A traditional syrup cake full of walnuts and spices
We almost faked it here. We were tempted to change this recipe, in order to reflect what we know to be the correct way to bake. One of us is a pretty avid baker, and has spent years perusing pastry books, taking classes, and working towards making the perfect croquembouche and pastry dough. That same one of us is also a scientist, and acknowledges that baking…is a science. And then, we bake with our parents. Although you very graciously accepted our parents’ milopita recipe, posted exactly as it was baked (meaning…illogically), we wondered, would you accept another hodgepodge dessert? We were worried. So we considered telling you that our parents sifted the flour, baking powder and ground spices together, that they mixed the wet ingredients together using a stand mixer before the wet and dry components were combined, you know… to reflect what actual baking books tell you to do. But, we chose not to. Mia Kouppa is all about keeping it real folks! Besides, their almost nonsensical way of baking works beautifully – their desserts, including this karydopita, are always delectable, and perfectly composed.
When we went over one early Saturday morning to bake this cake with our parents, we found our father sitting at the kitchen table, with his morning coffee, shelling walnuts. He had taken a hammer to them, just enough to crack the shells, and was using a butter knife to carefully pry the walnut kernels out. We apologized that we had not brought over some pre-shelled nuts, to save him the trouble, and he laughed, saying, “This is trouble?” And so, we quietly sat with him, watching him work, and every once in a while he would smile and offer us a nut to eat. Suddenly, we were young girls again, sitting with our Baba around the kitchen table, quietly watching him shell walnuts and almonds and hazelnuts, anxiously wondering which of these treats would be offered to us next.
Although our parents tend to shell their own nuts, you definitely don’t have to. However, here are a few things to consider. Nuts still in their shell tend to taste fresher, are usually cheaper, and force you to take some time to stop, sit, and engage in a pretty relaxing task. If you happen to have children or other family with you to help (or to watch you work), you may even end up creating some lovely memories. We don’t think you can purchase a bag of crushed walnuts which will do that.
Regardless of the type of walnuts you start off with, you will need to end up with crushed walnuts. Our parents use a food processor for this task, being careful to end up with small pieces. You do not want to over-process or over-crush the nuts however; you shouldn’t end up with nut meal. There needs to be some nutty texture to your karydopita.
As with galaktoboureko and baklava, when you are going to pour syrup over a baked dessert, a good rule of thumb is to have one of the two hot (or at least, warm), and the other, at room temperature. For this reason, the recipe below suggests that you make the syrup first. It is a quick step, and by the time the cake is assembled and cooked, the syrup will be completely cool.
We have listed the inclusion of ground cloves in the recipe as “optional”. This is really only because one of us doesn’t like cloves, at all, and prefers not to include it. If you hate cloves too, feel free to leave them out; the cake is
even more delicious without them.
Mia Kouppa: Karydopita, Walnut cake
- For the syrup
- 2 cups (500 ml) water
- 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) sugar
- 1 teaspoon (4 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 slice lemon
- 1 cinnamon stick For the cake
- 2 1/2 cups (625 ml) coarsely crushed walnuts
- 6 large eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) ground cloves (optional)
- 1 teaspoon (4 ml) ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons (8 ml) baking powder
- 1 1/4 cups (310 ml) milk
- 2 cups (500 ml) granulated white sugar
- 1 cup (250 ml) vegetable or corn oil
- 2 1/2 cups (625 ml) all-purpose flour
- Prepare your syrup by combining all of the ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and when the sugar has dissolved, reduce heat to medium. Allow to cook for approximately 5 minutes and then remove syrup from heat. Allow to cool.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a large bowl combine all of the cake ingredients. The order is not particularly important. Stir until very well combined with a rubber spatula or large plastic or wooden spoon. Mix very well until the entire batter is uniform.
- Grease your baking pan ( we used a 10 inch round cake pan) with vegetable oil, being sure to cover the bottom and sides.
- Pour in your batter. Spread it around so that it is evenly distributed. Bake in center of oven for approximately 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
- When your cake is done, remove it from the oven and immediately pour the cooled syrup all over the cake, about 1/2 cup (125 ml) at a time. The syrup will be absorbed by the cake.
- Allow your cake to cool and serve it directly from your baking pan. Enjoy.