A uniquely delicious basbousa cake with notes of toffee and caramel that come from toasted milk powder; a genius ingredient that elevates the taste of anything it touches.  Filled with a cream center and soaked with sweetened condensed milk…this basbousa is seriously next level.  Plus…recipe VIDEO at the end of the post!

Toasted (WHAT?) Basbousa?!

Milk.

Yep! Toasted Milk.  Aka the discovery ingredient of the year and my new flavor of obsession.

It’s what I want to put on anything and everything I make from now on, because it turns anything it touches into toffee heavenliness. 

And this Basbousa is living proof of its magic.

Forget everything you know about Egyptian basbousa with this one.  It has a special place in my heart, but this is unlike any kind you’ve tried before.

In fact, you might not even agree that it should hold the title of basbousa altogether, especially if you’re from Egypt. 

Basbousa, the syrupy Middle Eastern semolina cake, takes on a 360 degree turn and is transformed into something that is far from tradition, but near to a dream come true.

It is one sensational twist on basbousa that will transport your tastebuds to Pleasant-ville and back.

It’s one of the most delicious creations I have come across and the one I’m excited to share with you the most this Ramadan.

What is this Basbousa like?

Last year, I talked your ears off on what makes the ultimate Egyptian pastry shop-style basbousa, and today…I’m doing the complete opposite.

The basbousa we have come to love in Egypt is characterized by a texture that is fall-off-the-fork-soft, fudgy, never ever cake-y, with a pleasant sandy mouthfeel and a prominent buttery flavor.  The basbousa is made super-moist with a generous helping of sugar syrup, that saturates every crumb and softens the semolina grains even further.

This one right here is based on the Arabian Gulf-style basbousa, which is generally cakier in texture, slightly dense, not overly buttery and rarely uses sugar syrup as the soak of choice.  

This one has all of the above attributes plus an exquisite caramelized, toffee-like flavor that comes from the toasted milk powder (our magical ingredient), soaked in sweetened condensed milk, and if that’s not enough…it’s stuffed with a luxurious cream filling.

Oh yeah!  This is one basbousa that doesn’t kid around.  So many different textures, so much depth of flavor, with a unique and new taste that will make you sit up and take notice.

This is all the works of genius ingredient Toasted Milk Powder.

So what is Toasted Milk Powder?

I know what you’re thinking…another hard to find ingredient that requires some intense digging around (I’m looking at you potato flour!)

But rest assure…toasted milk powder is something that you simply make by cooking regular powdered milk in a dry skillet until golden brown.  Ten minutes over the heat are all you need to turn mild tasting powdered milk, into an umami bomb that you won’t be able to resist.  

A uniquely delicious basbousa cake with notes of toffee and caramel that come from toasted milk powder; a genius ingredient that elevates the taste of anything it touches.  Filled with a cream center and soaked with sweetened condensed milk...this basbousa is sure to make your tastebuds sing.

Toasting milk powder gives it a complex, caramelized, butterscotch-y, toasty flavor, that is apparently wildly popular in the Arabian Gulf area.

Can you imagine the world of possibilities?  It’s basically caramel flavor without the added liquid, so it won’t thin down buttercream, won’t water cheesecakes and won’t turn truffles into mush.  I can’t wait to experiment more with it! 

See those edible sand dunes over the surface?

That is it!  The toasted milk powder.

When I teased photos of this basbousa over my Instagram, a lot of you thought it was Lotus cookie crumbs.  Not this time guys!  I know how you love Lotus, I do too, and as much as I was tempted to add Lotus here, I felt like it overpowered the delicate, toffee flavor that deserves to shine.  The Lotus also made the basbousa cloyingly sweet…trust me; I tried.

Give the toasted milk trick a try and I promise you won’t be disappointed.  In fact, it does carry some of the flavor attributes that you love so much about Lotus, without the sugar and spices.  It’s like a plain canvas for you to run wild with.

This recipe is based on several I’ve seen around YouTube and Instagram. After testing some of the them, I took what I loved most of each and made a mashup of what I believe to be a winner. I paired it with my trusty cream filling from my favorite konafa recipe and it worked beautifully.

What do we need to make it?

Semolina: Known in Arabic as ‘semeed’, it is the key ingredient for all kinds of basbousa. The one used here is white and medium grind, also referred to #2 semolina in some countries. 

Melted ghee: Most recipes I’ve seen for this type of basbousa use oil, but I love the rich flavor that ghee adds here. Feel free to use oil instead or a combination of both. 

Powdered milk: Also known as dry milk powder. It is our star ingredient here and the shining flavor. Once toasted, it transforms into a toffee-like, caramelized flavor. We add it into the batter, as well as sprinkle it over the top for an extra punch. 

Sweetened condensed milk: You’ll need one (14oz/397g) can for the entire recipe. Half a cup is mixed into the batter and the remaining 3/4 cup is poured over the baked basbousa to both soak & add another flavor dimension to it.

Canned cream (eshta/ashta): This thickened cream has a pudding-like consistency & is sold off the shelf at supermarkets in Arab countries. Popular brands are Nestle and Puck. It adds moisture & richness to the batter. This will probably be the hardest to find ingredient for those living in non-Arab countries, but unfortunately I have not tried any substitutions.  Sour cream or Greek yogurt might work, but I have not tested them to know for sure. 

Milk: Lightens up the batter and gives it a pourable consistency. 

Sugar: Ok so would you please pretend that you can totally see a bowl of sugar in the photo down there, because I totally forget to add it in. Gladly, I remembered last minute & it made it to the batter. Well don’t be like me and be sure not to forget about it.

Salt: A tiny bit of salt balances the sweetness. 

Baking powder: Unlike Egyptian basbousa, baking powder is added here for some lift and cake-iness.

How to make Toasted Milk Basbousa?

First, let’s prepare the toasted milk powder. You’ll do that by stirring powdered milk over medium heat until it reaches a deep shade of golden brown and smells amazing. This usually takes around 10 minutes.  Word of caution here! The stuff can burn easily. So do not rush this process, or be tempted to toast it on high heat.

Next up!  Blend the semolina with the ghee.  Coating the semolina, which is very high in gluten, with fat, waterproofs it, which decreases gluten formation once the liquid is added to it.  I also like to leave the semolina/ghee mixture to rest together as I prepare the other ingredients, to give the ghee a chance to plump up the semolina grains.  You will notice that the mixture will thicken as it sits.  

As that’s happening, measure out 1 cup (100g) of the milk powder we just toasted and place it in a bowl with everything else; the sugar, cream, sweetened condensed milk, milk, baking powder and salt.

Mix, mix, mix…

Then pour over the semolina/ghee mixture.

And stir together to combine.

Now take half of the batter, which should weight 445g (yes I weigh it and recommend you do too 🙈), and transfer to a baking dish. Spread into an even layer and bake until juuuuuuust set; about 12 minutes.

Then into the remaining  half of the batter in the bowl, mix in 3 more tablespoons of milk to thin out.  Transfer that to a piping bag.

While the first layer is baking, make the cream filling by bringing together milk, cream, sugar and cornstarch to a boil until thickened.  Let cool slightly until the basbousa comes out of the oven.

Then as soon as it does, pour it all over.  Don’t worry if the cream looks too thin…it will thicken up further as the basbousa bakes in the oven and cools.  Now refrigerate the dish briefly just until the cream filling sets just enough so that the top batter layer doesn’t sink into it. It should still remain warm.

Then pipe the thinned batter (the one waiting in the piping bag) in lines on top of the cream to cover the entire surface.  Carefully smooth out the lines and cover any areas where the cream is exposed.  

Bake once more and as soon as it comes out of the oven…drench with the remaining sweetened condensed milk.  Give it some time to absorb and cool to room temp, then dust with the remaining 1/2 cup (50g) of toasted milk powder.

 

 

Now we can’t leave this dish looking like the Sahara Dessert!  I’m from there and all, but it deserves a few bells and whistles

Give it some flair by drawing diagonal lines into the toasted milk powder layer. Garnish with pistachios around the edges and serve.

Fun fact:  I was wrecking my brain trying to think of a way to make a desert-looking dessert look pretty, let alone photogenic.  I thought of everything from adding berries, edible flowers, dried rose petals, cutting the basbousa into individual squares and decorating each one individually, and got nothing.  Until I slept on it and literally saw the look you see before your eyes in my dream.  Diagonal lines, pistachio border and all. When I woke up…I knew just what to do.

Yep!  90% of my dreams revolve around food.  Anyone else relates?

And here’s a video to recap everything!

Note: In the video, the order in which the batter is mixed is slightly different than that of the instructions, which led to not leaving the semolina/ghee mixture rest and thicken up.  That was due to video directing limitations.  The basbousa still turned out amazing, but I still prefer the other mixing method, as it incorporates better.  It is advised to follow the mixing order in the recipe instructions.

Yield: 12

Toasted Milk Basbousa with Cream

Toasted Milk Basbousa with Cream
A uniquely delicious basbousa cake with notes of toffee and caramel that come from toasted milk powder; a genius ingredient that elevates the taste of anything it touches.  Filled with a cream center and soaked with sweetened condensed milk...this basbousa is seriously next level.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Additional Time 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours

Ingredients

For the Basbousa Base:

  • 1 1/2 cups (150g) powdered milk, divided
  • 1 cup (166g) semolina, medium grind*
  • 3/4 cup (167g) melted ghee (or oil or half oil, half ghee)*
  • 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • 1 (160g) can cream (eshta/ashta)*
  • 1/2 cup (155g) sweetened condensed milk*
  • 3 tablespoons milk (plus 3 more tablespoons for thinning top batter)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Cream Filling:

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon (12g) granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons (21g) cornstarch

For Topping:

  • 3/4 cup of condensed milk (basically all what is remaining from a 14oz/397g can)*
  • 1/2 cup (50g) toasted milk powder (made from powdered milk; recipe below)
  • Pistachios (optional)

Instructions

To make the basbousa base:

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 180C/ 350F.
  2. In a medium skillet over medium heat, place the full amount (150g) of powdered milk and cook, stirring constantly, until toasted and turns deep golden brown in color; about 10 minutes. Do not rush this process, or be tempted to toast it on high heat, as the powdered milk can scorch easily.
  3. Remove 1/2 cup (50g) of the toasted milk powder, and set aside for topping the finished dish later. We'll come back to the remaining 1 cup (100g) in a bit, but first...prepare the semolina.
  4. In a large bowl, stir together the semolina and melted ghee together until well combined. Set aside till you prepare the rest of the ingredients; mixture will thicken as it sits.
  5. Back to the toasted milk. Place the remaining 1 cup (100g) of the toasted milk powder in a medium bowl and add to it the sugar, canned cream (eshta/ashta), sweetened condensed milk, 3 tablespoons of milk, baking powder and salt. Whisk everything together until well blended.
  6. Pour the toasted milk mixture over the semolina/ghee mixture, and stir with a spatula until well combined.
  7. Take half of the batter, which should weight 445g, and transfer it to a lightly greased 13X9 inch baking dish.* Using a spatula or back of a spoon, spread the batter into an even layer. Set aside.
  8. Into the bowl with the remaining half of the batter, pour the extra 3 tablespoons of milk and stir, until well combined and the batter has thinned in consistency. Transfer the thinned batter to a piping or zipper lock bag with the tip snipped off to make a 1 cm opening. Set aside.
  9. Bake the batter in the dish, for 10 to 12 minutes until the basbousa base starts to set and is no longer wet. Be sure not to bake it all the way through, as it will go back in the oven once more and continue to bake. While the basbousa base is baking, prepare the the cream filling.

To make the cream filling:

  1. In a medium saucepan, off the heat, whisk together the milk, whipping cream, sugar and cornstarch until well combined and the cornstarch has dissolved completely without any visible lumps.
  2. Set the saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, whisking constantly until the mixture forms large bubbles over the surface and reaches a full boil. Continue to cook for about 30 more seconds, until the mixture thickens.
  3. Remove the saucepan from the heat and pour the cream filling over the baked basbousa base and spread into an even layer. Place the dish in the fridge for about 5 minutes to set the cream filling just enough so that the top batter layer doesn't sink into it. It should still remain warm.

To Finish:

  1. Pipe the thinned batter (the one waiting in the piping bag) in lines on top of the cream to cover the entire surface. Using a spatula or the back of a spoon, carefully smooth out the lines and cover any areas where the cream is exposed.
  2. Bake again until the surface has fully set and feels done to the touch; 20 to 25 minutes.
  3. Take the dish out of the oven and immediately pour the remaining can of condensed milk all over the surface and smooth out with a spatula to cover the entire surface. Allow the condensed milk to absorb into the basbousa; this can take about 20 minutes. The condensed milk should be mostly absorbed but will leave a thin, opaque film over the surface.
  4. Allow the basbousa to cool to room temperature then sift the remaining 1/2 cup (50g) of toasted milk powder evenly over the surface. Use a small spoon to draw diagonal lines into the toasted milk powder layer. Garnish with pistachios around the edges if desired and serve at room temperature or slightly warm.
  5. Taste and texture are at their best the same day its made, but leftovers will keep well, covered tightly, in the refrigerater for a couple of days. Bring back to room temperature before serving, or lightly warm individual servings in the microwave.

Recipe Notes

  1. Semolina is known in Arabic as ‘semeed.' The one used here is white and medium grind, also referred to #2 semolina in some countries. I've use both Sonbolat Al Forat and 5 stars, Egyptian brands, with great results.
  2. I personally prefer the rich flavor that ghee adds here, but feel free to use oil instead or a combination of both.
  3. Be sure to use the canned type of eshta/ashta cream such as Nestle and Puck. Unfortunately I have not had the chance to test out any substitutions including fresh ashta cream, in this recipe. Sour cream, clotted cream or Greek yogurt might work, but I have not tested them to know for sure.
  4. You’ll need one (14oz/397g) can of sweetened condensed milk for the entire recipe. Half a cup is mixed into the batter and the remaining 3/4 cup is poured over the baked basbousa.
  5. You can eyeball halving the batter for the bottom and top of the dish, but I highly recommend weighing it, so you can rest assure that you'll have enough batter to cover the surface.
  6. The taste and texture of the basbousa are at their best the same day it's made, but leftovers will keep well, covered tightly, in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Bring back to room temperature before serving, or lightly warm individual servings in the microwave.

Recipe adapted from so many recipes I've seen on YouTube and Instagram with changes.

Measurements Note: All recipes of this site have been developed using weight measurements. Although US volume measurements have been included for your convenience, it is highly encouraged that you weigh your ingredients using a kitchen scale to get the best possible results. Due to the sensitive nature of baking, kitchen scales are proven to yield more accurate and consistent results than measuring cups. Enjoy!

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