Coconut semolina cake turned into mini muffins from the cookbook, A Mid-East Feast.

I was so ready for frankenstorm Sandy.

We had the generator up on the front steps ready to go, installed a new sump pump outside the basement door (after finding out the old one was burned out) so this didn’t happen again, extended the downspouts from the house out away from the foundation and even baked these expecting spend some serious time indoors over the next few days.

So of course we never even lost power and the extent of damage on our property was my pretty purple potted mum being blown out of it’s pot across the lawn. Figures.

I know others weren’t so lucky and this is not meant to downplay their damage and devastation, just a statement about my own, on the 2 acre piece of property I inhabit and the laws of irony.

*Disclaimer for my mother in particular who thought I was being harsh, isolated and insensitive by saying something to that affect on facebook yesterday. Oy, vey.

Coconut semolina mini muffins
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I’ll be honest, I was probably least excited about this cake out of the 3 recipes picked from the cookbook, An Edible Mosaic.

Not because it didn’t look and sound delicious, but more so because I didn’t want a cake that served 10-12 in my house, tempting me at every pass through the kitchen 5 days before leaving for Florida and potential bathing suit time.

So I made some minute changes.

coconut semolina muffins

Firstly, it’s not a cake as you can blatantly see.

They’re perfect little bite-sized mini muffins cakes instead. I halved the recipe and since I didn’t have any cake pan small enough for the batter without spreading it about 1/8 of an inch thin, I used a mini-muffin pan.

Personally, I think it’s genius and I love their size and portability.

As in porting them so I don’t eat them all.

Secondly, I cut back on the sugar (see notes in recipe for specifics).

After reading Rachel’s post and remembering the PW Wednesday Billie’s Italian cream cake experience I had a feeling this was a must.

I personally have a very low tolerance for sugar. I just don’t like excessively sweet things anymore. The childhood Gina is like “lady, wtf happened?!” And the adult Gina is like “girl, I don’t know but this sugar stuff is whack”.

I’m not saying the original recipe was excessively sweet (since I didn’t even try it as written), I’m just saying that I’ve never met a cake recipe that couldn’t stand some reduction in sugar and still come out to my liking.

So I made this for me and my taste.

A Mid-East Feast: coconut semolina cake

All that being said, they came out stellar. I’m seriously in love with this recipe.

The semolina flour is just perfect for this kind of dessert.

If you’ve never had it, it’s hard to explain but it’s kind of dry and chewy in a good way so that when you pour a syrup over it, it absorbs the liquid beautifully and keeps the cake moist while still maintaining a fun, chewy texture.

It’s definitely different than any all-purpose or pastry flour out there and I would not recommend a substitution of the sort.

Because of the reduction in sugar, these are pretty much the best accompaniment to afternoon tea (the hint of orange in them is tea-pairing perfection) or even a breakfast treat if you’re feeling sassy at 7am.

The other best part about this recipe? It didn’t use any eggs.

I have a hard time letting go of my organic, cage free, pasture raised, <insert every other hippie farm saying here>, exorbitant eggs for anything other than savoring sunny side up in the morning so this was a serious bonus to me.

I’m betting you all aren’t as psycho weird as me on that, but just throwing it out there.

Other Mid-East Feast posts:

Spicy chicken shawarma wraps | Zucchini fritters

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4.34 from 3 votes

Coconut Semolina Mini Muffins

Servings: 12 servings
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 2 hours 35 minutes
Total: 2 hours 55 minutes
Recipe courtesy of An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair by Faith Gorsky (Tuttle Publishing; Nov. 2012); reprinted with permission.


Coconut Semolina Cake

  • 2 batches Scented Sugar Syrup, recipe below
  • 1 tablespoon tahini, to grease the baking pan
  • 2 cups 305 g ?ne semolina ?our
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup 115 g sugar
  • 1/2 cup 115 g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 11/2 cups 375 ml milk
  • 1 cup 75 g desiccated, unsweetened coconut
  • 3 tablespoons blanched almonds

Scented Sugar Syrup

  • 1 cup 225 g sugar
  • 1/2 cup 125 ml water
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon rose water or orange blossom water


Coconut Semolina Cake

  • Prepare the Scented Sugar Syrup.
  • Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C); brush the tahini on the inside of a 10-inch (25 cm) round baking pan.
  • Whisk together the semolina, baking powder, and sugar in a large bowl. Stir in the butter and then the milk until combined, and then fold in the coconut.
  • Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread it out evenly; let it sit for 10 minutes.
  • Score the batter into 1-inch (2.5 cm) 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.
  • 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.)
  • 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.

Scented Sugar Syrup

  • Add the sugar, water and lemon juice to 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.
  • Turn heat down slightly and boil 2 minutes (if you want thin syrup-you do for this recipe) and up to 5 minutes (if you want thick syrup), swirling the pan occasionally. (The syrup will thicken more upon cooling.)
  • Turn off heat and stir in the rose water or orange blossom water; cool to room temperature, then use.


My changes: I halved the recipe (both cake and syrup) I baked in a mini-muffin tray for 18 minutes and got 9 muffins. I reduced sugar. In the cake I used 1/4 cup (instead of 1/2 for a halved recipe) and in the syrup I used 3/4 cups (instead of 1 cup for a halved recipe). I also used 1/2 cup regular milk and 1/4 cup almond milk instead of 3/4 cups regular milk. I used sliced almonds instead of a whole blanched one on top. I used 1/4 teaspoon of orange extract (for a halved recipe) instead of rose water or orange blossom water. I did not end up using the full (halved) syrup amount, maybe about 3/4 of it when pouring over the muffins.


Serving: 1SERVINGCalories: 240kcalCarbohydrates: 48gProtein: 4gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 99mgFiber: 2gSugar: 26g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Baked Goods
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Founder and Writer at Running to the Kitchen | About

Gina Matsoukas is an AP syndicated writer. She is the founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.

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Recipe Rating


  1. These look great! I can’t wait to try recipes out of the Edible Mosaic Cookbook and I bet this one turned out fabulously!

  2. I saw this in my reader and thought “Oh good! Something to make with the semolina flour I have left over!” Doh! I didn’t even realize it was the cake! I love your teeny muffins. And yeah, I agree, the semolina flour was magical in this.

    1. haha, let me know if you come up with something good to do with it because I have a bunch leftover too!

  3. These are so adorable made into mini muffins! So happy you enjoyed the recipe, I personally think I’d love this version with reduced sugar. That is the nature of many traditional Middle Eastern sweets (at least the cakes and pastries that are soaked with sugar syrup) – usually a bit too sweet for my liking, which is why I tend to gravitate toward other Middle Eastern desserts like puddings and cookies. That is actually why this is the only cake recipe in my cookbook! :)

  4. i need to get my paws on some semolina flour – this, plus there’s a recipe for crazy easy homemade pasta in this month’s Bon Appetit that i have to make. HAVE TO!

  5. So glad you’re safe and sound! The mini muffins look wonderful. I never came across semolina flour. Did you buy it at a specialty market?

    1. I actually found it at my normal grocery store surprisingly. I know any Italian deli would have it though. At least around here where almost 90% of the population are of Italian descent.

  6. Love that you turned this into mini cakes. I agree a reduction in sugar may be ideal for many. Just one of those things I guess. But I’m so bummed I didn’t get to try this in the way it was meant to taste. Cursing my local stores for sucking so bad. And…your poor mums ;)

  7. I just picked up a bag of semolina flour for making pasta and was wondering what else to do with it – this recipe to the rescue! Love the pictures too.

  8. I’m with about the sugar! Everyone tells me my stuff isn’t sweet enough, but why use all the sugar? If I need it, I’ll have fruit! Your little mini cakes look delish!!