Macsharo Yariis (Mini Rice and Coconut Cakes)

These delicious bite sized rice cakes are a traditional Swahili breakfast and snack favourite, but I was delighted when I encountered them in the coastal cities of southern Somalia. They are crunchy outside, and soft and fragrant inside.

In Swahili we call these delicious cakes vitumbua and macsharo in Somali. Growing up in Mombasa on the Kenyan coast I remember waking up to the call of the vitumbua sellers – vitumbua moto moto (hot, hot vitumbua).

Traditionally, we make the rice cakes in a small hollow pan which holds one cake at a time, but I couldn’t find this type of pan in Australia where I live now. Then a friend told me about the Danish Aebleskiver pan, a cast iron utensil that usually has nine holes – just perfect for cooking mini cakes and I was back in business! You can get the Aebleskiver pan on Amazon or eBay.

Incidentally, the macsharo yariis recipe can also be used to make rice pancakes called vibibi and a rice cake also called macsharo or mkate wa sinia in Swahili.

This recipe makes about 30 mini cakes. Serve warm with a cup of tea. If eating later, warm the cakes to soften the rice and enhance the flavours.

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Macsharo Yariis (Mini Rice and Coconut Cakes)

Recipe by:


2 cups basmati rice (soak overnight)
¾ cup coconut powder
1 tablespoon of instant yeast
¾ cup sugar
2 teaspoon plain flour (optional)
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 – 1 ¼ cup milk
Oil for cooking


1. Blend all the ingredients together to a smooth batter.
2. Add ¼ cup water if the mixture looks too thick. You need a pancake like consistency. Let the batter rest until it doubles in size. This should take about an hour or so.
3. Brush oil over the Aebleskiver pan and place on stove over medium heat.
4. Pour the mixture using a spoon and fill to the top.
5. Reduce the heat to low to allow the batter to cook through. You will notice tiny bubbles on the batter. This means they are cooking nicely. When brown at the bottom, use a skewer or wooden toothpick to flip and cook the other side.
6. Cook the rest of the rice cakes and place on a platter to serve.

Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 10 + people

23 Responses to “Macsharo Yariis (Mini Rice and Coconut Cakes)”

  1. Jayashree

    Glad to meet you here. Good to read your Somali dish and we prepare something similar in South India . Actually, that’s the reason I was intrigued to read your post. Thanks for sharing. We call it as a gundapongal or padd and use urad dal along with rice.

  2. TJ

    Hi there – if you don’t have the special pan, could you try baking them in a muffin tray and turning them over?

    • Somali Kitchen

      Hey TJ, we haven’t tried them in a muffin tray, but necessity is the mother of invention so give it a try. Please let us know how it turns out. You can also use the exact same recipe to make them into small pancakes on a flat pan or griddle.


    […] Macsharo yariis, which are mini rice and coconut cakes, are popularly eaten as snacks. They are made with basmati rice, coconut powder, yeast, ground cardamom, milk and oil. […]

  4. fati

    Is it okay to bake?
    Thank you..

  5. Bec

    Hello, could you make these savoury and leave out the sugar?

    • Somali Kitchen

      Hi Bec, we haven’t tried it without sugar, but see no reason why it shouldn’t work. Perhaps a bit of salt, chopped green chillies or spring onions and garlic? You can use coconut cream instead of the coconut powder we have in the recipe. Experiment and let us know how it turns out!

  6. Rachel

    Is coconut powder the same thing as coconut flour? This sounds great but I want to make it right!! Thanks!

    • Somali Kitchen

      Hi Rachel, coconut powder is the same dried form of coconut milk or cream so you can use the tinned liquid variety instead. Do let us know how it turns out.

  7. treefrog

    Hi, this looks delicious! If I want to use ready-made rice flour instead of whole rice, then how much do you think I should use for this recipe? Thank you 🙂

    • Somali Kitchen

      Hi Shimona, I haven’t tried it with ready made rice flour so not sure how that will turn out. Perhaps try two cups and see how that turns out.

  8. Ameena

    Hi dear
    I really want to try the recipe. Please can you tell me where you bought the square pan?
    Kind regards

  9. Ameenah O.

    This has a Nigerian equivalent, made in the northern part of Nigeria. We call it ‘Masa’, and it’s prepared the exact same way minus the coconut powder. Well done.

  10. Sara H

    I have had to learn so many new recipes due to my daughters sudden gluten allergy. I have an aebleskiver pan for pancake balls but we could no longer use the wheat recipe. The Macsharo Yariis are perfect, preparing them has become almost ritualistic. Oh and the smell………. 😋Thank you Somali Kitchen.

    • Somali Kitchen

      Hi Sara, we are so pleased to hear that you and your daughters enjoy macsharo yariis. Thanks for taking the time to share this with us – this is exactly why we wrote up and published these recipes – so that others can enjoy them as much as we do!

  11. Rayyan

    We have a very similar version in Nigeria…We call it MASA

  12. Nurah

    OMG I miss vitumbua. I live in USA and I couldn’t find a pan. Thank you so much for suggesting Aebleskiver pan. Can’t wait to find this pan and make this yummy recipe. Any suggestion pan for making Anjera?

    • Somali Kitchen

      We love them too, Nurah! While you wait for your aebleskiver pan try making them into little pancakes – same recipe. As you probably know this is known as vibibi or chila. You can also bake the same mixture into a cake (mkate wa kumimina or macsharo). We use a flatpan for canjeero as we cant’ get those heavy flat cast iron (birdaawe) from home.


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