s husband and my mother and her sister would gossip away. Shocker, eh? We played ping pong, sat on the balcony and people-watched, and ate the Sfouf, Nammoura, and Maamoul Madd…

  14. Joumana
    Posted August 7, 2010 at 3:52 am | Permalink

    @Ziad: I made nammoura and maamoul; love taj el moulouk, I try to go there when I am around the AUB, since it is close to our place. Love their karabeej!
    Thanks for sharing your war memories, I can totally relate.
    I made sfouf with sugar (and anise and turmeric) and the old-fashioned way with molasses.

  15. Posted November 6, 2010 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    Hi Jourmana. I thank you so much for sending me all of these recipes. you always remind me of Lebanon. I am going to try your Sfouf recipe today.
    Once again thank you.

  16. Brian
    Posted December 2, 2010 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    This recipe is terrific, it might be my new go-to dessert – just sweet enough, just interesting enough, to improve the memory of the whole meal.

  17. George
    Posted July 24, 2011 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Hi Joumanna,
    Thanks for sharing the great recipes of sfoof – our childhood desert.
    One question i have- how can i make the top of the cake to be nice dark brown as you get it in the shops.

  18. Joumana
    Posted July 24, 2011 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    @George: I would turn on the broiler the last 3 minutes of baking; just keep the oven door open and watch it like a hawk, to keep it from burning! You can also make a simple sugar syrup and add on top of the cake or sprinkle some brown sugar and broil to melt the sugar and form a crunchy sweet crust.

  19. georgina
    Posted January 11, 2012 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    I would like to know why my Sfouf turns out to be an orangy /red in color once it is baked, but it is yellow in color when I first mix it.
    it happens to me so many times, so I give up, even though I love Sfouf, I wanted to be in a bright yellow color.

  20. Joumana
    Posted January 12, 2012 at 12:13 am | Permalink

    @Georgina: I don’t know, because mine always turns out yellow; did you use fresh turmeric or dried?

  21. georgina
    Posted January 12, 2012 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Hi Joumana,
    thanks for your quick reply, but used the dried like a powder turmeric.

  22. Elena
    Posted June 5, 2012 at 5:02 am | Permalink

    Joumana,is it possible to replace turmeric with annato powder or saffron ( I hate turmeric color and taste) and butter- with grapeseed oil and applesauce partially?

  23. Joumana
    Posted June 5, 2012 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    @Elena: Replacing turmeric with saffron would be fine and delicious. Replacing butter with oil and applesauce should work too, i would be curious to know the result if you have time to drop me a line! Happy baking!

  24. Elena
    Posted June 5, 2012 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Thanks,Joumana! This cake reminds me of a traditional Egyptian recipe for a Basbousa pie.
    I will send you a picture and my version of the recipe.

  25. Joumana
    Posted June 5, 2012 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    @Elena: Thanks, looking forward to it!

  26. Stephen
    Posted November 6, 2012 at 3:33 am | Permalink

    Hi Joumana
    It’s 10am here in S.W. France and I have awoken just 15 minutes ago (bad night, chest infection) but feeling better already as I chomp into my Sfoof (made yesterday) and black coffee, so easy to make, so delicious to taste, 1st time I’ve made it, I’m sure I ate it or something very similar when I lived in Cyprus as a child (Greek Cypriot father) bringing memories back.
    Thank you for all the wonderful recipes on your site.
    Take care, stay safe.

  27. Joumana
    Posted November 6, 2012 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    @Stephen: Hope you feel better!

  28. Alexis
    Posted August 23, 2014 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    I just made sfouf for the second time and I love them. Reminds me of my Teta “grandma” every time I eat them :).

    I know it’s been a long time since someone wrote on here but I just wanted to thank you very much!

3 Trackbacks

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