Greek Orange Yogurt Cake or Portokalopita as it is known in Greece first came to my attention when reading a post by David Lebovitz writing about Tinos Greece.
Of course, I immediately started searching for the dessert and came up with what I thought to be the most authentic version of this Greek Orange Yogurt Cake based on the fact it was from Greece and its use of phyllo and a soaking syrup. Many Greek desserts are finished with a soaking syrup that often contains cinnamon sticks and cloves.
The photograph of this cake, so moist you can almost taste it, made it a must try. My love of phyllo is best expressed in my post on Baklava as my mother made it. Watching my mother and grandmother make this thinnest of doughs has fascinated me all my life - and still does.
While there are other versions of Greek Orange Yogurt Cake on the internet, they all use flour as their base. What makes this so unusual is the use of dried phyllo instead of flour and no eggs. While the original recipe I followed was a translation, I think some things may not have come out quite right - in particular, the instructions for drying the phyllo. I once wrote a book using phyllo in many forms from appetizers to desserts and everything in between. One chapter dealt with dried phyllo.
I have to say the recipe itself is rather strange in its makeup. There are no eggs to bind it and it uses 4 teaspoons of baking powder, which I thought was a lot. However, when I measured the dried, crushed phyllo, there was 6 cups or 400 grams or 14 ounces. So it wasn't so much after all.
This Greek Orange Yogurt cake is moist but not soggy and gets better the longer it sits. While the original recipe suggested keeping it refrigerated as it would crumble easily if kept at room temperature, I found no such problem. It is the flattest cake I have ever made, it cuts cleanly and easily and is addictive, to say the least. It is full of flavor and not too sweet.
2% Greek yogurt was called for and I found Fage had a 7-ounce container which was exactly what I needed. Other brands may be substituted - this is the first one I found.
It is great as a dessert but equally good as a breakfast offering with fresh fruit which can be sweetened slightly if desired.
While unusual, this Greek Orange Yogurt Cake is one of the easiest I have encountered using only a few measuring utensils, a whisk and a bowl. It doesn't even need a mixer! It's a Greek pastry at its best.
And most importantly, it is like eating sunshine!
Drying Phyllo Days Before using
1 - 15 to 16-ounce package phyllo
This is the first thing to do several days before making the cake. The phyllo may be dried and crushed a week or so ahead of using if desired.
When drying phyllo, it is necessary to separate the sheets or leaves as they are more properly known, so they can dry. In the original recipe, it called for drying them for about 20 minutes. However, it actually takes much longer to completely dry them so they can be crushed.
The phyllo available to me came with two individually wrapped inner packages. I separated each leaf, crumpled it slightly and put it on a half sheet. I repeated this for the second package. I dried it for two days, turned the phyllo in each pan over and dried it for two more days. Drying can go much faster in a dry environment - just make sure to turn it over to completely dry it out.It can be spread out in more pans to hurry it along also.
Once dry, it is crushed between your hands to make fine crumbs. It will not look like flour. One of my son's favorites from the phyllo book was Dover sole encrusted in the phyllo crumbs.
Greek Orange Yogurt Cake Soaking Syrup
1 ⅔ cup water
1 ⅔ cup sugar (330 grams or 11 ½ ounces)
Zest of 1 large orange
1 cinnamon stick
Combine all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil for 7 to 10 minutes to reduce slightly. Set aside to cool.
Greek Orange Yogurt Cake
2 large oranges
1 ¼ cup corn oil (I assume olive oil would work here also, but not virgin as it is too strong)
1 ¼ cup sugar (250 grams or 8 ¾ ounces)
7 ounces 2% fat Greek yogurt
Zest from 2 large oranges
1 ¼ cups fresh orange juice from the zested oranges
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 teaspoons baking powder
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray the bottom and sides of a 9x13 inch pan. Set aside.
Zest the oranges and set aside.
Combine the oil and sugar in a large bowl.
Whisk to combine.
Whisk in the yogurt, orange zest, orange juice and vanilla.
Whisk in the baking powder.
Lastly, whisk in the crushed phyllo.
Pour into the prepared pan and smooth out.
Bake for 38 to 42 minutes until golden brown and a tester comes out clean.
Spoon the cooled syrup over the cake and allow it to sit for several hours or overnight to soak up the sauce.
and allow it to sit for several hours or overnight to soak up the sauce.
Serve at room temperature or cold with or without fruit for dessert, breakfast or as a snack