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Portokalopita – Greek Orange Phyllo Cake

Portokalopita is a traditional Greek orange cake that is extraordinarily aromatic and moist. It is soaked in a mildly spiced orange syrup.

Portokalopita Greek Orange Phyllo CakePortokalopita (pronounced por-to-ka-LO-pi-ta) 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 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 

Eggs

Orange juice & zest

Vegetable oil

Baking powder

Baking soda

Cognac or brandy

Greek yogurt

Sugar

Cinnamon sticks

Cloves (optional)

HOW TO MAKE PORTOKALOPITA

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 dry out your phyllo sheets and crush them:

Portokalopita steps

Then you make the batter and bake the cake:

portokalopita steps part2

 

HOW TO SERVE PORTOKALOPITA

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! 

portokalopita with ice cream

Chocolate

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!

portokalopita with chocolate

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!

portokalopita greek orange phyllo cake

TIPS FOR SUCCESS

  • 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).

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

 

Let me know how this Portokalopita turns out for you in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you!

~Voula 😀

Portokalopita - Greek Orange Phyllo Cake

Portokalopita is a traditional Greek orange cake that is extraordinarily aromatic and moist. It is soaked in a mildly spiced orange syrup.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Greek
Keyword: Greek, orange, phyllo cake
Servings: 12

Equipment

  • one 10 x 12 inch or 9 x 13 inch (25 X 30 cm) pan

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

  • 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).
© Pastry Wishes
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Fresh Peach Upside-down Cake

This delicious summer cake is amazingly moist, buttery, and lightly spiced! It’s made with fresh peaches and a luscious, bourbon caramel topping.

fresh peach upside down cake

Peach season is officially here! This simple, yet impressive summer dessert is a great way to enjoy fresh peaches.

This fresh peach upside-down cake is always a crowd-pleaser!

What I love the most, though, is the bourbon caramel topping! It’s absolutely AMAZING! You don’t taste the bourbon in the cake, but together with the cinnamon and nutmeg, I think it really adds a nice subtle twist to the overall flavor!

You will absolutely LOVE this recipe because:

  • it’s insanely easy to make. 
  • you don’t have to line the pan with parchment paper.
  • you don’t have to peel the fruit.
  • it’s not overly sweet, so it’s perfect with ice cream or whipped cream, or even on its own, especially cold!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Sugar
  • Butter
  • Bourbon
  • Cinnamon and nutmeg
  • Fresh Peaches
  • All-purpose flour
  • Finely ground almonds
  • Baking powder
  • Salt
  • Eggs
  • Buttermilk
  • Vanilla

Before you start, you need to slice the peaches. 

How to evenly cut peaches without bruising them:

Using a sharp knife, start from the top of the peach and make one large cut all around it. 

Then use both hands to twist the peach open to get 2 halves. Remove the pit and slice each peach half into 4 even slices.

HOW TO MAKE FRESH PEACH UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE

After you make the bourbon caramel topping follow these simple steps:

upside-down peach cake steps

Then you bake the cake and flip it onto a serving platter or plate.

HOW TO STORE FRESH PEACH UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE

You can either store this cake in the refrigerator or freezer.

REFRIGERATOR

Store the cake covered, in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. I think it’s great cold, but if you want, you could heat it up in the microwave for about 30 seconds before serving.

FREEZER

I usually wrap individual pieces of cake in 1 or 2 freezer bags and then store them in the freezer for up to 2 months – just make sure they’re completely cooled. To thaw, just put them in the refrigerator overnight.

MORE FUN OPTIONS & SUBSTITUTES

  • For a more gourmet touch, you could sprinkle about 2-3 tablespoons of sugar over the top of the baked cake and then caramelize it using a kitchen torch or your oven broiler. It will create a nice crunchy sugar topping that will stay crunchy for about an hour or so.
  • Walnuts, sliced almonds, or pecans would be DIVINE with this cake!
  • Instead of bourbon, you can use cognac for the caramel topping (or your favorite whiskey).
  • You could also replace the vanilla with almond extract or some more bourbon!

fresh peach upside down cake

TIPS FOR SUCCESS

  • Don’t overmix the batter as this could make the cake dense, rather than light and fluffy. 
  • I use a 10 inch springform pan for this recipe. If you use a smaller pan, you might have some extra cake batter left over, in which case you could make a few cupcakes with it. Whatever pan you use, make sure you fill the batter no more than two-thirds of the way full. If you overfill your pan, the batter could spill out while baking!
  • I suggest baking the cake on a baking sheet just in case some of the caramel leaks from the springform pan. I always use a pizza pan for this. 
  • When the cake comes out of the oven, let it sit in the pan for about 5-10 minutes before inverting it. 
  • This cake is best served cold the next day, but you could serve it warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, if you like.

Let me know how this Fresh Peach Upside-down Cake turns out for you in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you!

~Voula 😃

fresh peach upside down cake

Fresh Peach Upside-down Cake

This delicious summer cake is amazingly moist, buttery, and lightly spiced! It’s made with fresh peaches and a luscious, bourbon caramel topping.
Prep Time25 mins
Cook Time1 hr 10 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: fresh, peach, upside-down, cake, summer, bourbon caramel
Servings: 10 -12

Equipment

  • 10 inch (25.5 cm) springform pan

Ingredients

For the bourbon caramel

  • ½ cup (100 g / 3.6 oz) packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup (50 g / 1.8 oz) unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup (50 ml / 1.7 fl oz)  bourbon
  • ½  cup (125 ml / 4 fl oz)  water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

For the cake

  • 2-3 fresh, ripe, but firm peaches, skins on, washed & pitted, each cut into 8 slices
  • 2 cups (254 g / 9 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup (50 g / 1.8 oz) finely ground almonds
  • ½ cup (113 g / 4 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup (150 g / 5.3 oz) granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature (or see the NOTES below on how to make your own)

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 °F / 175 °C.
  • If you're making your own buttermilk, see the NOTE below and make it now. Set aside.

Make the bourbon caramel topping

  • Combine the water, butter, sugar, bourbon, nutmeg, and cinnamon stick in a small saucepan or pot. Simmer on medium heat for about 15 minutes until it thickens and turns brown. 

Arrange the peach slices

  • Discard the cinnamon stick and pour the caramel all over the bottom of the pan. Arrange the peaches in a single layer over the caramel, covering the whole surface. Set aside.

Make the cake batter

  • In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and ground almonds. Set aside.
  • In another bowl, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until creamy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until well combined. On low speed, add the flour mixture and the buttermilk alternately until just combined. Don’t overmix.
  • Spread the batter evenly over the peaches, making sure to cover the entire surface.
  • Place the pan on a baking sheet just in case some of the caramel leaks out.
  • Bake for 50 - 70 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick in the middle of the cake comes out clean. 
  • Allow the cake to cool for about 5 minutes in the pan.

Flip the cake

  • Run a knife or spatula around the edge of the pan.
  • Place a serving platter or large plate on top of the cake and carefully flip the cake over. Let it sit for a few seconds and then unlatch the pan and gently lift it.
  • Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Or allow it to cool completely, refrigerate it, and serve it the next day.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

How to make your own buttermilk for this recipe:
Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to a measuring cup and fill it with enough milk to make 1 cup. Stir well and let it sit for 5-8 minutes before using.
Store in Refrigerator
Store the cake covered, in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. 
Store in Freezer
Wrap individual pieces of cake in 1 or 2 freezer bags and then store them in the freezer for up to 2 months – just make sure they’re completely cooled. To thaw, put them in the refrigerator overnight.
This cake is best served cold the next day. 
© Pastry Wishes
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The Best Carrot Cake (Easy + Tips)

There’s nothing quite like homemade carrot cake with cream cheese frosting! This scrumptious carrot cake is remarkably moist and ridiculously easy to make! It would be a perfect Mother’s Day gift, too!

carrot cake

This super simple, made-from-scratch carrot cake is wonderfully spiced, moist, and delicious. It’s topped with a delicious cream cheese frosting which is decadently luscious and fluffy.

I will never forget the first time I made this cake! I had recently gotten married and I wanted to make it for my husband because he had never tried it before. When I mentioned it to him, his response was something along the lines of …

“Carrots in a cake! Who on Earth would put carrots in a cake! That sounds  gross!”

So, I ignored him and made it anyway. Of course, after he tried it, he immediately became a carrot cake convert! It’s now his favorite cake – he even likes it more than chocolate cake! Go figure!

OMG! This cake!

You will absolutely LOVE it, too! I’m sure it will become your new go-to carrot cake recipe!

Instead of 2 layers, you could make the cake in a 9 x 13 inch (23 X 33 cm) pan or even a tube pan.

But I think a 2 layer cake is really pretty and impressive, though, don’t you?

carrot cake

This cake is made with only a few, simple ingredients.

Here’s what you’ll need:

flour

sugar

baking soda

ground cinnamon & ground nutmeg

salt

vegetable oil

eggs

milk

grated carrot

unsweetened, shredded/ground coconut

a few whole walnuts or pecans (to decorate)

Ideas for Add-ins

If you wish, you could add some raisins, chopped walnuts/pecans, or even toasted nuts. To be honest, though, I always avoid these add-ins because I feel they overpower the spices in the cake. Also, I find that the cake isn’t as tender with the add-ins, but this is my own preference. Feel free to add in whatever you like.

THE MOST IMPORTANT TIP FOR THE BEST CARROT CAKE EVER

Why use freshly grated carrots? Can’t I just finely chop them in a food processor?

This is really important – probably the greatest tip I could ever give!

YOU NEED TO GRATE THE CARROTS BY HAND – DO NOT FINELY CHOP THEM IN A FOOD PROCESSOR!!!

I cannot stress this enough!

I once experimented to see how this cake would turn out if I put the carrots in the food processor instead of grating them by hand. I mainly did this so that I could save some time, which I did, but …

the result???  A COMPLETE FLAVOR DISASTER!!! Why? Let me explain.

See all those tiny pieces of shredded carrots popping out in the photo below?

carrot cake

When I put the carrots in the food processor instead of shredding them by hand, I could barely see them in the cake. And worst of all, I could barely taste them! When the carrots are chopped so small, they’re practically invisible in the cake – almost as if they’re not in the cake at all!

Finely grated carrots by hand, though, will add just the right texture without making the cake crunchy.

So, I vowed NEVER to do that again and I promised to warn all fellow home bakers whenever I get the chance!

That time has come, my friends!

Bottom line: GRATE YOUR CARROTS BY HAND USING A BOX GRATER – DO NOT FINELY CHOP THEM IN A FOOD PROCESSOR!

More Tips for Carrot Cake Success

  • Make sure all your ingredients have come to room temperature before you begin.
  • Measure the flour correctly! Too much flour can make the cake dry and crumbly, and too little can make it dense and cause it to fall while baking.
  • Weighing all the ingredients with a digital scale will give consistent results.
  • Peel the carrots before grating them. Otherwise, they’ll leave a bitter aftertaste in the cake.
  • Avoid using packaged shredded carrots because they tend to be drier and thicker than freshly grated carrots. Freshly grated carrots add moisture and help make the cake moist. When you grate the carrots by hand, you’ll notice they’re a bit wet. This is what we’re looking for!
  • The secret to a super moist carrot cake is vegetable oil! Butter or margarine will not give the same results.
  • Do not overmix the batter. Mix everything until just combined.
  • Let the cakes cool in their pans for about 15 minutes. Then remove the cakes from the pans and transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. This will ensure you don’t damage them so they look pretty when it comes time to decorate!

How to Freeze Unfrosted Cakes

You can easily freeze the cakes if you want to plan ahead for a future event.

  • Make sure the cakes have cooled completely.
  • Tightly wrap each cake layer in plastic wrap and then put them in sealable freezer bags. The cakes can be kept in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • To thaw, put the cakes in the refrigerator overnight or let them come to room temperature, about 3 hours.

 TIPS FOR THE BEST CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

This cream cheese frosting is slightly tangy and goes so well with carrot cake. All you need is butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and powdered sugar. You can use salted butter if you want to balance the sweetness.

I also suggest using full-fat cream cheese as opposed to the low fat kind because it helps to make the frosting thick. This frosting is perfectly spreadable, but if you want to decorate the cake with a piping bag, just put it in the refrigerator (covered) for about half an hour to stiffen it up a bit.

Tips for Assembling & Decorating the Cake

  • Before I pour the batter into each pan, I weigh it first and then divide it equally between both pans. This not only ensures that the cakes are the same size and weight, but they will also bake evenly.
  • If you want to get fancy, you could trim the cakes to make them flat on the top and then save the trimmings, but I don’t usually bother.
  • Make sure the cake has cooled completely before frosting it. If you frost the cake while it’s still warm, you’ll end up with a melted, messy, cream cheese frosting!

I hope you enjoy this amazing carrot cake!

~Voula

Let me know how this carrot cake turned out for you in the comments.

I’d love to hear from you!

The Best Carrot Cake (Easy + Tips)

There’s nothing quite like homemade carrot cake with cream cheese frosting! This scrumptious carrot cake is remarkably moist and ridiculously easy to make! It would be a perfect Mother’s Day gift, too!
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time50 mins
Total Time2 hrs
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: carrot cake, cream cheese frosting, Mother's Day, homemade,
Servings: 10 - 12

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 2½ cups (320 g / 11.3 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups (300 g / 10.6 oz) sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoonground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup light vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 ½ cups (265 g / 9 oz) grated carrots (about 4-5 large carrots), peeled first
  • ½ cup (60g) unsweetened, shredded/ground coconut
  • about 20 whole walnuts or pecans (optional)

For the frosting

  • 225 g (8oz) full fat cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup (113g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 ½ cups (560 g / 1lb 1.4 oz) powdered sugar, plus an extra ½ cup if needed

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 325 °F / 165°C.
  • Grease & lightly flour 2 8-inch (20 cm) pans & line them with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
  • Add the oil, eggs (one at a time), and milk. Beat on low speed until well combined, scraping the bowl often. Add the carrots and the coconut and beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes, scraping the bowl once or twice. Do not overmix.
  • Weigh the batter and pour equal amounts into the prepared pans.
  • Bake for about 50-60 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  • Let them cool in the pans for about 15 minutes. Then remove the cakes from the pans and transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the cream cheese frosting

  • Beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla on low speed until smooth and creamy.
  • Gradually add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, beating until smooth. Scrape the sides of the bowl often.
  • Add the extra ½ cup powdered sugar if you want the frosting a bit stiffer and thicker.
  • Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 6 days.

Assemble & frost the cake

  • Place a cake layer on a platter or a cake stand. Top with half of the frosting. Place the other cake layer on top and use the remaining frosting to frost the top. Decorate with whole walnuts or pecans.
  • Store in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to 5-6 days.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

Baking time
All ovens are different, so baking times may vary. Check on the cake after about 45 minutes.
To freeze unfrosted cakes
Make sure the cakes have cooled completely.
Tightly wrap each cake layer in plastic wrap and then put them in sealable freezer bags. The cakes can be kept in the freezer for up to 3 months.
To thaw, put the cakes in the refrigerator overnight or let them come to room temperature, about 3 hours.
To freeze the cream cheese frosting
The cream cheese frosting can be frozen for up to 2 ½ months. Allow it to thaw in the refrigerator and beat it for about a minute to make it creamy.
© Pastry Wishes
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GREEK HALVA CAKE (STEP-BY-STEP TUTORIAL + VARIATIONS)

This delicious no-bake cake is made with semolina, honey syrup, nuts, and raisins. It’s delicately spiced with cinnamon and cloves.

Greek Halva Cake

Halva (pronounced hal-VA) is a popular Greek dessert. If you’re not familiar with this dessert, it is made with semolina and honey syrup.

This stove-top dessert is pretty straightforward to make and it’s so delicious!

What is halva?

Halva has origins in the Middle East and you can find many different variations in the Balkans and Eastern Europe, too.

Halva is popular in Greece, especially during periods of Orthodox Christian fasting because it’s dairy free and egg free.

In Greece, there are 3 main kinds of halva.

There is a halva called “Halvas Farsalon” (from a region in central Greece called Farsala), which is made with cornstarch, butter, almonds and a unique caramel crust.

Then there’s one made with tahini paste, almonds and/or honey and sugar.

Finally, there’s one made with semolina and honey syrup, which this post is about.

Here’s what you need to make Greek Halva Cake:

halva ingredients

HOW TO MAKE GREEK HALVA CAKE

1 MAKE THE SYRUP – Just put all the syrup ingredients in a saucepan, stir and boil for 5 minutes.

halva syrup

After 5 minutes, remove the spices and the peel. The syrup will be a light caramel color.

honey syrup

2 HEAT THE OIL & TOAST THE SEMOLINA – Heat the oil on medium-high, then add the semolina. Stir continuosly while toasting, otherwise it will burn.

halva pot

3 TOAST UNTIL GOLDEN BROWN – When it turns golden brown, add the raisin and nuts and stir.

halvapot

4 GRADUALLY ADD THE SYRUP – Take the pot off the heat and add the syrup a little bit at a time, allowing the semolina to absorb it. Be careful because it will splatter. When all the syrup has been added, put the pot back on the heat, reduce to low and stir until it thickens.

5 SPOON THE MIXTURE INTO A PREPARED CAKE PAN – Spread the mixture into a cake pan and use the back of a spoon to smooth out and flatten the top.

halva pan

6 ALLOW TO COOL  – Let it cool for about 1 ½ hours, then turn the halva cake over onto a platter, dust with cinnamon, and top with walnuts.

greek halva cake

TIPS FOR SUCCESS:

  • Make sure you have a deep pot like a soup pot because the semolina needs a lot of space when cooking. It will also offer better protection from the splattering when you add the syrup.
  • A long wooden spoon makes stirring easier. The handle will also stay cool while stirring the hot semolina.
  • When you add the semolina to the hot oil, you need to stir constantly so that it doesn’t burn. You’re ready to remove it from the heat when the semolina turns a golden brown and smells toasty. If the semolina burns, it gets dark and the halva will have a bitter aftertaste. Once the semolina is ready, take the pot off the stove before adding the syrup.
  • Let the halva cool for at least an hour before slicing it, otherwise it may fall apart.

halva cake slice

POSSIBLE VARIATIONS:

If you want to customize your Halva cake, feel free to…

  • use different pans/serving bowls. Instead of a bundt pan or cake pan, you could serve the Halva in individual bowls.
  • use different nuts. This cake would be great with pistachios, almonds or even pine nuts!
  • add semisweet/bittersweet chocolate. You could add chunks of semisweet/bittersweet chocolate to the semolina mixture and stir until it melts. You can never go wrong with chocolate!
  • use a different topping. You could top the cake with melted chocolate! Yum!
  • serve it with ice cream or whipped cream. Delish!
  • serve it warm with some extra honey on top. This is how I enjoy Halva cake! I just heat a slice in the microwave and drizzle some honey over it! 😋

I hope you enjoy this Greek Halva Cake!

~Voula 😊

halva cake

Let me know how this Greek Halva Cake turns out for you in the comments below!

I’d love to hear from you!

If you want more yummy Greek desserts, you’ll love these:

GREEK HALVA CAKE (STEP-BY-STEP TUTORIAL + VARIATIONS)

This delicious no-bake cake is made with semolina, honey syrup, nuts, and raisins. It’s delicately spiced with cinnamon and cloves.
Prep Time20 mins
Resting Time1 hr 30 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Greek
Keyword: Greek, Halva, Cake, No-bake, honey, semolina
Servings: 10 -12

Ingredients

For the syrup

  • 5 cups water
  • 2 cups (400 g / 14.2 oz) sugar
  • 2 heaping tablespoons honey (about 50 g / 1.7 oz)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 5-6 whole cloves
  • 1 whole lemon peel

For the cake

  • 1 cup (250 ml / 8 oz) olive oil
  • 2 cups (400 g / 14.2 oz) coarse semolina (or 1 cup coarse & 1 cup fine)
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • 100 g (3.5 oz) walnuts

For the topping (optional)

  • 1-2 tablespoons honey
  • chopped walnuts
  • cinnamon

Instructions

Prep the pan

  • Lightly grease a bundt pan (or other cake pan) with some olive oil. Set aside.

Make the syrup

  • In a saucepan add all the ingredients listed for the syrup, stir and bring to a boil. Allow it to boil for about 5 minutes. Take it off the heat and remove the spices. Set aside.

Make the cake

  • Heat the olive oil in a deep pot on medium-high heat. Add the semolina and stir with a wooden spoon. Be careful! You need to stir it continuously, otherwise it will burn. When it turns golden brown, add the raisin and nuts and stir. Take the pot off the heat. Carefully pour a little bit of the honey syrup to the semolina and stir constantly until it has absorbed the syrup. Be careful! It will splatter! Add the remaining syrup and put the pot back on the heat, reduce to low and stir until the mixture thickens.
  • Transfer the semolina mixture to the prepared bundt pan and spread the top evenly with the back of a spoon. Allow it to cool completely (about 1 ½ hours).
  • Turn the halva over onto a cake platter/dish. Sprinkle with some cinnamon and top with nuts and honey.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

* Keep the Halva Cake covered in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.
© Pastry Wishes
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Ouzo-spiked Chocolate Orange Cake 

Anyone for a slice of ouzo-spiked orange chocolate cake? This orange cake is made with a delicious chocolate ganache with a hint of ouzo which gives it a very subtle, yet distinctive flavor. You will definitely impress your guests with this unique cake!

ouzo-spiked chocolate orange cake

I have a confession to make. 

I do not like ouzo! 

If you’re not Greek, you’re probably saying “What?!? You’re Greek!” 

And if you’re Greek, you’re probably saying “What?!? How can you possibly not enjoy a shot of ouzo with a ‘meze’ by a beautiful beachside tavern overlooking the Aegean?”

I know, I know… weird!

I just never liked ouzo. I’m pretty sure I’m the only one in my family that doesn’t like it!  

Having said that, though, I do like ouzo in some desserts. For example, it’s wonderful in Kourabiedes!

If you’re not familiar with Ouzo, it has a unique flavor which I find pairs well with chocolate! It’s not intense, but it offers a very delicate aroma and taste. Together with the orange cake, it’s phenomenal! 

This ouzo-spiked chocolate orange cake is remarkably moist, but not too sweet or rich.

Ouzo-spiked chocolate orange cake

Why you’ll love this Ouzo-spiked Chocolate Orange Cake:

This cake is really easy to make with simple ingredients. It would also make a beautiful gift! 

You could also top the chocolate ganache with some extra orange zest or even chopped nuts! 

Orange + Chocolate + Ouzo = A DELICIOUS COMBINATION!

I really hope you enjoy this cake!

~Voula

Let me know how this Ouzo-spiked Chocolate Orange Cake turned out for you in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you!

ouzo-spiked chocolate orange cake

OUZO-SPIKED CHOCOLATE ORANGE CAKE

Prep Time15 mins
Course: Dessert
Keyword: chocolate orange cake, ganache, ouzo

Ingredients

  • 2 ½  cups (320 g / 11.2 oz) all purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (4 oz / 113 g) butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) sugar
  • Zest of 4 oranges, finely grated (use less if you don’t want an intense orange flavor)
  • Juice from 1 orange (about ¼ cup / 60 ml / 2 fl oz)
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup buttermilk (or regular milk plus 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice)

Ouzo Chocolate Ganache

  • 100 gr (3.5 oz) good quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 100 ml (3.5 fl oz) heavy cream
  • ½ tablespoon Ouzo 

Optional Toppings

  • finely grated orange zest or chopped walnuts

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 175 °C / 350 °F
  • Grease and flour a (fluted) tube pan or Bundt pan. Set aside.

Make the cake

  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  • In another bowl, beat the butter with a hand mixer until creamy (about 1-2 minutes).
  • Add the orange zest and sugar and beat until fluffy (about 3 minutes), scraping the bowl frequently.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, beating on medium speed for about a minute after each addition.
  • Add the flour mixture, the orange juice, and buttermilk alternately to the butter mixture, beating on high speed until thoroughly combined.
  • Pour into prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. When it’s done, remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool in the pan for about 15 minutes.
  • Then invert the cake on a wire rack or a large serving plate and allow it to cool completely before adding the Ouzo Chocolate Ganache.

Make the Ouzo Chocolate Ganache

  • Heat the cream until very hot, but not boiling.
  • Pour the cream over the finely chopped chocolate and set aside for about 2 minutes. Stir the chocolate mixture until the chocolate has melted, and then stir in the ouzo.
  • Pour/Spoon the Ouzo Chocolate Ganache on the cooled cake. If you want, decorate with extra orange zest or chopped walnuts.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

If you don’t have buttermilk, just add a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to milk. Stir and let it sit for a few minutes.
© Pastry Wishes

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Vasilopita – Greek New Year’s Cake

Ring in the New Year with this easy, yummy, mildly spiced traditional Greek cake! It is the highlight of the New Year’s celebration among Greeks all around the world!

Vasilopita Greek New Year's Cake

What is Vasilopita?

Vasilopita (pronounced va-see-LO-pee-ta) is a traditional Greek New Year’s cake commemorating St. Basil. The name Basil in Greek is Vasili, hence the name Vasilopita, which means Basil’s cake/bread.

In Greece, there are two kinds of Vasilopita: a cake and a brioche-style bread.  Recipes and decorations vary from region to region. A coin is hidden inside the Vasilopita and whoever finds the coin in their slice is said to have good luck for the entire year!

Why is there a coin hidden inside?

St. Basil is believed to have started this tradition over 1500 years ago when he hid coins and jewelry in breads to give to the poor. This is why some Orthodox Christians exchange Christmas gifts on January 1 instead of December 25. You can read more about St. Basil here: https://www.oca.org/saints/lives/2019/01/01/100003-saint-basil-the-great-archbishop-of-caesarea-in-cappadocia

What are some of the customs associated with Vasilopita?

In Greece, eating Vasilopita is not just for families. Businesses, clubs, and associations also serve Vasilopita, where members or employees who find the hidden coin inside their slice are usually given money or a gift.

Some families serve it right after midnight on New Year’s Eve, while others serve it on New Year’s Day.

In my family, we always have it on New Year’s Day, with a big family dinner. When it comes time for dessert, you’ll  always find Melomakarona and Kourabiedes on the table, but the center of attention is the Vasilopita, where it is cut to bless the house for the New Year.

Vasilopita Greek New Year's Cake

What you’ll need:

Butter: I always use unsalted butter.

Flour & baking powder: I often use self-rising flour for convenience, but you can use all-purpose flour, too.

Spices: I use a combination of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

Fruit: Some orange zest and orange juice.

Alcohol: Cognac or Brandy.

Nuts: Chopped walnuts.

Sugar & salt: I use granulated sugar, powdered sugar and a pinch of salt.

Eggs: I use organic.

Vanilla: Some vanilla essence/extract.

Milk: I use skimmed milk, but you can use any kind of milk.

Coin & aluminum foil: A clean coin wrapped in aluminum foil.

White chocolate & food coloring: I used white chocolate mixed with some gel food coloring to write the year on the top of the cake, but this is optional.

How do you add the coin?

There are two ways to add the coin. One way is to wrap a coin with aluminum foil and put it in the batter before baking the cake. The other way is to insert the foil wrapped coin into the bottom AFTER the cake is baked.

I prefer adding the coin after the cake is baked because if you put the coin in the batter before baking, it will drop to the bottom of the pan. But if you insert the coin after the Vasilopita is baked, you ensure that it will be well-hidden inside and no one will be able to find it by looking at the bottom of their slice!

How do you decorate the Vasilopita?

For this Vasilopita cake you could just dust with powdered sugar, or you could write the year on top of the powdered sugar using melted chocolate, sliced almonds or even pomegranate seeds. You could also cover it with melted white chocolate.

Vasilopita Greek New Year's Cake

I wish you all a joyous 2020 full of love, happiness and prosperity!

Happy New Year!

 Please let me know how this Vasilopita turned out for you in the comments! I would love to hear from you!

Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Vasilopita - Greek New Year's Cake

Ring in the New Year with this easy, yummy, mildly spiced traditional Greek cake! It is the highlight of the New Year’s celebration among Greeks all around the world!
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Greek
Keyword: Vasilopita, Greek, New Year's, Cake
Servings: 12 (approximately)

Ingredients

For the Cake

  • 250 g (1 cup/ 8 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups (400 g /14 oz) granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract/essence
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • ¼ cup (55 ml/ 2 fl oz) cognac or brandy
  • 1 cup (250 ml / 8 fl oz) milk
  • 500 g (4 ¼ cups/ 18.2 oz) self-rising flour*
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 ½ cups (200 g/ 7 oz) finely chopped walnuts
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • a pinch of salt
  • a clean coin wrapped in aluminum foil

For the Topping

  • about 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • some pomegranate seeds (optional)
  • 100 g (4 oz) white chocolate, melted (optional)
  • 1-2 teaspoons light vegetable oil (optional)
  • some red gel food coloring (optional)

Instructions

  • Make the topping first. Add some vegetable oil to the melted chocolate and stir. Then add some red food coloring and mix. Add more oil if the chocolate gets too thick.
  • Put the melted chocolate in a piping bag or your container of choice and write the year on
    some wax paper. Set it aside and allow it to dry completely.
  • Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F).
  • Grease and line a 26 cm (10 in) round pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, walnuts, spices and salt together. Set aside.
  • In another bowl, cream the butter with a hand mixer for about 1-2 minutes on low speed.
  • Add the sugar, and the orange zest to the butter and beat until creamy, about 3 minutes, scraping the bowl frequently.
  • Then add the vanilla and the eggs, one at a time, beating on medium speed for about a minute after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl a few times until everything is well incorporated.
  • Add the dry ingredients, the orange juice, the cognac/brandy, and the milk alternately to the butter mixture, beating on high speed until thoroughly combined. If you want, add the foil wrapped coin to the batter now, otherwise insert it after the cake is baked.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 – 50 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick in the middle comes out clean.
  • When the cake is done, take it out of the oven and allow it to cool completely.
  • Remove the cake from the pan, flip it over and remove the parchment paper. Add the foil wrapped coin now if you didn’t put it in the batter.
  • Place the cake on a plate and dust it with powdered sugar. Decorate with pomegranate seeds.
  • Gently remove the chocolate decorations from the parchment paper and place on the cake.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

*If self-rising flour is not available, you can use 4 ¼ cups all-purpose flour mixed with 4 teaspoons baking powder, instead.
Every oven is different, so baking times may vary. Check on the cake after about 40 minutes. Also please test to see if the cake is done by inserting a toothpick in the middle of the cake. You’ll know it’s done when it comes out clean.
© Pastry Wishes
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Lemon Pomegranate Cake

This moist, colorful Lemon Pomegranate Cake is EASY, delicious and oh, so pretty – perfect for entertaining or a gift! It is sure to be a crowd-pleaser!

Lemon Pomegranate Cake
Looking for an impressive, simple cake, but don’t want to spend the whole day in the kitchen? Want to stand out at your next potluck party, family function, or event? Look no further! This Lemon Pomegranate Cake is for you!

Lemon Pomegranate Cake
Pomegranates are one of my all-time favorite fruits. Not only do they taste great, but they’re also nutritional powerhouses, full of antioxidants and vitamins. I also love the beautiful, ruby red color of the seeds (also known as arils)! Just perfect for cake decorating! If you live anywhere that actually grows pomegranates, I highly recommend you buy them when they’re in season.

How do you de-seed and juice a pomegranate?
De-seeding pomegranates is easy, although it can be a bit messy as they tend to stain. First, roll a pomegranate on the counter a few times. This helps to loosen the seeds inside. Then cut it in half. Hold one half over a large bowl with the seeds facing down. With the other hand, use the back of a wooden spoon and whack it hard a few times to knock out all the seeds. Then remove the pith (the white membrane) that may fall into the bowl. To make the juice, I cut the pomegranate in half and squeeze it using an ordinary orange juicer.

The Secret to the Gorgeous Pink Glaze
Just look at that beautiful pink glaze!!

Lemon Pomegranate Cake
You don’t need any food coloring for this glaze and it’s SO easy to make. I just whisk together freshly squeezed pomegranate juice (gradually) to sifted powdered sugar. I’ve never made this glaze with store-bought pomegranate juice, though, because I’ve been told that it doesn’t produce the same vibrant color, so I always use fresh pomegranate juice.

Please let me know how this lemon pomegranate cake turns out for you in the comments. I would love to hear from you!

Lemon Pomegranate Cake

This moist, colorful pomegranate cake is EASY, delicious and oh, so pretty – perfect for entertaining or a gift!  It is sure to be a crowd-pleaser! 
Course: Dessert
Servings: 1 loaf
Author: Voula

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (about 242 gr) (8.6 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (113 gr) (4 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cups (150 gr) (5.3 oz) granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) (5.3 oz) lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 pomegranate, half of it de-seeded, the other half juiced
  • 1 cup  (125 gr) (12 oz) powdered sugar
  • 50 g (1.8 oz) pistachios, shelled and coarsely chopped

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 180 °C / 350° F
  • Grease a standard loaf pan and line it with parchment paper.
  • Cut the pomegranate in half. De-seed one half and set aside. Juice the other half and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside. 
  • In another bowl, cream the butter with a hand mixer for about 1-2 minutes on low speed.
  • Add the sugar  and the lemon zest to the butter and beat until creamy and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping the bowl frequently. 
  • Then add the vanilla and the eggs, one at a time, beating on medium speed for about a minute after each addition. DO NOT OVERMIX. Scrape the sides of the bowl a few times until everything is well incorporated. 
  • Add the dry ingredients, the lemon juice, and the milk alternately to the butter mixture, beating on high speed until thoroughly combined. 
  • Gently fold half of the pomegranate seeds into the batter (reserve the remaining seeds).
  • Pour into prepared pan and bake for 45 – 50 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick in the middle comes out clean.
  • Allow to cool and remove from the pan.
  • For the pink glaze: Sift the powdered sugar in a bowl and add the pomegranate juice, one tablespoon at a time and whisk together. Add more juice, one tablespoon at a time for a darker color.
  • Drizzle the glaze on the cooled cake and top with the reserved pomegranate seeds and chopped pistachios.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

You can skip adding the pomegranate seeds in the batter if you prefer.
You could use 2 cups self-rising flour instead of all-purpose flour, just omit the baking powder.
Every oven is different, so baking times may vary. Check on the cake after about 40 minutes. Also please test to see if the cake is done by inserting a toothpick in the middle of the cake. You'll know it's done when it comes out clean.
©Pastry Wishes
 
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