Cake with anise and turmeric (Sfoof)

August 11, 2010  •  Category:


These little cakes are on sale in every Arabic  pastry shop in Lebanon; their bright yellow color is due to turmeric; a spice that is apparently very good for you. The good ones also contain anise powder, which I made sure I included. Preparation time for these is less than 15 minutes, just a matter of stirring the ingredients, brushing  the pan with tahini and throwing them in the oven for 20 minutes or so.

I made them once the traditional way, cutting them in losanges. This is just a different presentation.

Recipe courtesy of Anahid’s Gourmet cookbook.

INGREDIENTS: Quantity can be divided; use  two large 9X13 rectangular pans or cupcake pans

  • 3 cups of flour
  • 3 cups of coarse or fine semolina (can use polenta or cornmeal)
  • 2 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 1 Tablespoon of anise powder (can increase to 1 1/2 tablespoons for a more pronounced anise flavor)
  • 1 cup of melted butter or vegetable oil
  • 1 Tablespoon of turmeric
  • 1 Tablespoon of baking powder
  • a teaspoon of vanilla powder or extract
  • to garnish the surface of the cakes: pine nuts or almonds
  • to coat the pan: tahini, as needed


  1. Place the flour, semolina (or cornmeal), sugar, anise powder, turmeric, baking powder and vanilla powder in a bowl.
  2. Mix the milk and the oil or melted butter and vanilla (if using extract).
  3. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring until mixed well; if the dough is very stiff, add a little more water or milk until the dough is thick and firm but very moist and easy to pour.
  4. Grease the pans with tahini well, sprinkle some pine nuts or almonds on the pan, pour the batter and bake in a 350F oven for 20 minutes or longer (depending on the pans) until the surface is golden brown and the cakes are done.

NOTE: Some pastry shops like to coat the cakes with  syrup, to keep them moist and longer-lasting; if you wish to do this, boil one cup of sugar in 1/2 cup of water for 7 minutes, adding a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice once the water starts to simmer; for flavoring you can add a teaspoon of rose water at the end of cooking; add to the cakes once they are ready,


52 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Rosa says:

    Lovely little cakes! Wasps are such a nuisance…



  2. Amanda says:

    I’ve bought these cakes before and loved them. Now that I have your recipe I’ll make my own. Thanks again for all the great pics !

  3. elra says:

    Intriguing recipe using turmeric for cake, this is new to me. Sounds scrumptious!

  4. jenny says:

    which sfouf do you prefer? this or the butterscotch sfouf recipe you posted before? 🙂

  5. Doc says:

    Fantastic-I so love that zataar you sent. ANy refernces to lopok up the medicinal value of the preparation?

  6. Suman Singh says:

    cake looks lovely, liked the use of turmeric in it..very new to me..thanks for sharing!

  7. fimère says:

    original ces petits cakes et très parfumés
    je suis très curieuse de savoir quel goût ils peuvent avoir en bouche
    une recette intéressante
    bonne soirée

  8. El says:

    You always post the most beautiful recipes. I love the way this cake looks- light, fluffy and delicious.

  9. Faith says:

    These sound like they’re so full of flavor with the anise and tahini. I’ve definitely got to try them!

  10. Eve@CheapEthnicEatz says:

    I have used tumeric strictly for color too but never in a dessert. Love the added pine nuts, these cakes look delicious. I would never have thought to use tahini to grease the mold either. Hmmm.

  11. Nadia says:

    I love the photograph with the bee perched on the sfoof!

    These look delicious! The little cakes are so darling.

    You are right, turmeric is very good for you. Every time I have a sore throat I drink teak or milk with turmeric, it is an antiseptic and also works wonders on the skin if used as a scrub or mask.

  12. 5 Star Foodie says:

    Such aromatic spices in this delicious cake! I just love the photo with the wasp, very cool shot!

  13. Mimi says:

    I’ve only used turmeric in savory dishes. These little cakes are full of interesting flavors. Love the photo with the bee.

  14. Pauline says:

    That wasp has good taste – I shall definitely be concocting a vegan version of these. Is anise powder just ground up star anise?

    • Joumana says:

      @Pauline: anise powder is ground up anise seeds. I would try it with star anise, but use half the quantity if the flavor is too strong.

  15. Magic of Spice says:

    I would never have thought to use turmeric in a sweet cake…This is a wonderful looking cake 🙂

  16. Sushma Mallya says:

    Very nice cake,nice recipe…

  17. suzan says:

    Sounds delicious. I love your pictures, specially the last one with the bee on!!

  18. sweffling says:

    Another great recipe. I love the idea of greasing the tins with tahini. All my favourite tastes, so many delicious recipes, so little time. And how, please, do you stay so slim??

  19. Joanne says:

    I wish I could find cakes this tasty here! I love the use of anise in it…it’s one of my favorite flavors.

  20. Pauline says:

    Gap in my sched this morning so I already made sfoof, and they are seriously good as well as really easy. I used ground star anise, cane sugar, T80 flour, groundnut oil and soya milk. I made a half recipe but maybe this was a mistake… The cutting into losanges is a great idea because it leaves lots of little triangles round the edge of the pan that just cry out to be “tidied up” ! THANK YOU.

  21. Conor @ HoldtheBeef says:

    I’d fight through a swarm of wasps for one.

  22. kim says:

    This cake would go so well with a cup of Turkish tea. 🙂 The cake is so lovely, even the wasp can’t keep his ‘legs’ away from it. 🙂

  23. Rachana says:

    Such a lovely recipe!

    I loved the photo with the wasp!

  24. Joy says:

    How perfect is that bee on the cake? It adds a very whimsical touch to the photo, I absolutely love it. This cake looks like it packs great flavors, I can only imagine what it would smell like when baking in the oven. My mother and I will have to attempt this during her visit!

  25. Nadji says:

    Un gâteau que je ne connaissais pas du tout.
    Curcuma, tahiné et anis vert : j’imagine déjà le goût.
    A tester rapidement.
    Bonne journée et à bientôt.

  26. MaryMoh says:

    Beautiful cakes. The turmeric must have given the cake the lovely colour. I love anise seed smell too.

  27. grace says:

    sfoof. fun name for a tasty cake!

  28. tom | tall clover says:

    Joumana, I was smiling at the wasp snacking on that sweet cake and then spied that little pine nut. Tell me how much are pine nuts in Lebanon? Stateside, Seattle that is, they are running $39.99 per pound at our grocer. A plane ticket to Beirut may be cheaper. 😉

    • Joumana says:

      @Tom: I buy mine at the farmer’s market and a kilo bag (about 2 pounds) cost about $15 US; I cannot believe charging $40 a pound ! Wow!

  29. George-Athens/Greece says:

    Well I made this easy recipe!!! Excited by its flavor…and this is my first time to use turmeric in a sweet!
    I used wholemeal wheat flour and fine corn semolina, plus 2 tablespoons of sultana raisins. I added 2 cups of sugar and half cup of honey, but it came out pretty sweet for my palate. I think 2 cups of honey will be OK for my next try (I just hate and avoid sugar)…yes 2 or 1 & a half cups of sugar can be just fine. I also loved the crispy crust made by the tahini-greased pan walls on this cake!!!
    Obliged for this sweet sin of yours, Joumana!!!

  30. FOODESSA says:

    Did anyone mention cake..anise…and cancer fighting tumeric all in one recipe?
    This sounds like a winner…minus the wasp…get her off your photo…she creeps me out ;o)

    This is a great way for me to use up my semolina. Thanks


  31. OysterCulture says:

    This cake sounds just delicious, I love anise and my fingers are yellow from handling fresh turmeric so it goes without saying that I love it. Cannot wait to try this one.

  32. Oui, Chef says:

    These are adorable, and delicious sounding little cakes. Love the photo with the bee on it….he clearly has great taste! – s

  33. A Canadian Foodie says:

    Now this is the kind of sweet I completely enjoy learning about. I have never had anything like it, but am now craving it. Anise and cornmeal… etc. The texture and flavour would be really addictive. Thanks for sharing and it is now in my (unfortunately growing) to make, list.

  34. lara says:

    hello joumana !
    i was looking for a sfoof recipe ans i found yours but it’s different from my mother’s.
    here’s my mom’s recipe . i hope you try it . let me know what you think of 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 flower
    1/2 cup off pine nuts
    tahini for the pan

  35. lara says:

    my pleasure ! hope you like it 🙂
    have a nice weekend
    take care

  36. lara says:

    Hello it’s me again. hope you’re doing good .just wanted to know if you tried my mom’s recipe.:)

  37. lara says:

    hello again!
    did you try the recipe ?( my mom wants to know if it is the original one . the idea of eating “fake “sfoof scars her a little bit haha )

    • Joumana says:

      @lara; Your mom’s recipe is fine; however, I have modified a couple of things; I only added 2 teaspoons of turmeric and added a dash of anise. I also prefer to make a sugar syrup and douse the cake with it at the end of baking, when it comes out of the oven. There is no such thing as fake sfoof, so please reassure your mom that hers is wonderful/The beauty of cooking and baking is that it is a highly personal and individualised art.

  38. lara says:

    thanks for replying!
    i never thought of making a sugar syrup but i will try it soon. thanks again. my mom says hello 🙂
    have a nice weekend

  39. Lara M says:

    Hi Joumana,
    In the beginning of this recipe, you are instructing to use 2 pans of 13×9 , is it in inches or centimeters?

    • Joumana says:

      @Lara M: I was using American measurements so in inches.

      @Lara M: So glad to hear you find the book useful! About the semolina, sure, you can even use all semolina. The texture will change, it will be coarse and really crumbly though, like the knafeh. Except for the knafeh the semolina is pan-fried in butter (samneh) first, then the syrup is added to cook it.

  40. Lara M says:

    Thank you so much Joumana, I am going to make them tomorrow! In other recipes, I noticed that sometimes they use more Semolina than flour, so can we increase the semolina ratio in your recipe?
    By the way , I bought your book, I love it, it is very practical, and I made all my Lebanese friends buy it too. I live in the united states, and this is the only book that is user friendly in terms of ingredients, measurements and practicality!

Add a Comment