Lebanon Traveler

Culinar y heritage

Zeinab Jeambey from the Food Heritage Foundation explores the tradition of kaak.

- food-heritage.org food heritage foundation foodherita­ge

The sweet taste of kaak

Whether commemorat­ing a festive, historical or religious event, holidays in Lebanon often have a dessert associated with them. Of the most famous desserts is maamoul: small butter cookies often stuffed with dates, walnuts or pistachios. Yet the most common homemade dessert remains the mini-milk cakes known as kaak bi halib. These cakes, which do not perish quickly, were often taken on pilgrimage­s and used as caloric, substance foods during wars. Recipes for these simple cakes include the main ingredient­s of flour, semolina, butter, milk, oil, a leavening agent and flavoring, which can include anise seeds and mahlab (the seed within the stone of a special cherry called prunus mahaleb). Nonetheles­s, flavoring can vary from village to village and household to household. Some use dried lavender, while others choose dried marjoram, nutmeg, turmeric or nigella seeds. Most cakes are usually formed in special wooden molds with different designs.

Though the preparatio­n method is similar for all, these cakes are named according to the event they are commemorat­ing.


This is the generic name for homemade milk cakes that are produced in villages all over Lebanon, with preparatio­ns differing from one village to the other. It is a common treat during the Easter, Fitr and Adha holidays. Mahlab is often a main ingredient and some households make the cake softer than others. It is best accompanie­d with coffee, tea or lemonade.

For homemade kaak el eid contact Lina Saade, Kherbet Qanafar, 70 671399.


Also known as kaak mra’add, this cake is mainly found in North Lebanon and has a distinct crumbly texture, making it more like a biscuit. In fact, as per the locals, the name mbassbass means crumbly in the mouth. Although the kaak was initially the holiday cookie of Akkar, it is now made throughout the year.

For homemade kaak mbassbass contact Coop Andqet in Andqet, 03 580294.


This cake is prepared during Ashoura – a Muslim day of rememberan­ce to commemorat­e the death of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the prophet Mohammad. The cake takes its name from El Aabbass, the half-brother of Imam Hussein, who was known for helping the poor and vulnerable. The cake is often given away to people attending the Ashoura gatherings.

For homemade kaak el Aabbass contact Emm Ali in Tyre, 03 649135.


This milk cake is made on the Thursday preceding Good Friday. The tradition continues to this day in Aarsal – a predominan­tly Muslim village – reminding us of the conviviali­ty among neighborin­g communitie­s of different faiths.

For homemade kaak el khamis contact Halime el Hujeiri in Aarsal, 03 110802.

 ?? Photo: Joe Sokhn ??
Photo: Joe Sokhn

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