Middle Eastern Coconut Cake (Harissah)

Total Time
Prep 10 mins
Cook 30 mins

If you love coconut macaroons, you will love this dish. This recipe is incredibly easy.This recipe yields a very moist cake that is traditional in the Jordanian/ Palestinian region.This recipe is different than the traditional harissa (also known as basbousa) which is made has semolina or cream of wheat as the main ingredient. I love coconut macaroons which this reminds me of, but in a cake like form.This is always a hit when i have company.If you cannot find unsweetened coconut, use regular sweetened and reduce sugar and use about 1 1/2-1 3/4 cup for the batter.

Ingredients Nutrition


  1. First make syrup by boiling water and sugar for about 5 to 10 minutes depending on how heavy you may want it but it shouldn't be any thicker than pancake syrup in consistency.
  2. *You may also add a tsp of rose water or orange blossom to it to give more of a traditional middle eastern dessert taste (I personally can do without it so that's why my recipe doesn't call for it under the ingredients).
  3. When done with that process set syrup aside to cool.
  4. Start on the Harissa by combining sugar,eggs,oil,milk,vanilla,lemon juice and mix them together until blended.
  5. Then add flour and baking powder to mixture and blend well.
  6. Lastly you want to STIR coconut into batter.
  7. Then its time to add to greased and floured pan (never a bundt pan)-- an oblong pan will do.
  8. Bake for about 30 minutes at 350°F or more until a light/medium golden brown.
  9. When cake is done and still hot pour syrup all over cake in pan.
  10. You don't have to use all the syrup but at least 3/4 should be used on the cake.
  11. Let cool, then cut in slanted squares.
  12. Then remove each piece onto a tray.
  13. You can garnish with a little shredded coconut on top for presentation.


Most Helpful

Sublime .... I made half the recipe and baked it in an 8x8 pan ... I made the recipe exactly as stated with wonderful results! Thank you very much for submitting this recipe! (my hips aren't so sure lolol)

Marlene. August 13, 2006

3 words: Oh. My. Goodness! This is a delicious cake. I decreased the oil to 1 1/2 cups and increased the milk to 2 cups. Also used 1 tsp vanilla in the batter and 1 tsp vanilla in the sugar syrup. Baked it for 50 minutes. My husband loves it. Will definitely make it again!

valmontefu April 22, 2010

Yummy! I made this especially for my dad today (he's a HUGE cococut fan). I halved the recipe and used sweetened coconut flakes (all I had on hand). Baked it in 8x8 pan. It was a big hit! Dad ate nearly half the cake. Thanks for something truly different!

JamieLynnzer July 02, 2009

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