When we make desserts in Greece we have the tendency to cook for a crowd. Especially when we’re talking oven-baked desserts that are drizzled with syrup. Take for example The Classic Greek Baklava, or Ekmek (you just HAVE TO try this one).
I don’t know if it’s because we have a sweet tooth (they’re really sweet and syrupy) or because they were mostly served on celebrations and gatherings. If you have seen my Big Fat Greek Wedding than you surely understand what a Greek celebration or gathering means!
Whatever the reason, the portions are plenty and crowd-pleasing. And if you’re looking for a dessert to serve to a crowd, (+ also happen to be a fan of cinnamon + syrup coated sweets, you’ll definitely love Greek desserts). You’ll find plenty of those over at my Greek Dessert Recipes.
What’s A Greek Walnut Sponge Cake?
In Greece, we call it Karydopita and it’s pronounced more like Kari-th-o-pita. It’s a syrup-soaked sponge cake, spiced with cinnamon, ground cloves, and brandy, and loaded with chopped walnuts (inside and on top).
In other words, it’s full of what I call Christmas-y flavor because it reminds me so much of our Traditional Christmas Melomakarona -Honey Cookies (and yes, they’re also covered in syrup!).
Karithopita is an old fashioned cake recipe, that’s made with margarine and breadcrumbs. Oh yes, I did say breadcrumbs. I have come across this ingredient in some other old Greek dessert recipes as well. From my own personal experience, I believe they have a better absorbing quality (for syrup) than plain flour. Just make sure you use finely powdered breadcrumbs.
How To Make Karithopita
You basically make a cake using your electric mixer and once it’s baked and comes out of the oven you pour the hot syrup on top.
Now as for the syrup, a few things to keep in mind when making it…
You may stir by using a wooden spoon. But up to the point that it starts to boil. If you stir while the syrup is boiling, you run the risk of the syrup becoming all sugary (lumpy let’s say).
Add a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon (like the recipe instructs) since this helps to prevent this from happening.
Always use perfectly clean utensils when making syrup. Anything that comes to contact with it may again lead to it becoming sugary. Just like when making meringue everything has to be perfectly clean.
Now I hope I didn’t scare you with all these don’ts. Making syrup is as simple as adding sugar and water and boiling it for 5 minutes. It’s a piece of cake if you know what not to do…
Toppings And Coatings
You can simply drizzle with some chopped walnuts and keep it Traditional Greek (like I did) or you can spice things up and add one of the following:
- Coat it with Chocolate Ganache. Use dark chocolate like 70% cocoa for the perfect contrast to the sweetness of the syrup.
- Or top it with this Espresso Buttercream Frosting.
Pan Size And Portions
To make this Walnut Cake I used a 26x36cm / 11×15 inch rectangle pan. This pan yields 24 medium-sized square pieces. Which is a lot and quiet enough to serve on a gathering or indulge a family of 4 for a whole week. Yes, you can keep it up to a week. The syrup prevents it from spoiling.
Or you can divide recipe and pan size by half. Keep in mind though when adjusting pans, that the cake mixture might seem too little for the size of the pan but it will double in size by baking and by absorbing all that syrup later on. So make sure you’re exact when you divide recipe and pan measurements.
Greek Walnut Sponge Cake (Karydopita)
For The Cake:
- 150 grams / 5.2 oz soft margarine plus some more for greasing
- 90 grams / 3.1 oz sugar
- 8 medium sized eggs
- 120 ml milk
- 5 tablespoons brandy
- 230 grams / 8.1 oz all purpose flour
- 230 grams / 8.1 oz finely powdered breadcrumbs
- 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 2/3 teaspoon ground cloves
- 4,5 teaspoons baking powder
- 1,5 teaspoon baking soda
- 300 grams 10.5 oz coarsely crushed walnuts + some extra for adding on top
For The Syrup:
- 1200 grams / 42.3 oz sugar
- 800 grams / 28.2 oz water
- a few drops of fresh lemon juice
For The Cake:
- Preheat oven to 180°C / 356°F.
- In a medium bowl mix the flour, the breadcrumbs,the baking powder and baking soda.
- With an electric mixer, beat margarine and sugar over low speed for 2 minutes.
- Beat in the eggs one by one. Bring speed to medium and beat for another 5 minutes.
- Reduce speed to low again, add the brandy and milk.
- Add the flour mixture and beat until thoroughly combined.
- Add the cinnamon and cloves.
- Remove from mixer. With a soft spatula combine walnuts into the mixture.
- With the help of your spatula spread mixture evenly in the pan.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, or check to see if the cake is baked. Prick with a knife at the center and see if it comes out clean. Meanwhile, make the syrup.
For The Syrup:
- In a medium-sized pot add the sugar, water and a few drops of fresh lemon juice.
- Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 5 minutes.
- Pour the hot syrup all over the cake using a ladle. It may seem a lot but will absorb it all while the cake sits.
- Let it cool completely at room temperature. Then put the cake in the fridge for 2 hours before serving. Cut in half lengthwise and then in half widthwise. Then cut to 24 squared pieces.
- Store in the fridge for up to 7 days.