What Is Couscous Cake?

J.M. Densing

Couscous cake is a type of dish that is created using couscous as a primary ingredient, which usually has a cake-like shape and form. Couscous is a type of pasta that is made from grain and semolina flour in the shape of tiny beads. There are many varieties of couscous cake, and it can be made as a sweet or savory dish in a wide range of flavors. Recipes usually use flavorful liquids such as fruit juice as a cooking fluid for the couscous so that the pasta is infused with flavor. The cakes are often baked for a while, although a few versions are formed and chilled.


Couscous is an extremely versatile product, and cake made using it can take a variety of forms. Couscous cake can be made in the shape and form of a traditional cake, using a one large pan. It can also be cooked as several small individual cakes, formed by hand or created in small dishes such as ramekins. It often has a firm, slightly crispy outside with a softer, moist inside. Frequently the consistency is creamy, and has been compared to bread pudding.

The primary ingredient in couscous cake is couscous, which is actually a type of pasta. It is made by wetting hard wheat grains or durum with salted, chilled water, then coating them in finely ground flour. Often semolina flour and grains are used. The resulting pasta usually has a rounded shape, like tiny beads, and can be cooked to a firm consistency that feels granular in the mouth, or cooked longer until it is much softer.

There are numerous different recipes for making couscous cake, and they are easy to find in various cookbooks or on the Internet. It can be cooked as a savory dish serving as part of a meal, or as a sweet dessert item. Individual cakes flavored with Mediterranean spices or containing vegetables can be used as an appetizer or side dish. Dessert versions are often flavored with spices such as cinnamon, fruit, or berries, and even chocolate.

Couscous needs to be cooked in liquid, and it will absorb flavors along with the fluid during the process. Many recipes for couscous cake take advantage of this characteristic and call for fruit juices or spices to be present during the cooking process. The cakes can be cooked in small individual dishes, in larger traditional cake pans, or in oven-safe skillets. They are often baked until the outside is slightly browned and crispy. Some recipes call for cooking the couscous and mixing in other ingredients, forming the cake using a spring-form pan, then chilling, which yields a creamy creation similar to a cheesecake.

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