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Safra - Traditional Libyan Semolina and Date Cake W/Syrup
From Um Safia

Safra is a traditional cake from Libya. It is rich & aromatic with the flavours of cloves, cinnaomn & dates. To finish this delicious cake you drench it in syrup & leave it to soak for around 6 hours... then you can enjoy!

SERVES 8 -10 , 1 cake


  • 3 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • 1 1/2 lbs pitted dates, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • CAKE
  • 2 lbs semolina (fine or medium)
  • 1 lb granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup sunflower oil
  • 3/4 cup water
  • blanched almond or whole cloves, for garnish


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup honey-style sweetener (eg maple syrup)
  • 1 lemon, juice of, 2 to 3 tablespoon

Put the oil and dates in a heavy skillet and cook over low heat, stirring continuously, for about 20 minutes, or until a thick paste has formed.
Remove skillet from the heat and stir in the cinnamon and cloves. Cool the paste. Mix cake ingredients except the almonds or cloves together into a thick batter.

Put half of the batter into a cake tin 12 x 12 in., or 12 x 16 inches Put in the date filling, pressing it into the corners of the tin so that it covers the batter. Pour in the balance of the batter and smooth out the surface.

Lightly score the top of the cake in 2- inches diamond shapes or square pieces. Put 1 blanched almond in the center of each diamond or press 1 whole clove into each piece, with the stem down. (clove is prettier but yor not going to eat it!).

Put the cake tin into the center of the oven so that it bakes evenly, and bake in a 350 degree F. oven for 45 minutes.

Put all syrup ingredients into a pan and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. When the cake is removed from the oven, pour the hot syrup over the top and allow it to be absorbed.

Let the cake stand at room temperature for at least 6 hours before eating.