Sfouf (Turmeric Cake)

5 from 325 votes

Sfouf is a Middle Eastern semolina turmeric cake, made with simple ingredients, no eggs and no butter. It's vegan-friendly, light and delightful

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How fun is this cake name? Sfouf! *Too fun*

Sfouf is an arabic word that means lines and it’s used here to describe the way this cake is cut into lines. The cake itself is a semolina-turmeric oil-based yellow cake. It’s a simple plain cake with mild flavors and not at all sweet – the perfect light dessert or snack to go with your cup of coffee!

Plate of sfouf being served
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What do you need to make sfouf?

I learned this sfouf recipe from my mom and my mother-in-law. Both essentially make it the same way, but my mom likes to add rose water to the wet ingredients to give it a fresh aromatic flavor.

You only need a few ingredients to make sfouf. The best part is that it’s egg-free and butter-free. And it’s almost vegan, except for the use of 1 cup of milk. You can easily substitute that milk with plant-based milk or water to make this recipe fully vegan.

It’s a super simple recipe that uses basic baking ingredients, but includes three distinct ingredients:

  1. Turmeric: The turmeric essentially gives the cake a rich yellow color, a sweet and distinct taste, and the added antioxidant benefits. Just one tablespoon of turmeric mixed with the dry ingredients goes a long way.
  2. Semolina: This is a coarse purified wheat that’s usually used to make pasta. You’ll use the semolina in this cake along with flour to add a nutty texture, compared to just using flour alone.
  3. Tahini: This is a paste made from sesame seeds. I use it in this sfouf recipe to coat the pan, instead of oil or butter. It’s so widely available in all stores these days. But if you can’t find it, you can coat the oil with oil or butter instead. It just adds to the richness of the recipe.
Large basket of sfouf cut into squares ready to be served


How do you make sfouf

To start, you’ll want to mix together the dry ingredients: This includes the turmeric and you can see here the color is fairly light before cooking.

Collage of two images showing the dry ingredients before and after mixing

Then comes the wet ingredients. Mix until the sugar dissolves, then combine the wet and dry ingredients together and the batter is ready to go.

Collage of two images showing sfouf batter before and after mixing

A unique step about this recipe is how we coat the pan. Instead of just using cooking spray, we use tahini to coat the pan. This serves two purposes: first it coats the pan with something oily so the batter doesn’t stick to the pan. And second, it gives the cake a nutty flavor that is pretty iconic of the cake. So after spreading the tahini on the baking pan, you can pour the batter over.

Collage of two images showing the pan greased with tahini and the batter getting poured over the tahini

It’s traditional to sprinkle the top of the batter with with raw pine nuts. You can also use almonds, or leave it out completely.

Batter poured into prepared pan and sprinkled with pine nuts

Then you’ll bake the sfouf in the oven for about 30 minutes. Use the pine nuts as a clue to its readiness. You want them golden, but not brown.

Final sfouf recipe right out of the oven showing a rich golden color.

Grab that cup of coffee folks, because it’s sfouf time! You can cut them into squares, rectangles or diamonds – 9 or 12 pieces. The end result is a beautifully colored simple turmeric cake that I grew up eating. It’s one of the most popular Lebanese cakes, and I love how simple it is to make!

Plate of sfouf being served

Notice how the turmeric color became more enhanced after baking? It’s pretty much turmeric cake, and it’s pretty much one of those iconic Lebanese/Middle Eastern desserts that we grew up having. If you’re obsessed with anything turmeric like I am, try my golden milk latte – it’s basically liquid gold in a cup.

Large basket of sfouf cut into squares ready to be served

More Middle Eastern inspired desserts:

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Sfouf (Turmeric Cake)

Sfouf is a Middle Eastern semolina turmeric cake, made with simple ingredients, no eggs and no butter. It's vegan-friendly, light and delightful
5 from 325 votes
Servings 16 servings
Course Dessert
Calories 197
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
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  • 1 ½ cup coarse semolina or fine, or mixture of both
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ cup neutral oil
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup cane sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons tahini to grease the pan can be replaced with oil
  • Handful of pine nuts or almonds


  • Preheat the oven to 375ºF and grease a 9×9" baking pan with the tahini sesame oil or other oil.
  • Mix the dry ingredients (semolina, flour, turmeric and baking powder) together in a large bowl.
  • Mix the wet ingredients (oil, milk and cane sugar) in another small bowl until the sugar is completely dissolved in the mixture.
  • Combine the dry and wet ingredients until batter is smooth and bright yellow. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and sprinkle the pine nuts all over.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes until the pine nuts are golden.
  • Cool on a wire rack and cut into 16 squares or diamond shapes.


Storage: Store any leftovers in an airtight container. They will last about 7 days at room temperature or about 10 days in the fridge.
Substitutes: For best results, follow the recipe as is. However here are some common substitutes that would work well in this recipe.
  • For tahini, you can substitute oil or butter
  • For the coarse semolina, you can also use fine semolina, but don’t use flour instead of semolina because it will not yield the right results
  • For the pine nuts, you can use almonds. Silvered almonds work well and make sure they are raw since they will be getting roasted in the oven.
Sourcing: You can find some of the Middle-Eastern specific items like the semolina and tahini at Middle Eastern markets, natural-foods stores or even in large supermarkets, often located with other Middle Eastern ingredients.


Serving: 1g, Calories: 197kcal, Carbohydrates: 28g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 8g, Cholesterol: 1mg, Sodium: 7mg, Potassium: 106mg, Sugar: 13g, Vitamin A: 25IU, Vitamin C: 0.1mg, Calcium: 38mg, Iron: 1.1mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.

Course: Dessert
5 from 325 votes (274 ratings without comment)

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  1. Sophia says:

    This looks delicious! I’m planning to make this for my Lebanese boyfriend’s birthday. How much rose water would your mother usually add to it? We both love that flavor and I think it would be a nice touch.

    1. Yumna J. says:

      Aww, I love that you’re making this cake for your boyfriend’s birthday! My mom adds 1-2 tablespoons of rose water with the wet ingredients. Hope you both enjoy!!

  2. Sandra says:

    Sounds delicious! Does it matter what type of milk? Soy, cow, almond, oat…

    Thank you!

    1. Yumna says:

      Yes, any milk you prefer will work!

  3. TT says:

    Looks great. Could we substitute whole wheat flour or cake flour?

    1. Yumna says:

      Hi there, I’m afraid that wouldn’t work out well, semolina is key to the texture of this particular cake.

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