Karithopita (Greek Walnut Cake)
This Karithopita or Greek Walnut Cake is a syrupy soaked cake, mixed with the crunchy nutty walnuts. It’s perfectly spiced and such a unique dessert. If you have never made one before I think it might be time too! It’s easy to make and the perfect cake recipe to make ahead as its always best the next day when the flavours have melded and the cake has fully soaked up that delicious and flavourful syrup.
What is Karithopita/ Karythopita?
It’s my favourite cake - I say that about a lot of things but truly this is the only cake I ever crave. Karydopita is a traditional syrup cake, loaded with crunchy walnuts and tantalizing spices. This is an easy to make syrup-soaked cake and so delicious. It’s in the category of desserts known as ‘siropiasta. ’The siropiasta take their name from the word σιρόπι (syrup), because all these desserts are doused with syrup after baking, which makes them moist, sticky and delicious. Each household has their own syrup recipe depending on how sweet and aromatic they want their desserts to be, but most recipes include water, granulated sugar, sometimes a little bit of honey, lemon zest and a cinnamon stick. Baklava, Revani/Ravani, Galaktoboureko – Greek Custard Pie, Melomakarona-Greek Honey Walnut Cookies, Greek Orange Phyllo Cake (Portokalopita) are all examples of syrupy desserts!! They are exquisite!!
Why you will love this Karithopita recipe:
- It’s so Easy to make
- It’s loaded with toasted crunchy walnuts
- It uses only simple Basic pantry ingredients
- It’s so Delicious and if you are looking for something new this is a unique dessert to try
- It’s the perfect balance of light and syrupy not overly dense or too dry
There are a lot of Greek recipes out their for sweets and treats but this is by far the only one I actually crave and I can never pass up a slice of. The smell of this cake baking alone gets me salivating. I love any desert with nuts and spices so that is probably why I love this cake so much. There really is nothing to this cake - very basic ingredients come together to become it. Although this is the case, there are many variations of this cake and although they mostly get the flavourings and spices right many times the end result is a cake that is made too syrupy or too heavy or dense, or sometimes they are way too dry. You got to have a good balance. You need just enough syrup - too little and you end up with a drier cake - which some prefer so that is fine but not my kind of karithopita. This recipe gives you a delicious karithopita everytime!
This is a super special post for me for two reasons. The first reason is that this recipe is the closest I have ever tasted and made that resembles my moms. (And now as a side note you understand how our preferences develop many times - according to what we are use to and exposed to) My mom would make hers in a perfectly worn out round large pan which she also used for roasting her lemon potatoes in too. Her slices were diamond shaped and always served in clear glass floral etched cake plates. She hasn’t made this cake in over ten years she said and her recipe written on a piece of scrap note paper probably got lost in the last move they made. The glass plates survived the move but not the recipe. I was on the search for a recipe that most resembled hers and with her help we found a few to work with from a couple of her fav bakers from Greece and here it is in all its glory with full out measurements and all - not the usual with her recipes. (Always a pinch of this and that and just use your eye to measure)
The second reason this is a special post for me is that it’s the last post I’m doing for the year in collaboration with Bob’s Red Mill. I can’t even believe it’s been a year long partnership of doing two posts a month for this wonderful company that so willingly gave me the opportunity to work for them and create things with so much freedom to express my creativity using their beloved products. It’s been by far one of my favorite clients to work with and for. I was excited each month to dream up recipes that I thought you guys would love to make in your kitchens and I hope that was conveyed in all the recipes I shared. This recipe features the one Bob’s ingredient I always have stocked and that is their Unbleached White Organic all-purpose flour. Bob’s Red Mill flour, is a premium baking flour milled from certified organic, hard red wheat. It’s unbleached and unenriched, with no potassium bromate added. In fact all of Bob’s Red Mill products are certified Kosher and made with ingredients grown from non-GMO seeds.
I’m so happy to share this recipe with you guys and know you will love this version. It got served up to several different Greek people and it was enjoyed by all - I even got compliments. If you are Greek you know those don’t come easy - hee hee! If you love walnuts or καρύδιa/karithia you have extra reason to love this cake as it has them in it and on it giving it a delicious nutty flavour and texture. Hope you give it a try!
Ingredients to make Karithopita:
For the cake
- Unsalted butter - make sure it’s softness so it’s easy to mix with the sugar
- Sugar - granulated sugar is used and there is a good amount of it - it’s dessert and a syrupy dessert at that so it’s expected - feel free to reduce amount in the cake by a 1/3 maximum without effecting the overall taste and texture
- Eggs - no need to separate them or anything - just make sure they are room temperature
- Vanilla extract - I always recommend Pure vanilla extract. Sometimes this cake is flavoured with cognac instead - your choice
- Milk - I used full fat but any milk will work
- Baking soda and baking powder- the help give this cake it’s lift and very important that they are still active and not expired so definitely check your boxes
- Cinnamon - I keep the spices to a minimal In the cake using just cinnamon to flavour it - feel free to add some nutmeg, clove or even Cardamom
- All purpose flour - i have not tried this recipe with a 1-1 gluten free flour and don’t know how it will hold up with the syrup. If you do try it I recommend using less syrup.
- Salt - always needed in baking
- Walnuts- this is a walnut cake so you definitely needs those
For the syrup
- Zest of one lemon
- cinnamon stick
- whole cloves
How to make Karithopita:
- Whisk together flour, cinnamon and salt and set aside
- Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy
- Mix in the eggs one at a time followed by the vanilla
- Stir together the baking powder and soda with the warm milk so that it froths up then mix that in as well
- Slowly mix in the dry ingredients until incorporated
- Mix in the chopped walnuts
- Pour batter into prepared pan then bake until golden, remove and allow to cool completely
- Make syrup while cake bakes
- Once cake is cool poke holes all over it with a skewer then gently and slowly ladle the syrup all over cake - allow to sit at least 30 minutes. Then sprinkle with more walnuts, slice and serve!
Tips for making the best Karithopita
- Make sure eggs are room temperature
- Make sure butter is softened
- Make sure that baking powder and baking soda are active and not expired. This recipe calls for mixing them with the milk first. When you mix wet and dry ingredients, baking powder activates instantly, enlarging bubbles in the batter and making it rise - thus the fluffy texture in this cake without having to separate the eggs and mixing the whites into a meringue.
- How do I know when the cake is done? I just use a cake tester or tooth pick. When it comes out clean you know it’s done. The cake is usually also done when it’s springy and you see the sides of the cake just start to pull away from the pan.
How to store Karithopita
Once baked it can keep well wrapped tight 3 days at room temperature or 1 week wrapped right in the fridge. I personally think it’s tastes best the second and third day out when all the flavours have had time to meld and the cake is fully soaked and delicious!! To FREEZE - Wrap tight and freeze for 2-3 months. The flavours may be the same but the texture may be slightly different when frozen. I have partnered up with Bob’s Red Mill to bring you this fabulous recipe, but all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting Olive & Mango.
More tasty Greek desserts you will love:
- Greek Honey Walnut Cookies
- Greek Semolina Cake (Revani)
- Greek Honey Ricotta Pie (Melopita)
- Greek Orange Phyllo Cake (Portokalopita)
- Greek Style Apple Cinnamon Cake (Milopita)
- Greek Almond Shortbread Butter Cookies (Kourabiethes)
- Bougatsa – Greek-Style Custard Pastry
- Galaktoboureko – Greek Custard Pie
For the cake
- ¾ cup butter room temp
- 1½ cups sugar
- 5 eggs room temp
- ½ tsp of vanilla extract
- ¾ cup milk warmed but not hot
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp of baking soda
- 1tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 ½ cups AP flour
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 cup of chopped toasted walnuts plus more for sprinkling over the cake once done
For the syrup
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups sugar
- Zest of one lemon
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ¼ tsp whole cloves
- Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 13x9 baking pan (you can line the bottom with parchment for easier removal) and set aside
- Whisk together your flour, cinnamon and salt in a medium sized bowl and set aside
- Mix sugar and butter with a mixer until light and fluffy scraping side of bowl
- Add eggs one at a time and mix until incorporated, then add the vanilla
- Carefully combine the warm milk with the baking powder and soda - gently mix with a fork until frothy and then slowly add into the mixture
- While mixer is on low add your dry ingredients and mix until incorporated
- Add the chopped walnuts and mix until incorporated
- Pour batter into a greased pan and bake for 25- 30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean when tested.
- While it’s baking prepare your syrup. Add all the ingredients to a small sauce pan or pot and bring to a boil, simmer for a couple of minutes until the sugar is dissolved and then remove from heat and allow to cool completely
- Once cake is done remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Using a skewer or a sharp knife, poke holes into the top of the cake gently all over the cake. Then gently ladle the syrup over the cake and let it sit and soak up all those flavours for 15 minutes to ½ and hour. Sprinkle some chopped walnuts over the cake, slice and serve.
- How to store Karithopita: Once baked it can keep well wrapped tight 3 days at room temperature or 1 week wrapped right in the fridge. I personally think it’s tastes best the second and third day out when all the flavours have had time to meld and the cake is fully soaked and delicious!! To FREEZE - Wrap tight and freeze for 2-3 months. The flavours may be the same but the texture may be slightly different when frozen.