This delicious no-bake cake is made with semolina, honey syrup, nuts, and raisins. It’s delicately spiced with cinnamon and cloves.
Halva (pronounced hal-VA) is a popular Greek dessert. If you’re not familiar with this dessert, it is made with semolina and honey syrup.
This stove-top dessert is pretty straightforward to make and it’s so delicious!
What is halva?
Halva has origins in the Middle East and you can find many different variations in the Balkans and Eastern Europe, too.
Halva is popular in Greece, especially during periods of Orthodox Christian fasting because it’s dairy free and egg free.
In Greece, there are 3 main kinds of halva.
There is a halva called “Halvas Farsalon” (from a region in central Greece called Farsala), which is made with cornstarch, butter, almonds and a unique caramel crust.
Then there’s one made with tahini paste, almonds and/or honey and sugar.
Finally, there’s one made with semolina and honey syrup, which this post is about.
Here’s what you need to make Greek Halva Cake:
HOW TO MAKE GREEK HALVA CAKE
1 MAKE THE SYRUP – Just put all the syrup ingredients in a saucepan, stir and boil for 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, remove the spices and the peel. The syrup will be a light caramel color.
2 HEAT THE OIL & TOAST THE SEMOLINA – Heat the oil on medium-high, then add the semolina. Stir continuosly while toasting, otherwise it will burn.
3 TOAST UNTIL GOLDEN BROWN – When it turns golden brown, add the raisin and nuts and stir.
4 GRADUALLY ADD THE SYRUP – Take the pot off the heat and add the syrup a little bit at a time, allowing the semolina to absorb it. Be careful because it will splatter. When all the syrup has been added, put the pot back on the heat, reduce to low and stir until it thickens.
5 SPOON THE MIXTURE INTO A PREPARED CAKE PAN – Spread the mixture into a cake pan and use the back of a spoon to smooth out and flatten the top.
6 ALLOW TO COOL – Let it cool for about 1 ½ hours, then turn the halva cake over onto a platter, dust with cinnamon, and top with walnuts.
TIPS FOR SUCCESS:
- Make sure you have a deep pot like a soup pot because the semolina needs a lot of space when cooking. It will also offer better protection from the splattering when you add the syrup.
- A long wooden spoon makes stirring easier. The handle will also stay cool while stirring the hot semolina.
- When you add the semolina to the hot oil, you need to stir constantly so that it doesn’t burn. You’re ready to remove it from the heat when the semolina turns a golden brown and smells toasty. If the semolina burns, it gets dark and the halva will have a bitter aftertaste. Once the semolina is ready, take the pot off the stove before adding the syrup.
- Let the halva cool for at least an hour before slicing it, otherwise it may fall apart.
If you want to customize your Halva cake, feel free to…
- use different pans/serving bowls. Instead of a bundt pan or cake pan, you could serve the Halva in individual bowls.
- use different nuts. This cake would be great with pistachios, almonds or even pine nuts!
- add semisweet/bittersweet chocolate. You could add chunks of semisweet/bittersweet chocolate to the semolina mixture and stir until it melts. You can never go wrong with chocolate!
- use a different topping. You could top the cake with melted chocolate! Yum!
- serve it with ice cream or whipped cream. Delish!
- serve it warm with some extra honey on top. This is how I enjoy Halva cake! I just heat a slice in the microwave and drizzle some honey over it! 😋
I hope you enjoy this Greek Halva Cake!
Let me know how this Greek Halva Cake turns out for you in the comments below!
I’d love to hear from you!
If you want more yummy Greek desserts, you’ll love these:
- Greek Baklava Rolls (Saragli) – Refined Sugar Free
- Ouzo-spiked Chocolate Orange Cake
- Rizogalo-Greek Rice Pudding
GREEK HALVA CAKE (STEP-BY-STEP TUTORIAL + VARIATIONS)
For the syrup
- 5 cups water
- 2 cups (400 g / 14.2 oz) sugar
- 2 heaping tablespoons honey (about 50 g / 1.7 oz)
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 5-6 whole cloves
- 1 whole lemon peel
For the cake
- 1 cup (250 ml / 8 oz) olive oil
- 2 cups (400 g / 14.2 oz) coarse semolina (or 1 cup coarse & 1 cup fine)
- ¼ cup raisins
- 100 g (3.5 oz) walnuts
For the topping (optional)
- 1-2 tablespoons honey
- chopped walnuts
Prep the pan
- Lightly grease a bundt pan (or other cake pan) with some olive oil. Set aside.
Make the syrup
- In a saucepan add all the ingredients listed for the syrup, stir and bring to a boil. Allow it to boil for about 5 minutes. Take it off the heat and remove the spices. Set aside.
Make the cake
- Heat the olive oil in a deep pot on medium-high heat. Add the semolina and stir with a wooden spoon. Be careful! You need to stir it continuously, otherwise it will burn. When it turns golden brown, add the raisin and nuts and stir. Take the pot off the heat. Carefully pour a little bit of the honey syrup to the semolina and stir constantly until it has absorbed the syrup. Be careful! It will splatter! Add the remaining syrup and put the pot back on the heat, reduce to low and stir until the mixture thickens.
- Transfer the semolina mixture to the prepared bundt pan and spread the top evenly with the back of a spoon. Allow it to cool completely (about 1 ½ hours).
- Turn the halva over onto a cake platter/dish. Sprinkle with some cinnamon and top with nuts and honey.