I love Greek food. (of course!)
I especially have a soft spot for Greek sweets and cakes.
I love how a lot of Greek sweet treats are drenched in a sugar syrup that will have you visiting your dentist as soon as they are consumed.
I love how a lot of Greek sweets and cakes feature nuts as a central ingredient. And I especially love how cinnamon gets incorporated into many of these delicious morsels. As you can see there's a lot of love there!
What I don't love though is, as I get older I need to be careful how much of these sweets I eat!
I want to forget about being "older" for a moment and I want to relive those childhood memories of yesteryear.
And "karydopita" is the perfect way to do this! Karydopita (pronounced ka-ree-tho-pi-ta) is Greece's version of walnut cake or walnut pie. This was the cake of my childhood.
I watched my mother lovingly prepare this cake for namedays, birthdays and many other festive occasions. It was such a spectacle to see the walnut cake finished off with a warm sugar syrup. Right on cue, I would reach in and grab the first piece and hungrily eat away without a care in the world. My fingers were sticky but nothing else mattered (that's the beauty of being a kid!). It's hard to explain but for me this was perfection.
Karydopita is the perfect blend of walnuts, spicy cinnamon and a touch of citrus.
Fast forward to 2010 and do you think I could find a decent recipe for this Greek walnut pie?
My mother no longer bakes this as she finds it time consuming and has lost the recipe!!!!
I consulted my growing number of Greek cook books but not one of them had a recipe for karydopita. So I turned to what I should have done in the first place...consult the Greek Food blogging community. (I found a number of recipes for karydopita and I have listed them for further reading at the end of this post).
So how did it turn out?
It was delicious but somehow that nostalgic spark failed to light up. The recipe was perfect but I think it's me. I've changed.
Wiser? Not so sure. Perhaps a little disillusioned.
It's funny how foods can do that.
Anyway, I really do encourage you to make this and enjoy a litte bit of added sweetness in your life.
It's perfect with an espresso coffee for an afternoon tea or serve it up with ice cream or cream for a decadent dessert.
Karydopita - Greek Walnut Cake
For the cake
- 250 g butter, unsalted, softened
- 1 cup sugar, caster or superfine
- 6 egg yolks
- 1 tbsp brandy
- 1 orange, juice and zest
- 300 g walnuts, ground - make sure they are not too fine-we want a few chunky pieces in there
- 2 cups breadcrumbs, or crushed dried rusks
- 3 tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground cloves , optional
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 6 egg whites
For the sugar syrup
- 3 cups water
- 2 cups sugar, caster or superfine
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- Cream the sugar and butter in a mixer until it becomes nice and light. Add the egg yolks one at a time ensuring each one becomes fully incorporated into the batter.
- Add your cognac or brandy and the juice and zest and ensure this all mixes well.
- *In a separate bowl combine the walnuts, breadcrumbs the spices and baking powder. Slowly add this dry mixture to your batter ensuring it mixes well.*
- Beat your egg whites until stiff peaks form and gently fold this meringue into the batter
- Place the mixture into a pre oiled 24cm baking tin or tray and cook in a 180 deg C oven for 40-45 mins. Ensure the cake is cooked by using the old “skewer method”.
- Whilst the cake is cooking prepare your sugar syrup by boiling all the ingredients in a non reactive pot. Once the mixture comes to a boil, turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer for a further 10 mins until we have a nice thick syrup.
- Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool down slightly. Pour the sugar syrup over the cake until it becomes fully absorbed.
- Cut the walnut cake into diamond shapes (anything will do really) and serve immediately with a nice strong espresso.