Semolina Cake

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Many countries, from the Balkans to the Mediterranean to 🇮🇳 India (and every country in between), claim this Semolina Cake (Halva) as their own. I always say that food unites us all, so I am grateful this delicious dessert exists, regardless of where it first originated from. If you’ve never tried this cake, you’re in for an experience! Semolina is slowly toasted in oil until golden, then soaked in a hot syrup, and finally pressed into a pan or mold to form this lovely cake.

What is Semolina?

Semolina is a coarse flour made from durum 🌾 wheat, known for its high protein and gluten content. It has a granular texture and is commonly used in cooking and baking, especially in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines. It’s versatile and is used in pasta, couscous, bread, and desserts like cakes and puddings.

Why You’ll Love Semolina Cake

You’ll love this semolina cake for its nutty flavor and unique texture. Toasting the semolina creates an amazing aroma that will fill your kitchen. With its simple yet comforting ingredients, this cake offers a nostalgic taste of my homeland and is excellent for your own family gatherings or your daily 🫖 tea time. Whether enjoyed with a dollop of whipped cream, a sprinkle of sliced almonds, or simply on its own, each bite of this cake is perfection. This Semolina Cake (Halva) gives you the opportunity to engage with the rich cultural heritage of the Balkans, Middle East, and Mediterranean.

How to Prepare Semolina Cake

💦 Make the simple syrup by first combining water, sugar, and lemon slice in a pot. Heat over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Simmer for 5 mins without stirring. Remove the lemon slice and set the syrup aside.

🔥 Next work on toasting the semolina, by first heating oil in a pan over medium heat. Add semolina and stir until light golden (10-15 mins). Be attentive to avoid burning.

🥄 Then pour syrup over semolina, stirring carefully. Cook until semolina absorbs syrup and pulls away from the pan’s sides.

🧊 Transfer the mixture to a pan, pressing it down evenly. Let cool for about 1 hour.

🍯 Loosen the cake from the pan, flip it onto a plate, and remove the pan. Top with almonds, cinnamon, or preferred toppings before serving. Enjoy!

Nonna’s Tip ⭐

Feel free to add as much sugar as you like. Less is more for me, but traditionally recipes like this one call for up to three cups of sugar, which is way too sweet for my family and me, but feel free to make it to your liking. 

Semolina Cake

Variations and Substitutions for Semolina Cake

Feel free to mix and match these variations and substitutions to create your own unique version of the Semolina Cake (Halva)!

  1. Experiment with different flavorings to customize the taste of your cake. Instead of lemon, you can use an 🍊orange slice.
  2. Mix chopped nuts such as almonds, pistachios, or walnuts into the semolina mixture when it is light and golden. You can also add dried fruits like raisins, chopped apricots, or cranberries.
  3. While the recipe calls for sugar, you can substitute it with honey, maple syrup, or agave nectar for a different sweetness level. Adjust the amount of sweetener to taste.
  4. Get creative with toppings by sprinkling the cake with shredded 🥥 coconut, cocoa powder, or drizzling it with chocolate ganache or a 🍓 fruit compote before serving.

Similar Recipes

Best Served With

  • A side of fresh fruit such as berries, sliced 🍓 strawberries, or citrus segments
  • Dollop some freshly whipped cream or Greek yogurt on top of each slice
  • A scoop of vanilla ice cream, gelato, or my Healthy Ice Cream
  • A hot cup of coffee or tea 🫖

Common Questions

Can I add any mix-ins to the cake?

When the semolina is light and golden, you can stir in toasted almonds or any dried fruit of choice but this is optional. I left mine plain for this recipe.

How can I make a sweeter cake?

Feel free to add as much sugar as you like. Less is more for me, but traditionally recipes like this one call for up to three cups of sugar, which is way too sweet for my family and me, but feel free to make it to your liking. 

What type of pan should I use for the Semolina cake (halva)?

Any pan or mold will work for this recipe so feel free to get creative. You can make fun shapes with it, use a muffin tin, or anything else you have on hand. I like using a Bundt cake pan as well. 

What type of semolina should I use for this recipe?

I like to use Semolina #2 (coarse) as it has more texture and grit but fine Semolina will also work. 

What are some optional toppings for the semolina cake (Halva)?

You can top the semolina cake with sliced almonds, cinnamon, powdered sugar, or fresh fruit such as berries or sliced citrus.

Semolina Cake

Semolina Cake (Halva)

You'll love this Semolina Cake (Halva) for its irresistible nutty flavor and unique texture. Toasting the semolina creates an amazing cake that you'll want to make over and over.
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Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Bulgarian, Greek, Mediterranean
Servings: 10 slices
Author: The Modern Nonna
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes


Simple Syrup

  • 4 cups water
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 1 slice lemon, optional

Semolina Mixture

  • ½ cup oil, avocado oil
  • 2 cups coarse semolina , (400 grams) semolina #2
  • ½ cup sliced almonds , for garnish


  • Add the water to a pot with the sugar and lemon slice (if using). Warm over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves.
  • When the syrup begins to boil, reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for about 5 minutes (do not stir it after it boils).
  • Take the syrup off the stove and remove the lemon slice. Let the syrup sit at room temp while you toast the semolina.
  • In the meantime, warm a big pan over medium heat. Add the oil and let it heat up. Add the semolina and stir with a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue stirring for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the semolina is a beautiful light golden color.
  • Note: Don't leave the pan unattended; stir frequently until the semolina is light and golden. You do not want the semolina to burn, so cooking low and slow is key here.
  • Pour the syrup on top of the semolina and please be careful. Keep a distance from the pot when pouring in the syrup as it can bubble up in the pan. Stir it with a wooden spoon for another few minutes or until the semolina has absorbed all of the syrup.
  • The semolina is ready when it pulls away from the sides of the pan.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and pour the hot semolina mixture into any pan you like. I used a 9-by-5 inch loaf pan but any pan you have will work.
  • Gently press the semolina mixture down, making sure it takes the shape of the pan and smooth it out on top completely.
  • Let it cool completely. This should take about 1 hour.
  • Once cooled, use a silicone spatula to gently loosen the cake from all sides. Flip the loaf pan over onto a plate and remove the pan. Top the cake with sliced almonds, cinnamon, or anything you like. Enjoy!



Calories: 241kcal, Carbohydrates: 31g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 14g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g, Monounsaturated Fat: 9g, Trans Fat: 0.04g, Sodium: 5mg, Potassium: 35mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 30g, Vitamin A: 0.2IU, Vitamin C: 0.4mg, Calcium: 16mg, Iron: 0.2mg

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

Additional Info

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Bulgarian, Greek, Mediterranean
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Hi! I'm Sneji. Nice to meet you!

I am more commonly known as “The Modern Nonna” on social media where I create easy home cooked meals with a modern twist. I was born and raised in Sofia, Bulgaria and learned how to cook at the best culinary school in the world – my grandma’s kitchen. I lived in Greece on the Island of Crete with my parents for a while and then moved to Toronto, Canada when I was in grade 5. I started to really cook and experiment with food 11 years ago when I was 21 years old. Everything I currently know is a reflection of some part of my life…

Keep up to date with me on social media! Follow @themodernnonna

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    1. Hi Karen, I will have to weigh and add it in. This was an older recipe so I didn’t get the chance to when I was making it but I will try to add it in.