Karidopita (Greek Walnut Cake)

by Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet on May 31, 2010

Karidopita, Greek Walnut Cake

My family made some great desserts, but my all time favorite is Karidopita or Greek walnut cake. This is a light and fluffy cake soaked with a very light syrup and left to chill completely. There is no flour in this recipe because it is made with Greek paximathia otherwise known as rusk bread. These are sliced pieces of bread that are allowed to dry completely in the oven. Greeks love to eat these little “toasts” with their coffee, either plain or buttered with jam, they are a nice alternative to the traditional options. You can find paximathia in most international grocery stores. If you live in the Maryland area, you can find them at Prima Foods on Kane Street in Baltimore City. I usually don’t have them around, so I developed a recipe for the dessert using regular, plain bread crumbs, and it works really well.  It is very easy to put together and there is no decorating involved. After the cake cools, you slice it and pour the syrup over it then you leave it in the fridge until it is ready to serve. You can serve with a little whipped cream, but it is perfect just the way it is. I add some orange oil and some cognac to mine, just because I think that those two flavors go so well together, but you can leave them out.

Karidopita
4 eggs, separated
5 oz whole walnuts (1-1/2 cups), measure whole then finely grind with sugar
5 oz plain breadcrumbs (1 cup)
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
4 oz sugar (1/2 cup)
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt

Soaking syrup (enough for a double batch of cake)
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 teaspoon corn syrup
1 cinnamon stick

Lastly add:
1 cup water
¼ cup cognac (optional)
4 drops orange oil (optional)

Grease an 8”x8” square cake pan and set aside. Separate eggs, and measure out all of the other ingredients. Add all of the walnuts to a food processor with half of the sugar and finely grind the nuts. This will be important because you do not want large pieces of nuts in the batter so that you can slice it without it falling apart.  Begin whipping your whites with the salt on a tabletop mixer. When the egg whites start having a little volume, add half of the remaining sugar and let them mix until fluffy. When they are fluffy add the rest of the sugar, mix for another minute and they are ready to go. If you have never made French meringue before, check out our instructional post here.

Whip the yolks in a separate bowl, add in the vanilla and all of the nut/sugar mixture from the food processor plus the bread crumbs, cinnamon, salt and baking powder. Fold together until you have a thick paste. Add in half of the whites and mix together until the mixture starts to thin out and resemble a cake batter, then add the rest of the egg whites and fold everything well together. Pour into the square baking pan and bake for 20-30 minutes at 350°F until it is golden brown on top. When they cake is ready, remove from the oven and cool completely. When the cake is cool, pour over half (about 1-1/2 cups) of the warm syrup. Allow this to stand at room temperature until all of the syrup has been absorbed, then refrigerate. Once cool, cut into diamond shapes and serve chilled. The cake must be cool and the syrup warm in order to be absorbed completely into the cake.

To make the syrup, add the sugar, corn syrup, cinnamon stick and 1 cup of water to a small pot and cook on high for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and add in 1 cup of cold water, ¼ cup of cognac and the 4 drops of orange oil. Put this back on the stove and cook until all of the mixture heats back up and the syrup and added water blend together. At this point, taste the syrup and see if you would like to add more orange oil or more cognac. Be conservative with the orange oil, it is very concentrated. Let the syrup cool for about 5 minutes and then pour over the cooled cake. Let it sit at room temp to absorb the liquid for about 30 minutes, then refrigerate. Slice when ready to serve.

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