Pistachio semolina cake with cream (Mafroukeh bel-festuk)

March 15, 2012  •  Category:


This dessert is in celebration of St Patrick’s day in Lebanon; after all, there is an Irish contingent based here and a few (scattered) Irish folks in the country. Just met one yesterday as a matter of fact.  Notice the sugar cube? It is shaped like a shamrock. The pistachios in the dough give this dessert its green color, another must for St Pat’s Day. 

This dessert is based on what is called here mafroukeh; it is simply semolina flour that is rubbed with a little butter and cooked over the stove in a sugar syrup with rose and orange blossom water. As a result,  it swells a bit and becomes a cooked dough. The semolina dough can  be molded or shaped in many different ways. Today, I mixed in some ground pistachios with the semolina flour.

The key to success in this recipe is the sugar syrup; if you cook it too long and it becomes too heavy, the dough will be heavy and a bit stiff. Keep the sugar syrup light (do not cook it too long)  and the dough will be very tender (the texture of cooked cream of wheat).

I used some prepared ashta (clotted cream)  available in pastry shops in Beirut for the stuffing, but you can easily make your own at home or use some full-fat ricotta cheese instead. Click here for the recipe.



  • 250 g. of pistachios (about 2 cups)
  • 2 tbsp of butter
  • 1 1/4 cup of fine semolina flour
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/3 cup of water
  • 1 tsp of lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tbsp of orange blossom water
  • 1 1/2 tbsp of rose water
  • 2 cups of prepared ashta or ricotta cheese

  1. Peel the pistachios: Place the pistachios in a bowl and cover with several cups of warm water; leave for a couple of hours or longer (overnight is OK). Rub the pistachios with your fingers and peel off the skins. Set aside to dry on several pieces of paper towels for thirty minutes or longer. 
  2. Place the pistachios with 1/4 cup of sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process till powdery. Place the sugar, water and lemon juice in a saucepan and heat, stirring from time to time to dissolve. Simmer gently about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, place the semolina flour and butter in a large skillet over medium/low heat. Cook gently for about 10 minutes until slightly toasted, stirring from to time. Add the sugar syrup and combine the mixture rapidly. Transfer half the mixture to the bowl of the food processor and mix it with the pistachios for thirty seconds or so  until it shapes up like a moist dough; sprinkle the rose and orange blossom water on the dough and combine for a few seconds;  transfer to a bowl, cover and let it rest in the fridge for a couple of hours or longer until ready to assemble. Keep the rest of the semolina dough wrapped in plastic for another dessert.
  3. Grease the tartlet molds and line with plastic wrap. Scoop out a small ball of pistachio mafroukeh and tap it gently to line the mold with it; place a smaller ball of cream on top and then scoop out a smaller ball of dough and pad it gently to cover the tartlet mold. Fold the edges of the plastic wrap over and place in the fridge until serving time (which could be an hour or up to two days later). To serve, flip the tartlet onto a plate and gently remove the plastic wrap to dislodge the mafroukeh. Serve. 
NOTE: When shaping the tartlets, keep a small bowl with 1/4 cup of rose and orange blossom water in it; dip your fingers in the bowl to help in shaping the dough if it is too stiff.
The leftover quantity of semolina dough can be used for other desserts later and will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge or several months in the freezer.
You can also use more than half for this dessert if you don’t have a lot of pistachios. The semolina dough will harden in the fridge so warm it up 20 seconds or so in the microwave to make it flexible. It can also be enjoyed plain with some cream or ricotta-type cheese.
Two Beirut birds resting on the window ledge during a rain storm.





36 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Margaret says:

    This looks delicious.

  2. Jeff says:

    What a beautiful cake! And definitely a good choice for St. Patricks day! The Beruit Irish are a lucky group if they get to eat this!

  3. Chiara says:

    lovely recipe, can’t wait to try !

  4. Rosa says:

    Oh, those look irresistible! A heavenly treat. I love that filling.



  5. Belinda @zomppa says:

    Everybody’s Irish! =) I LOVE this cake…it’s beautiful and tasteful and wish I was having tea with you.

  6. Cher says:

    This is lovely – I don’t think I have ever seen anything quite like it. Your recipes are always so inspirational.

  7. Jeannie says:

    Wow! I love the green coloring of this delicious looking dessert!

  8. Marcela says:

    This is fantastic!….I will try to make it!….I love the idea……Abrazotes, Marcela

  9. Gula welat says:

    Magnifique! Moi qui adore le fromage et la pistache en dessert c’est parfait pour moi
    Merci pour le partage

  10. Nuts about food says:

    Oooh that looks like my kind of dessert. I adore pistachios. I will be trying these.

  11. Culinaire Amoula says:

    Oh la la sublime!! Comme je les aime!! Bonne journée.

  12. Velva says:

    This looks delightful!


  13. Caffettiera says:

    I had no idea there were Irish people living in Lebanon. These little desserts look irresistible. I cannot resist any sweet with semolina in it, but I have yet to try mafroukeh: the technique you describe sounds very interesting. I’ll probably make my own ashta or use ricotta for the filling, since clotted cream in the UK, although delicious, has more or less the same percentage of fat as butter and would be inedible in such quantities!

  14. Mark Wisecarver says:

    Excellent 😉
    Awww, two Turtle Doves 😉

  15. sippitysup says:

    They may be green for St. Patrick’s Day, but pistachios always remind me of your part of this world. GREG

  16. alexa says:

    SUCH a simple recipe, yet so elegant. Thanks for sharing!

  17. Susan says:

    Beautiful, the way you molded these cakes! I’ve never seen shamrock shaped sugar cubes 🙂

  18. Mari @ Mari's Cakes says:

    Lovely presentation! I am a pistachio lover, so I am sure this a great dessert for me to try. I believe it’s the perfect St. Patrick’s dessert.

    Have a marvelous weekend 🙂

  19. sophia says:

    I can’t feel my jaw, because it has dropped several inches apart. This cake sounds SUPER amazing!!! I’m emailing this to a fellow pistachio-lover and I hope we can bake this sometime soon because man my stomach is growling for it!

    • Joumana says:

      @Sophia: This cake does not require baking, just cooking over the stove.

      @Heguiberto: I am all for trying out and playing in the kitchen, though I have never tried semolina with green tea. By the way, the pistachios I use are roasted and salted as I mentioned, just soak them in water for a while and peel them.

      @Hélène: Non, je ne savais pas ça de St Patrick! Intéressant!

  20. Jamie says:

    These are adorable! Strangely enough I have been wanting to make a semolina cake lately – very popular in Italy, too. I love the cheesy filling – like cannolli filling, almost. Great recipe, Joumana. I’ll bet these are so delicious.

  21. Chiara says:

    so chic Joumana ! Thanks for sharing, I love this kind ok cakes! have a good weekend…

  22. weirdcombos says:

    Hi Joumana,
    Beautiful semolina cake, I love the green color. Happy Saint Paddy’s!
    Funny thing is I can’t find shelled pistachios around here that are not already salted. I do have a box of powdered green tea I thought I could give it a try. What do you think?

  23. Peter says:

    Gorgeous colours Joumana and I love a surprise in my food.

  24. Hélène (Cannes) says:

    Très jolie recette ! ON a fêté la Saint-Patrick à mon boulot aussi … Tu sais que Saint-Patrick, avant d’aller chasser les vipères en Irlande, vivait sur le monastère de Saint-Honorat, à Cannes ? Alors vive Saint-Patrick ! ;o)

  25. Erica says:

    I love the color!!! Beautiful cakes!

  26. Mercotte says:

    original pour une St Patrick comme on l’entend ici mais en tout cas ça donne envie c’est sûr

  27. Barbara says:

    And I have some pistachio flour too. 🙂 Love the sugar shamrocks!

  28. Kathy says:

    Joumana, These are simply beautiful! They look so delicious!

  29. Devaki says:

    What a gorgeous gorgeous cake Joumana and I LOVE the filling. Your addition of pistachios to the traditional recipe is stellar 🙂

    chow! Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  30. yogita says:

    i really love ur blog….its a treat to read all ur recipes… and i do highly appreciate the smaller tips, warnings, etc u provide…i have tried the fresh pineapple cake recipe and it was a big success….plan to try some more….thanks a lot…keep posting

  31. Mona says:

    What else can you use the rest of the semolina dough for?

    • Joumana says:

      @Mona: You can freeze it and use for more mafroukeh, for one. You can also make a cake with it, by adding it to your regular cake batter recipe.

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