Portokalopita is a traditional Greek orange cake that is extraordinarily aromatic and moist. It is soaked in a mildly spiced orange syrup.
Portokalopita (pronounced por-to-ka-LO-pi-ta) is a Greek orange phyllo cake that is a very popular dessert in Greece, but it’s a bit unusual and nothing like my other cake recipes on the blog!
If you’re an orange lover, though, you will absolutely love this cake! It’s really fragrant and orangey.
What is Portokalopita?
In Greek, portokali means orange and pita means pie and portokalopita means orange pie. Technically speaking, this recipe is not a pie, but I'm assuming it got its name because of the phyllo dough that’s in it.
Phyllo dough (or filo) is often used in making Greek pies, like spanakopita (spinach pie) or tiropita (cheese pie).
However, for this recipe, instead of creating a filling in between sheets of phyllo dough, the phyllo dough sheets have been dried out and shredded ON PURPOSE and put INSIDE the cake batter!
The result? Phenomenal! The texture is fluffy and light and very moist.
Even though oranges aren’t in season right now, I always make portokalopita in the summer because my family loves it served cold with ice cream. Of course, you can serve it warm or at room temperature any time of the year.
What I really like, though, is that this recipe is very straightforward and simple!
WORKING WITH PHYLLO DOUGH
If you’ve ever made anything with phyllo dough before, like my Greek Baklava Rolls (Saragli) recipe, you’ll know that it’s very, very delicate and you need to protect it from drying out; otherwise you won’t be able to use it.
Well, with this recipe, you don’t have to worry about that at all because you need to dry out the phyllo sheets and crush them into tiny pieces.
HOW TO DRY OUT PHYLLO DOUGH
There are different ways to do this. Some people choose to place the phyllo sheets on a large surface and let them dry out on their own. The downside is that this could take anywhere from 1-3 hours, depending on where you live and the climate, as well as how humid it is.
For me, the easiest and fastest way to dry out the phyllo sheets is to bake them in the oven. It saves so much time because it only takes about 10-15 minutes. Some people separate each sheet before drying them out in the oven, but I find this to be time-consuming and messy, so I dry them out a little differently (see the picture tutorial below).
HOW TO CRUSH THE PHYLLO DOUGH
When the phyllo dough sheets have completely dried out, you need to crush them. I usually do it over a large bowl, but sometimes I just crush the sheets over the baking sheet that I dried them on. If you have kids, I’m sure they would love to help you out with this! As you crush the dough in your hands, it'll sound like someone is eating a lot of potato chips!
What you need to make Portokalopita:
Phyllo dough sheets
Orange juice & zest
Cognac or brandy
HOW TO MAKE PORTOKALOPITA GREEK ORANGE PHYLLO CAKE
The first thing to do is make the syrup and let it cool. I usually make it a few hours ahead and put it in the refrigerator so it’s nice and cold.
After that, you need to dry out your phyllo sheets.
Slice the phyllo dough into 8-10 pieces.
Then unroll each piece and separate all the strips.
Spread the strips of phyllo dough evenly onto 2 baking sheets and dry them out in the oven. You might need to toss them over so that all sides dry out.
Then using both hands, finely crush the dried out phyllo dough in a large bowl.
Then you make the batter spread it evenly in the pan and bake the cake.
Using a toothpick, poke holes all over the cake.
Pour the syrup over the cake, one ladle at a time. Give it some time to soak it up.
HOW TO SERVE PORTOKALOPITA ORANGE PHYLLO CAKE
Portokalopita can be served in so many delicious ways! Here are a few of my favorites! You should definitely give them ALL a try!
Warm or cold
You can serve it warm or cold with some vanilla ice cream or Greek yogurt. Personally, I really think Portokalopita tastes a lot better the next day, straight out of the fridge. It’s just perfect for hot summer days!
OMG! Chocolate and orange are a match made in Heaven!!! Chocolate goes so well with Portokalopita! The combination is to die for! You can drizzle some homemade chocolate syrup on top or make the delicious chocolate ganache topping that I’ve included in the recipe card!
Orange slices or fruit preserves
You could also add fresh (or candied) orange slices or fruit preserves on top for a more impressive presentation and extra flavor!
TIPS FOR THE BEST PORTOKALOPITA - GREEK ORANGE PHYLLO CAKE
- The phyllo dough sheets need to be COMPLETELY dried out. Traditional Portokalopita is always made with dried, crushed phyllo dough. If you don’t dry out the phyllo dough, it will clump together in the batter. If there are clumps of fresh phyllo in the batter, the cake won’t bake evenly and you won’t get the same texture throughout the cake.
- When adding the shredded phyllo sheets to the batter, you need to do it a little at a time; otherwise the pieces won’t be evenly distributed.
- I used a 10 x 12 inch (25 x 30 cm) pan, but you could also use a 9 x 13 inch (23 x 33 cm) pan.
- If you use a nonstick pan, you don't need to butter and flour it.
- When the cake is done, use a toothpick or a wooden souvlaki skewer to poke holes all over it before adding the syrup. This will help it absorb the syrup faster.
- Like all Greek desserts made with syrup, you either add the cold syrup to the hot dessert or vice versa. For this recipe, I add the cold syrup to the hot cake.
- Add the syrup one ladle at a time, allowing the cake to absorb it before adding more syrup.
- Let the cake cool COMPLETELY before cutting it (at least an hour).
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
You can easily store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to about a week.
I wouldn't recommend freezing this cake because I think it'll get really soggy.
WANT TO TRY MORE GREEK RECIPES? CHECK THESE OUT:
- How to make ancient Greek sesame bars (Pasteli)
- Rizogalo (Greek Rice Pudding + Vegan Option)
- Koulourakia (Greek Easter Cookies)
- Greek Halva Cake
- Greek Baklava Rolls (Saragli) - Refined Sugar Free
Let me know how this Portokalopita Greek Orange Phyllo Cake turns out for you in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you!
Portokalopita - Greek Orange Phyllo Cake
- one 10 x 12 inch or 9 x 13 inch (25 X 30 cm) pan
For the orange syrup
- 1 ¼ cup (250 g / 9 oz) sugar
- 1 cup (250 ml / 8 fl oz) water
- 1 cup (250 ml / 8 fl oz) freshly squeezed orange juice
- 2 tablespoons cognac or brandy
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 3-4 whole cloves (optional)
For the cake
- 1 pound (450 g) phyllo dough, thawed (1 package)
- 1 cup (250 ml / 8 fl oz) light vegetable oil
- 1 cup (200 g / 7 oz) sugar
- 3 eggs
- zest from 3-4 oranges
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 container Greek yogurt (200 g / 7 oz - I used 2%)
- ¼ cup (60 ml / 2 fl oz) milk
For the chocolate ganache (Optional)
- 4.4 oz / 125 g semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons heavy cream or milk
Prep the pan
- Lightly grease and flour the pan. Set aside.
Make the orange syrup
- In a saucepan over medium heat, add the sugar, water, orange juice, and cognac/brandy and whisk/stir it for about 1 minute to dissolve the sugar. Add the spices and gently simmer for about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool and then refrigerate while preparing the cake.
Dry and shred the phyllo dough
- Preheat the oven to 212 °F / 100°C.
- Without unrolling the phyllo dough, slice it into 8-10 pieces.
- Unroll each piece and separate all the strips of dough.
- Evenly spread the strips of dough onto 2 baking sheets and bake for about 10-15 minutes, bringing the strips of dough on the bottom of the sheet to the top halfway through the baking time.
- Finely crush the dried phyllo, a few strips at a time, using both hands. You can do this on the baking sheet or in a large bowl. Set aside.
Make the batter
- Set the oven temperature to 392 °F / 200°C.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the oil and sugar together for about two minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, until the mixture is a pale yellow color.
- Add the zest, the baking powder, baking soda, yogurt, and milk and mix until everything is well combined.
- Using a silicone spatula, gently fold in the crushed phyllo dough, a handful at a time. Do not add the phyllo dough all at once.
- Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, until it becomes golden brown.
- When done, take it out of the oven and immediately poke the entire cake with a toothpick or souvlaki skewer and pour the orange syrup over it, one ladle at a time.
- Let it cool completely before cutting or adding the chocolate ganache (at least an hour). Refrigerate.
Make the chocolate ganache
- In a heat-proof bowl, preferably glass, add the chocolate, cream/milk, and butter and place it over a pot of just simmering water. Stir until the chocolate melts completely. Spread it over the cooled cake.
- Store the cake in an airtight container in the fridge for about a week.
- The phyllo dough sheets need to be COMPLETELY dried out.
- When adding the shredded phyllo sheets to the batter, you need to do a little at a time, otherwise the pieces won’t be evenly distributed.
- Add the syrup a ladle at a time, allowing the cake to absorb it before adding more syrup.
- Let it cool COMPLETELY before cutting it (at least an hour).