Saturday, May 7, 2011

ingredient: καρύδι

Ok, ok, you got me. I've already done a post on walnuts. And honey for that matter. But I couldn't resist sharing this recipe for Karithopita, or Greek Walnut Syrup Cake. It's completely delicious and like all good baking it hits close to home.

When I was growing up, I always looked forward to eating out at Gus's Place, a Greek restaurant in the West Village that was run by some family friends. Gus was always more than just an owner of a restaurant- he was a gregarious host who gave the place heart and warmth in a way that has become sadly hard to find. The restaurant at that time was in a beautiful corner spot on Waverly Place. In the summer months, they'd throw open the entire front wall of glass doors and you could sit, enjoying the food and watching the people happily stroll by. (And if you got there at the right hour, you'd also see the drunk, festive group from the show Tony and Tina's Wedding parade past on the way to the "reception" next door.)

Though it's hard to choose, my favorite dishes at Gus's were the tiny fried fish and the ravani. The tiny fried fish were only available when Gus could procure them- I seem to remember him saying something about ocean tides- which definitely added to the allure. You ate the little fish whole, eyeballs and tailfins and all. They had a salty, slightly oily but freshest ocean taste and a crispy, flaky batter.

Of course my other favorite dish is a dessert. Ravani is a traditional Greek semolina cake that's soaked in syrup. Semolina flour gives the cake a dense texture and slightly toasted, nutty flavor. I loved the way the cake stays firm though it's been drenched in honeyed syrup, each bite containing a hit of sugar that you could feel in your toes.

This cake is not ravani- instead of semolina flour you use ground toasted wanuts. But the type of cake is the same: dense, nutty, each bite deeply satisying. Of course this is also soaked in a honey syrup (NB: I'll eat anything soaked in honey syrup. Baklava. Galaktoboureko. Bougatsa. Figs. Yogurt. Honey. That's right, honey soaked in honey syrup. Bring it on.) Left to soak overnight (or more), this cake is fool-proofly moist. So in the spirit of Gus and all the Theodoros, I give you this recipe.

(Greek Walnut Syrup Cake)

Serves 8
adapted from George Calombaris


for cake:
2 1/4 cups flour
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 stick plus 2 tbsp diced butter
12 ounces milk
2 eggs
9 ounces walnuts, toasted and ground to a coarse meal

for syrup:

2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
9 ounces honey
juice of one lemon


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 by 8 inch baking pan.

Put flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon into a food processor. Pulse for five seconds. Add butter and blend until smooth.

Add milk and eggs and pulse until smooth. Add crushed walnuts and pulse for 5 seconds.

Pour batter into prepared baking pan. Bake for 45 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Set cake aside to cool.

Combine all ingredients for syrup in a medium saucepan. Place saucepan over medium high heat. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring until syrup is smooth.

Cut a few diagonal lines across the top of the cake. Pour syrup over cake and let soak, at least 30 minutes and up to over night.


  1. What the what! This looks incredibly amazing..

  2. Greek + Walnut + Syrup + Cake = success!!