A rose by any other name….

Growing up in sleepy cantonment towns all over India, with no decent shows on TV and no Internet, (and no social life to speak of), libraries were my favourite hang out joints.

Cookbooks were few and far between. And Martha Stewart and Nigella Lawson yet to make their names and fortunes. But my mom’s Anglo Indian and Goan friends who baked, gave us treasured family recipes– handwritten in ancient, stained and dog-eared notebooks. Notebooks which, when you opened them, recipes scrawled on pieces of paper, fluttered out like groggy butterflies breaking out of their cocoons.

One of those many, jealously-hoarded recipes that I remember making repeatedly, was for a delicious though nameless, cake made of rose water, coconut and semolina. It’s strange that I loved it so much, because I don’t much like coconut in a dessert!

Semolina Rosewater cake

Last week I was reminded of that cake (the recipe for which was lost decades ago) by Brooke. Go check out her recipe for a coconut pound cake. Brooke has brilliantly married the flavours of coconut and pineapple in a cake that resonates of Far from Eternity, Oahu, luaus and leis. (That’s the extent of my knowledge of Hawaii).

But getting back to my cake, when I googled coconut and semolina cake, I was lead to a fabulous blog by Nik . And I had rediscovered Mrs. Fialho’s coconut cake of my youth!

According to Nik, this is the Goan “Baath” cake. And while my cake looks homely and rustic, it tastes divine! There is the lovely texture of semolina, a hint of coconut milk and the gentle fragrance of rose water.


3 cups semolina flour

1/4 cup desiccated coconut

4 large eggs

2 cups granulated sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup unsalted butter

2 cups coconut milk

1/4 cup rose water

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

a pinch of salt


* Line a square 8×8 inch baking pan with a sheet of parchment paper cut to size. Spray the sheet and pan with a neutral cooking oil spray.

* Cream the butter, eggs, sugar and rose water till fluffy using an electric mixer. Add the coconut milk.

* Fold in the semolina, salt, baking powder and desiccated coconut. Then mix for another 2 minutes with the mixer until all the ingredients are combined.

* Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Seal the pan with cling film and refrigerate for at least 4 hours to overnight.

* The cake batter will have set by this point. Bake the cake for 40 minutes in the center of the middle rack of an oven that is preheated to 350F.

* The cake is done when it gets golden brown on the surface or when a knife comes out clean from the center. Allow to cool in the baking pan, serve warm or chilled with tea or coffee.