Recipe in Celebration of Eid al-Adha

Basbousa - traditional Middle Eastern sweet cake with almond on topThis post was written by Jefferson nurse educator Esmihan Almontaser, RN, CPAN.

Since I was little, Eid was a special day for me and my siblings. Growing up in Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn NY, this was our “Christmas.” Eid was the only day we were allowed to miss a day of school, flawing our perfect attendance – back then NY State didn’t recognize Eid as a holiday. The night before Eid, my mother would paint my sisters and my hands with henna in whatever design we chose. I would ask for a flower and a star on each palm.  She would squeeze a lemon on the henna and wrap each hand with a plastic bag so the henna color would stain. We would sleep with our hands wrapped because my mom knew we would pick at the henna just to see the design. She was so talented!

In the morning, we would be woken by the smell of my mother’s elaborate cookies, basbousa, and the sweet teas. We were excited by the displays of her fancy silverware on the table, awaiting guests who randomly made their visiting rounds throughout the day. We’d excitedly wash our hands of the henna to see the orange red design now set on our hands. Up and down the streets, men and boys would be out in their best suits hugging, kissing on the cheeks and shaking hands, saying “Eid Mubarek.” The women and little girls would be in their sequined hijabs and abayas imported from Saudi or Dubai.  I would sometimes accompany my father to the mosque, half listening to the lecture on charity and forgiveness while wishing the imam would hurry up to show off my new Eid clothes to the other neighborhood kids. I would visit family and friends in the neighborhood filling up on teas and desserts at every household until I couldn’t eat anymore. My siblings and cousins would show off our henna, new doll or the wad of dollar bills in our pockets.

As I write this, I am nostalgic of the beautiful memories I have of Eid as a child. My parents wanted this to be a wonderful day for us and subconsciously included many of the tenets of Islam we follow this day and every day. We prayed and were thankful of our blessings, we distributed my mother’s cookies and tea to our non-Muslim neighbors, we visited the sick and gave to those in need. Every Eid, I try to pass down the tradition of faith, family, forgiveness, and fun.  Eid is a celebration of community and harmony, forgiveness and generosity. Eid is a moment of self-actualization to reflect on the values that make us better human beings and better Muslims. Eid brings people from all walks of life together.




  • 1 stick of butter, softened
  • ¾ c sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cup semolina
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¾ cup yogurt
  • Blanched almonds

Sugar syrup prepared in advance and cooled. You may want more syrup depending on your taste:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¾ c water
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  1. Preheat oven at 325-350
  2. To blanche your almonds: pour boiling water over almonds and let them sit for 10 min. Once the skins are softened, peel them off.
  3. Sift semolina, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl and set it aside.
  4. Beat butter with sugar until fluffy.
  5. Add tsp vanilla and beat to incorporate.
  6. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
  7. Fold in 1/3 of semolina mix. Fold 1/3 of yogurt. Keep doing this until all of it is used.
  8. Pour batter into a buttered or greased baking dish/pan and spread evenly. Or divide batter into 24 cupcake pans, lined or unlined, just be sure to grease if you are not using liners. Each cupcake takes about 1 tablespoon of batter.
  9. Arrange almonds on top.
  10. Bake for 30 min or until you like the color. They should be golden around edges.
  11. Pour cooled syrup over hot cake.


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