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Close up shot of Burmese semolina cake showing the crispy crust and fudgy centre.

Burmese Semolina Cake (Sanwei Makin)

Here’s a Southeast Asian slice with a crispy crust and soft fudgy centre. Burmese Semolina Cake (Shwegyi Sanwei Makin) is filled with toasty coconut flavour, perfect as a quick snack or dessert.
Course Dessert
Cuisine Burmese
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 15 pieces
Calories 3290kcal
Cost $5



  • Preheat oven to 160˚C / 320˚F and a deep baking dish greased with butter or coconut oil.
  • Pop the semolina in a large saucepan over a low to medium heat and dry stir fry until golden brown (around 5 to 10 minutes). Keep stirring and avoid leaving it unattended or it may burn or cook unevenly.
  • Once it's toasty, add in the brown sugar, coconut cream, water, eggs, butter and salt and mix well. You might need a whisk to break up any clumps. The batter will be quite thin at this stage so don't worry.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil over a medium high heat and stir continuously. It will start to thicken quickly. Once bubbles start rising through the mixture you can reduce the heat down to low and continue to stir until the mixture thickens and starts to pull away easily from the side of the pan (around 8-10 minutes).
  • Once thickened, transfer the batter into baking dish and smooth the surface with an icing spatula or the back of a spoon.
  • Sprinkle with poppy seeds, sesame seeds or desiccated coconut and pop in the oven. Bake for around 30-40 minutes until the top is dark golden-brown and the cake has set.
  • Slice into squares and serve warm or at room temperature.


  • Semolina - This recipe calls for coarse ground semolina which has less chance of becoming too sticky or clumpy as you prepare the batter. Semolina is a type of flour made from durum wheat. You can usually find it right next to regular all purpose flour at the supermarket. 
  • Brown Sugar - You can substitute for regular sugar or palm sugar if you prefer. 
  • Coconut Milk - If possible, look for coconut milk that is a high percentage of coconut extract (at least 60%) and water, without the gums and fillers that can often be found in canned coconut milk.
  • Poppy Seeds - In Burma/Myanmar the traditional garnish is white poppy seeds which add a subtle nutty crunch. We usually use white sesame seeds as they’re more readily accessible, but you can also use chia seeds or desiccated coconut if you prefer.
  • Make It Easier - The batter will thicken as it heats up - use a whisk to make it easier. 
  • Deep Baking Dish - Use a dish at least two inches deep, and make sure it’s greased with butter, coconut oil or ghee so it comes out easily. Use a square or rectangle dish (or even a loaf pan) so it’s easy to slice into even squares. 
  • Recruit a Friend - This cake is easy to make but will see you stirring the mixture for 10 minutes or so as it thickens. We recommend recruiting a friend to help you stir. You can bribe them with the promise of fresh cake at the end! 
  • Bubbles While Baking - You might see a few bubbles rising to the surface while it’s baking in the oven - that’s the butter rising to the top, which is what gives the cake crust that extra delicious crunch.
  • Variations:
    • Serve with Cream - Top with ice cream or whipped cream and toasted coconut shavings. The cake will soak it all up as it melts, becoming even more soft and custardy, a bit like tres leches milk cake
    • Tweak the Flavour - Add vanilla essence, mixed spice or liqueurs to create your own flavour combination. For an Indian kesari influence, flavour with cardamom, saffron and a sprinkling of salt.
    • Bake in Individual Portions - Divide the batter evenly into ramekins and bake for 20-30 mins, checking frequently to avoid burning.
    • Make it Sweeter - You can double the sugar if you’re a real sweet tooth.
    • Add Fruit - Mix through banana, chopped pineapple, dried raisins or mixed fruit into the batter before baking.
    • Add Texture - Sprinkle the top with poppy seeds, sesame seeds, almond slices or crushed walnuts.
    • Greasing the Baking Dish - We usually use butter, but you can use coconut oil, melted butter or ghee.


Calories: 3290kcal | Carbohydrates: 365g | Protein: 47g | Fat: 195g | Saturated Fat: 155g | Cholesterol: 449mg | Sodium: 630mg | Potassium: 2025mg | Fiber: 15g | Sugar: 214g | Vitamin A: 1895IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 330mg | Iron: 20mg