Basbousa, revani, ravani – whichever name it goes by, this sugar syrup-laden semolina cake makes the perfect base for a trifle. Topped with traditional English custard, sour cherry jelly, meringue, cream and chocolate halva, this is definitely not your run-of-the-mill trifle! Start this recipe a day ahead to let the jelly set overnight. You will need a 19 cm x 29 cm lamington pan and a 5 litre glass bowl for this recipe.


Skill level

Average: 3.4 (49 votes)


  • 300 ml thickened cream, whipped to soft peaks
  • chocolate halva (see Note), crumbled (optiona)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 125 g unsalted butter, melted
  • 200 g (¾ cup) natural yoghurt
  • 150 g (⅓ cup) caster sugar
  • 320 g (2 cups) fine semolina
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 15 g (¼ cup) shredded coconut
  • 440 g (2 cups) white sugar
  • 2 tsp lemon juice

Sour cherries in jelly

  • 500 ml sour cherry juice (see Note)
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1½ tbsp powdered gelatine
  • 300 g frozen cherries

English custard

  • 300 ml pouring cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 tsp plain flour
  • 55 g (¼ cup) caster sugar


  • 1 egg white
  • 55g (¼ cup) caster sugar
  • 2 tsp cornflour, plus extra, to dust
  • 1 tsp rosewater

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


To make jelly, place 250 ml cherry juice and sugar in a small saucepan over high heat, and stir until sugar dissolves. Sprinkle over gelatine and stir to dissolve, then strain mixture into a bowl. Add remaining 250 ml cherry juice, then the frozen cherries, stirring, until combined. Refrigerate overnight or until set.

To make basbousa, preheat oven to 180°C. Whisk eggs, butter and yoghurt in a bowl. Combine caster sugar, semolina, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and coconut in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour egg mixture into the well and stir until well combined. Spread into a 19 cm x 29 cm lamington pan lined with baking paper and bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Meanwhile, to make custard, place cream and vanilla bean and seeds in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to the boil. Remove from heat and stand for 5 minutes to let flavours infuse.

Whisk egg yolks, flour and sugar in a bowl until well combined. Gradually whisk in cream mixture, then return to the pan over low heat. Cook, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon, for 5 minutes or until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Strain into a bowl and discard solids, cover surface with plastic wrap and cool. Refrigerate until needed. The custard will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

To make syrup for basbousa, place white sugar, 375 ml water and lemon juice in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil, then cook for 8 minutes or until reduced by one-quarter. Allow to cool slightly. Using a skewer, pierce the cake all over, then pour over the warm syrup. Set aside to cool, then cut into 18 squares.
To make the meringue, reduce oven to 140°C. Whisk egg white to stiff peaks, then gradually add sugar and whisk until thick and glossy. Add cornflour and rosewater, and whisk to combine.

Place 15 tablespoonfuls of the mixture, 2 cm apart, onto an oven tray lined with baking paper and lightly dusted with cornflour. Bake for 20 minutes or until just firm to the touch. Turn off the oven and leave meringues inside until cool; meringue will be hard on the outside and soft in the centre, like pavlova.

To assemble trifle, arrange cake pieces over the base of a 5 litre glass bowl. Lightly break up jelly and spoon it over the cake. Pour over custard, top with whipped cream, then refrigerate for up to 4 hours to allow flavours to infuse. Decorate with meringues and chocolate halva, if using, just before serving.


• Halva is a sweet of Turkish origin made from ground sesame seeds and honey, which is then flavoured. Typical flavourings might include chocolate, vanilla or pistachio. Halva is from delis and selected supermarkets.
• Sour cherry juice, also known as tart cherry juice, is available from selected health food shops and Middle Eastern shops. Substitute blueberry or pomegranate juice.

Photography by John Laurie.