Karidopita (kah-REE-do-pita), also known as Greek Walnut Cake, is quite possibly the love of my life. I must warn you, however, that this cake is not for the faint-hearted. It is sweet and syrupy and extremely indulgent. However, if that is exactly the type of dessert you are after, then look no further.
My first exposure to Greek walnut cake was in fact in Greece. On our way to Delphi, our tour group stopped by a little roadside cafe run by an old Greek couple. The walls of this cafe were a mish-mash of portraits and trinkets collected over the years. The cafe boasted a spacious sitting area and there was a wide veranda that offered you a vast view of the Athenian woodlands. Tall cypresses and rich scented pine trees standing erect in the countryside.
Our go-to snack in Athens (and the rest of Greece) was of course- Greek coffee. However, our eyes caught sight of Karidopita, Greek walnut cake, on the menu. With a series of wild gestures and broken English with the old couple, we were able to deduce that the karidopita would be a good choice for an afternoon snack.
The cake arrived on a plate, unassuming in it’s looks. It was dense in texture and was very dark brown in colour. Its appearance revealed nothing of the glorious flavours it held. And so, the love story began with our first bite. A rich syrupy burst of sweet orange, mixed with the delicate notes of cinnamon and cloves, and complimented with the crunchy delight of walnuts.
That is karidopita – a delectable mixture of the various flavours of Greece, served within a small, unassuming cake.
This cake is nothing but a show-stopper. It is also quite substantive in size – unless of course, you are a glutton like me, then size is no problem. However, I do recommend making this dish for a large dinner party or family gathering. It makes quite a substantive portion. In any case, that is the beauty of many Greek dishes, their hefty proportions are meant to be shared amongst friends and kin.
What is great about this recipe is that it can be kept wrapped at room temperature for up to 4 days. I simply reheat a slice in the microwave for 15 seconds to warm up the juice again. However, you can consume it at room temperature as well.
Feel free to indulge in a slice or two with either a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a cup of rich Greek coffee. I may do a post on here about how I make my Greek coffee. In any case – kalí óreksi! (which roughly translates to enough talking and start making, baking and eating this delicious karidopita!!)
This dense and nutty walnut cake is soaked in a bourbon-based orange syrup, and is best served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or Greek coffee!
In a large bowl (or stand mixer) beat the sugar and butter at medium-high speed (5 minutes), until smooth and creamy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time. Mix well after each addition. Pour in the cognac and the orange juice/zest and mix until incorporated. Set mixture aside.
In a separate bowl, add the walnuts, Melba toast, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, the baking powder and blend with a spoon. Mix to combine. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.
Place the egg whites and pinch of salt/cream of tartar, into a bowl and using a hand mixer. Whisk the egg whites until the mixture forms stiff and glossy peaks.
With a spatula fold the egg whites into the cake mixture, combining the two in from the bottom up.
Butter the bottom and the sides of a round baking tray (I use a springform pan)*** and bake in a preheated oven at 170C/340F, for about 35 minutes. Or until the cake is nicely colored on the outside and baked through.
Add all the ingredients for the syrup into a pot, and boil, until the sugar has dissolved. Scar the cake into pieces (or poke holes all over), and slowly ladle the hot syrup over the cold cake, allowing the syrup to be absorbed before ladling more.
Let it cool down a bit before serving. I love serving this cake warm with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. You can also serve it with my black walnut ice cream!
* you can find Melba toast in the cracker aisle of your supermarket. Melba toast is essentially crackers made out of sourdough bread, so you can easily use breadcrumbs as well.
** you can omit the bourbon entirely from this recipe if you prefer to have this cake without the alcohol
*** you will need to use a cake pan that is about 30 cm (ish) in diameter. I use my spring form pan and find that is the easiest way to bake this cake. Alternatively, you can use a loaf pan, a bundt pan or a casserole/pie dish to bake this cake. Do keep in mind that your baking time will change
Here is my recipe for black walnut ice cream!