Syrian Cheese Cake

Thia is my first crack on making sweets for the blog. I am not a desert kind of cook. And I am not a good baker even. This partly because I have some kind of mental illness preventing me from following recipes. I just can't help to change any recipe I am attempting I add stuff, change things around and I don't do measuring cups. This could be detrimental to some delicate dough recipes. But hey what can I do, it is an illness after all!!

So, if you come from such poor abilities like myself you would attempt something safe first. NO! Not me unfortunately. I decided to create something totally from my imagination. I wanted to make cheese cake but I wanted to make it as Syrian as I can which was a challenge.

To make it Syrian I looked for inspiration from our sweets. There is very few cheese based Syrian sweets: Kenafeh Nabulsiyeh (Cheese Kenafeh), Katyef Be Jebneh (Cheese stuffed pan cakes , fried and dipped in sugar syrup) and Halwet Jeben. The first two didn't offer me any ideas but the third gave me some hope.

Halawet Jeben is a specialty sweet of Hama, a small city in central Syria. It is a sweet dough made from sugar, cheese and semolina. This is stuffed with cream, rolled and cut into bite size pieces. The dough is stiffer than what you would expect is cheese cake but that can be adapted.

Biscuit base was my next challenge as I decided against using the traditional base. Instead I thought Filo pastry is the perfect replacement. It can't get more Syrian than that. Almost 90% of Syrian sweets are made of it.

Choosing cheese was not a problem. Akawi was the obvious and only option. This cheese is used for all the above mentioned sweets. Akawi is a white cheese with low salt content, melts very well and doesn't have a strong flavour which makes it ideal for sweets making. The nearest tasting cheese is the dry mozzarella that you use for pizza. Although Akawi has a low salt content it still need to be de-salted before use in sweets.

Finally for the dish to receive the Syrian seal of authenticity, I added a splash of orange blossom water (Ma' Zahher is Arabic).

Here is my recipe:

Milk 500ml
Double Cream 200ml
Sugar 175g
Semolina 150g
Orange Blossom Water 2tbs
Akawi Cheese 500g
Filo Pastry 6 large sheets
Icing sugar

If you are using frozen pastry make sure it is defrosted in advance.

Slice the cheese into 5mm thick slices. Put in a big bowl and under running water for 30 minutes to wash the salt away. Change the water completely every few minutes. The cheese should lose most of its saltiness. Drain.

Heat the oven to 160c.

In a pot add the milk, cream and sugar stir while heating till all the sugar has melted. Add the semolina and orange blossom water. Before boiling point add all the cheese and whisk till all the melted cheese is mixed in. Take of the heat and keep whisking for few minutes till it is smooth and well mixed.

Melt the butter and brush the base and edges of a 24cm (9inch) springform cake tin. Arrange your Filo pastry sheets so half of it is inside the tin and the rest out side to be fold on top. Make sure the pastry covers the whole tin(photo above right). You need to brush every layer with butter to stick in place.

Tip the cheese mixture. Wrap the Filo sheets on top in a random wrinkled pattern (photo). Again brush with butter.

Bake in the oven for one hour till nice and golden. Let cool down for few hours then put in the fridge over night.

Dust with icing sugar and enjoy.


Anonymous said...

Wow, this is really beautiful!

Kano said...

Thank you. I didn't have a clue how this will come out when I started. I came up with this recipe few days ago. Now I am very happy with it.

Kavey said...

Wow, this looks incredible! :)

Kano said...

Hi Kavey
Welcome to my blog. Thanks for the nice words.

chow and chatter said...

wow this is fab

Anonymous said...

This looks sooooo gooood & yummy, gonna make it this weekend. Thanks for sharing.

Kano said...

Thank you

Welcome to my blog. make it and let me know how it comes out.

Unknown said...

Kano, yours is my very favourite blog, and this is a particularly lovely reason why!

Andy said...

This looks delicious! Going to cook a Syrian themed meal next month, you've just about sorted the menu for me, thanks.

Kano said...

Thank you very much.

You welcome. what else on the menu?

paul said...

This looks fabulous - I want to try it!

Kano said...

@ Paul

Go for it and let me know how it comes out.

Your blog is fab by the way.

paul said...

Thank you - I'll let you know how it goes!

Vickie said...

Hi Kano, I made this delicous cheesecake yesterday, I have to say that mine didn't look as pretty as yours, (I'm not really good with filo) but we didn't care because it tasted great, there were 3 of us here eating it & I'm not too embarrassed to say that we finished it. This recipe also gave me a couple of other ideas, I'll work on them & let you know what I come up with, thanks again for a fantastic recipe.

Kano said...

Hi Vickie

I am so glad you tried the cheese cake and you liked it.

Did you manage to find Akawi cheese or did you replace it with something else?

Please let me know of any new ideas you come up with.

Vickie said...

Hi Kano, I didn't find Akawi cheese, but my lebanese deli guy said it was similar to Haloumi, so I used that instead, I've been eating haloumi cheese for ever, (I'm Assyrian born in Iraq living in Australia for 42 years)and didn't know I could make a cheesecake out of it. I'm new to blogging & I'm discovering so many fantastic recipes from all these great food bloggers like yourself, so thanks again.

Katia said...

Hi Kano,
Your cheesecake looks so delicious! Another recipe I'm going to have to try out.
Last Saturday I made the cherry kebab and it was just wonderful. I even took a few pics to send to you but I didn't find an email link on your blog.
As for the mansaf, my mom came back on that same Saturday, with that delish welcoming cherry kebab waiting for her, and she brought some real ketha, which apparently was quite hard to find. Anyway, this means there will be a mansaf feast quite soon and I'll make sure to document every step of it.
Take care & thanks again for the great recipes :-)

Kano said...

Hi Katia

I am so glad the cherry kebab recipe worked. Send me the photos to chadwan at gmail dot com.

Don't forget to get me the mansaf recipe. I can replace ketha with Labneh and see how it comes. I am keen to try it.

joumana Accad said...

Fantastic creation! This reminds me of the Lebanese tamriyeh I had several times this summer while there, since the filling uses milk and semolina and the pastry is with a dough similar to phyllo.

Kano said...

Thank you Joumana

It looks Syrian tamriyeh is completely diffirent from the Lebanese one. We call ours Tamari Ka'ek and is made with some kind of sweet Debes(molasses) may be made from Dates hence the name. They occasionally through in a banana for the hungry ones.

Abufares said...

what can I say?
With Ramadan on the door, I'm gonna roll those sleeves up and... let the party begin.
Lots of catching up obviously. I've been away from the kitchen far too long.
Thanks for the wonderful recipes.

Kano said...

you welcome! I have seen some of your cooking on your blog. You shouldn't be away from the kitchen.

sez said...

this looks lovely, i really want to try it. Ive just come across your blog and really enjoying it and looking forward to trying some of your recipes. It would be great if you could post a recipe for Znoud El Sit (if you havent already) that would be fantastic.

Sana Hurzuk said...

Wow.. what an inventive dessert.. i was looking for a muttabal recipe and landed here.. my husband loves hummus and kabab.. we spend a lot on take out even though i know how to make it at home .. guess will have to make it myself now..lovely blog..
one quick question.. Here in Dubai we get this dip that we call garlic paste in lebanese restaurants ..i tried searching for a recipe but didnt get it.. do you know what it is?

Kano said...

@Sana Hurzuk

Welcome to my blog.

Did you manage to find the Mutabal recipe after all? All my recipes are arranged alphabetically on the right column of the main page. Here is the link to the Mutabal recipe:

The garlic paste is called Toum and is the ideal side to all things chicken. There are few recipes on the net. Just google Toum. I didn't post one yet but I do a super fast version which you can find in my Shish Tawook post:

Joanna said...

That is such a clever idea and it looks wonderful. I might have to make my second cheesecake in ten years and try it out. What a great blog!

Kano said...


Welcome to my blog. I am so glad you like the recipe. Give it a go and let me know how it goes.

I love your blog, by the way, Delicious looking stuff!

Zara Choudhury said...

I think I'm going to try this tonight... I'm scared as I'm crap at baking.. But I've been staring at this recipe all day and I think I have to just go for it. Especially now, while hubby is away, so if I mess it up he'll never know! Wish me luck Kano!!!! Anything you think I need to know before I get started?

Kano said...

@dubai bride

I am not good at baking and I managed to pull this one off. I am sure you will be fine.

One point of advice, don't make the cheese mixture too stiff before you bake it. It will get stiffer. Make sure to add enough milk to loosen it up.

Zara Choudhury said...

Ok Kano..I've started making it. Already I have encountered the following problems:

I only have 400g of akawi cheese.. and I didn't know how much was 5mm so I made it up. Right now the cheese is under the water and my very first baking tin is drying off on the draining rack... I'm excited to get started!

Thanks for the advice about the mixture... I'll keep it loose inshalla!

I'll let you know how it went in a few hours :)

Dubai Bride said...

Hi Kano! here's what happened. I think I cut the cheese in slices too thick and I wasn't sure when the milk etc was about to boil so I guessed. As a result, the cheese didn't melt properly even though I whisked it until my arm was about to fall off! So I gave up and stuck it in the oven anyway... and about 30 mins after it was in the oven, I ran out of gas... so then I had to wait 2 hours before I got more gas and I could continue baking it!!

When it came out, it looked perfect and it almost tasted perfect too... aside from the dodgy lumps here and there lol from where the cheese didn't melt!!

Kano said...

@Dubai Bride

Aaaaah you reminded me of the good old days. For some reason gas runs out when you have something important going on. I can't remember how many times gas ran out in our house when my mum was cooking a big dinner party.

I am glad the dish worked eventually. I hope you and hubby enjoyed it.

Viagra Online said...

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Anonymous said...

hey, we just found this and feel like eating it, you can make it on christmas as a dessert after the turkey (not duck), but if u want to do me a favor please dont put the orange blossom water inside, can't wait to see you.
Tomorrow is Galnesh time, I'll tell you how it worked out. - Kisses from all of us - emyahia

Sarah said...

Great idea Kano, sometimes experiments work out for the best. I also have a tendency not to follow directions and why I usually stick to cooking. I would like to try this cake but not sure what I should use in place of akawi cheese (I don't think its haloumi as one commenter said)

Kano said...


Hi there, didn't hear from you for a long while.

Definitely no Haloumi. Nabulsi cheese is a good alternative. Other wise just use Pizza mozzarella

Anonymous said...

HI, I wonder can we use puff pastry instead of the filo one.
best regards
P.S. i want to make it, it looks delicious.

Kano said...


Sorry for the late reply.

Never tried myself but I guess you can use puff pastry. It will look and feel like a different dish but the taste will be very similar.

marcy said...

Thanks for the recipe! I can't believe that it's your first try. You're good.

Kano said...


Thank you!

Welcome to my blog.

Alexandra said...

I am thrilled & can't wait to buy the ingredients to make this cake & other recipes to surprise my husband of 30 years who is originally from Damascus. Thank you for the site.

Kano said...


Thank you very much for the nice words. I hope you get the chance to try all recipes on my blog.

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