Sfouf is a simple butter-free, egg-free cake made from flour and carob molasses. Simple and healthy, it’s the definitive mountain sweet.
Carob has found new converts recently in health food shops as an alternative to chocolate. In the Lebanese mountains, it has never been an alternative, but always the “real thing.” Carob is a wild tree that grows in middle altitudes and produces dark brown pods that hold a thick liquid (extracted by pressing) that is carob molasses. An important part of the mouneh, the winter preserves, carob molasses is mainly eaten mixed with tahini (to create our local chocolate spread) or used as a syrup or sweetener for desserts.
My mother’s recipe for carob cake is “to the eye”—deciding the quantities by the eye (that is, 5 cups of flour, 1 cup of vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon of baking powder, and then enough carob molasses to obtain the right consistency of a cake mix). Here, for your ease, is a recipe from my friend, Tamar, who works in measurements!
- 2 tablespoons (14 g) whole aniseed
- 2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 cup (235 ml) vegetable oil
- 1 cup (340 g) carob molasses
- 1 tablespoon (14 g) baking powder
- 1 tablespoon (15 g) tahini
- 2 tablespoons (16 g) sesame seeds
- Kamal Mouzawak
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C, or gas mark 4).
Bring 1 1/2 cups (355 ml) of water to a boil in a small pot. Boil the aniseed for 1 minute, then let it cool. Strain the water and discard the aniseed.
Rub by hand the flour with the vegetable oil in a large bowl, so all the grains get coated with oil. Add just 1 cup (235 ml) of the strained aniseed water, the carob molasses, and the baking powder, and whisk to obtain a smooth batter.
Use a 10-inch (25.5-cm) diameter round cake pan (or similar in size, rectangular or square), and instead of buttering it, spread the tahini all inside, so the sfouf won’t stick. Pour in the batter, even it out, and sprinkle uniformly with the sesame seeds.
Bake for 50 minutes, or as long as needed to cook through (check it with a cake tester, which should come out clean). Let it cool on a rack, then cut into pieces and serve at room temperature. Sfouf keeps for more than a week in an airtight container.