Almost Turkish Recipes

Semolina Sponge Cake (Revani)

If you are a libertine, don’t turn from the cup of pure wine
If you are wise, take your glass in the direction of Galata
Pious one, should you see those Frankish (European) boys but once
You would never cast an eye on the houris in paradise
Everywhere is filled with paradisiacal boys and girls, Revani,
Who enters it looks no more to the highest heaven
(from The Age of Beloveds by Walter Andrews and Mehmet Kalpakli) 

These lines which depict the life in Istanbul of 16th century are from a poem by Revani, an Ottoman poet, an infamous libertine who lived in late 15th and early 16th centuries. And revani the dessert is said to be named after Revani the poet. The association is not rooted in Revani’s notorious ways in entertainment or financial matters (he never gets any positive remarks on his character in biographies), but in his famous unique and novel work İşretname (Book of Wassail) which deals with anything related to Ottoman carousals: the wine, best seasons for drinking wine, wine glasses, flagons, young men serving wine, and, of course, food. E.J.W. Gibb in his colossal work on Ottoman poetry defines Revani as a “thorough-going hedonist” but not a “mystic.” In “Book of Wassail” he proves Gibb right. Revani gives a long list of delicasies in his lines and with vivid metaphors likens them to serpents (sausages), pearl (rice), or blond beauty (saffron) (see Gibb for more info on “Book of Wassail”).

Although he wrote couplet after couplet praising pleasures of food, I don’t know why particularly revani, a sponge cake, a semolina sponge cake to be accurate, soaked in syrup is named after Revani. 

for the cake
2/3 cup semolina
1/3 cup flour (white)
5 eggs, separated 
2/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp or less orange zest (optional)

for the syrup
2 1/2 cup water
2 1/2 cup sugar 
2 tbsp lemon juice 
1 tbsp lemon zest (optional)

for the top
coconut flakes or
ground pistachio 

-Beat egg yolk with sugar until creamy. 
-Add orange zest, semolina, and flour gradually as your mixing them all with a whisker or a mixer.
-In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until they turn into firm foam and add them into the cake. 
-Grease a deep cake pan 9-10 inch in diameter.
-Pour the batter and bake in a preheated oven at 350F for approximately 30 minutes or until golden brown. Check with a knife or a toothpick to make sure the cake is done. They should come out clean.
-Meanwhile, mix sugar, water, and lemon juice + zest in a pot and bring to a boil. Then simmer on medium for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool. 
-When revani is still in the cake pan and warm, not hot but warm, cut in into diamond shape slices or in squares. 
-Pour the lukewarm syrup on top with a scoop slowly, waiting the cake to soak it in.
-Serve diamond with coconut flakes or ground pistachio on top. Revani is also good with vanilla ice cream or clotted cream on the side.       


  1. A nice intro with the poem an a beautiful and delicious result in your revani!

  2. Hi Peter,
    isn't revani also a part of Greek cuisine? What's the story of the name in Greek?

  3. Delicious! I'm going to try this for sure!

  4. We call it rahvanija ili patispanja, and I love it!!!

  5. I like this cake, simple and delicious.

  6. It looks delicious- I have to try making it

  7. Anonymous4:58 AM

    plz u show it measure oz & gm.cup is hard.

  8. Anonymous8:23 AM

    I've been craving revani for the last couple weeks. Now that I saw your post, I have no choice but to make some this weekend. :)))

  9. It looks delicious! I'm going to try this for sure this weekend!

  10. Love this cake which reminds me of our nammoura cake. Beautiful pic too!

  11. Nice cake I'm sure that it was delicious! I will try it too.

  12. Is this similar to basbousa? It sounds like it but looks a lot lighter (and more delicious). This was a wonderful post, thank you!

  13. Foody Cat --Sorry about the late response and revani is what we call basbousa.

  14. Burcu
    Made the Revani for the first time on the weekend, it was delicious and kept really well for a couple of days. I was a little nervous about the quantity of sugar syrup, but i was brave and used the whole amount and it was sooooo moist and tasty. I will definitely be doing this one again! Thanks Mx

  15. Incredible dessert!!!
    You have improved on the simplest of desserts.

  16. Thank you, Matt and Leroy!

  17. Anonymous4:18 PM

    Made this to go with a Turkish dinner, and I loved the sponge (I tried it before adding the syrup). I did use the entire syrup, which was almost too sweet/moist for my taste, so I'd probably cut it by half or so. Very moist, and the sponge is a great base for something else as well.

  18. Burcu, revani is very popular in Greece, and among Greeks in the US. I've never seen it with the coconut on top, but it looks like that would be wonderful. I'll have to try that.

    I love the texture of sweets with semolina in them.

  19. Anonymous11:56 PM

    This is the worst Revani I have ever had the displeasure of eating. It turned out as a soggy sponge cake. Did I make an error in following the recipe? NO! I'm not sure what photograph you guessed this recipe from, but you sure as hell have never eaten an authentic Revani yourself. Otherwise, you would spit this filth out onto the floor the second you first tasted it. Disgusting. I am appalled.

    1. I do not appreciate that you called a dish or food, good or bad, "filth." Respect for the food, please.

    2. @ anonyme, jamais su qu'il existait aussi méchant, irrespectueux que vous !

  20. Can it be made with less sugar in the sauce?

  21. Burcu Hanim, I haven't had this for about 10 years but I remembered it very well from my neighbor ladies' afternoon tea parties. Your recipe is fantastic, as well as your whole blog! When I found your blog (looking for a semizotu recipe) I described it to friends as "a Turkish recipe blog that pretty much does what I would do to Turkish food if I had a Turkish restaurant in the U.S."

    Çok sevgiler,

  22. @Angie:
    Yes, I guess it could be made with less sugar, but do not go too stingy.

    @Amy: Thank you!

  23. Angie1:49 PM

    Made this and it was delicious. My family loved it and wants me to make it again. I did however only make half the syrup recommended and it was still sweet enough and delicious. I am going to make it again and again. My friend also made it and she says it was soooooo good. Thank you for this recipe!

  24. Anonymous2:16 AM

    I am going to make it tonight;)

  25. Can we use rose water in place of lemon juice in the syrup?

    1. Cali, lemon juice is to prevent crystalization of the syrup, not for flavor.

  26. Amazing recipe. I really love revani. Thank you for sharing. Bravo!!!

  27. This recipe is pretty good. Only thing I changed is that I used orange instead of lemon. I will do half the syrup next time. It was honestly way too much. Flavors good just too much syrup for it. That syrup is enough for an extra large pan which this is not.