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Gluten-Free Coconut “Semolina” Cake (Harissa)

I actually made half this recipe in a small round pan, which was plenty for our family. This is a sweet dense cake, perfect in small quantities and served with a cup of tea.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 10 -12


Coconut "Semolina" Cake

  • 1 tablespoon tahini to grease the baking pan
  • 2 cups corn flour not cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ cup organic sugar
  • ½ cup coconut oil room temperature
  • cups almond milk
  • 1 cup desiccated unsweetened coconut
  • 3 tablespoons blanched almonds

Scented Honey Syrup

  • 1 cup honey
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tablespoon rose water or orange blossom water


Make Scented Syrup

  1. Put the honey, water and lemon juice in a medium, thick-bottomed saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium heat, giving the pan an occasional swirl and skimming off any foam on the surface.
  2. Turn heat down slightly and boil 2 minutes, swirling the pan occasionally. (The syrup will thicken more upon cooling.)
  3. Turn off heat and stir in the rose water (or orange blossom water); cool to room temperature.

Coconut "Semolina" Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F; brush the tahini on the inside of a 10-inch round baking pan.
  2. Whisk together the corn flour, baking powder, and sugar in a large bowl. Stir in the coconut oil and then the milk until combined, and then fold in the coconut.
  3. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread it out evenly; let it sit for 10 minutes.
  4. Score the batter into 1-inch square or diamond shapes with a sharp knife, periodically dipping the knife in hot water and drying it off before continuing to score the batter; place 1 almond in the center of each diamond.
  5. Bake until the sides and top are golden brown, about 30 minutes. (If the sides are brown but the top isn’t, you can broil the cake for a couple minutes to brown the top.)
  6. Once out of the oven, cut the cake along the lines you scored. Slowly pour the cooled syrup onto the hot cake. Let the cake sit at room temperature 2 hours to absorb the syrup before serving.

Recipe Notes

Recipe courtesy of An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair by Faith Gorsky (Tuttle Publishing; Nov. 2012); reprinted with permission.