Monday, 27 August 2012

Fanouropita – a Greek olive oil and orange cake for the patron saint of lost things

This week, we’re off on holiday to the Greek island of Symi, near Rhodes.  I’ve been reading Tessa Kiros’s lovely book, ‘Food from Many Greek Kitchens’ and I fell in love with the idea of ‘Fanouropita’, a cake traditionally made today, on August 27th, the name day of Saint Fanourios, the patron saint of lost things.

Women in Greek villages, particularly in Rhodes and the neighbouring islands, bring the cake to church, where the priest blesses it with a special ceremony. The congregation asks for the saint’s mother’s sins to be forgiven, and then make a wish to Saint Fanourios for help to find something – good health and happiness, lost items, lost relatives, peace, etc. It is also said to help unmarried women 'find' the name of their future husband. After the Mass, the sweet cakes are cut and everybody shares pieces with each other.

Fanouropita can also be made at other times of the year if someone wishes to ask Saint Fanourios to find something or someone for them, or once you have found something lost you can bake this cake to show Saint Fanourios appreciation for his help. To honour the tradition, you then also need to distribute some pieces of the cake to friends or neighbours.

The cake must be made with seven or nine ingredients, as the power of  7 or 9 is said to have prophetic or magical properties. The ingredients are pure and nutritional Greek ingredients like olive oil and orange juice, all of them suitable for the Orthodox fasting, so there are no dairy products like eggs or butter in the recipe. Although Tessa Kiros’ recipe doesn’t say so, other traditional recipes I’ve looked at say that, in keeping with the tradition of 'finding things', the cake batter should contain nuts and dried fruits, so that as you eat it, your teeth will 'find things' in it.

Here is my version of Fanouropita based on several different traditional recipes. Mine includes sultanas soaked in orange liqueur and a mixture of nuts – I used almonds and walnuts, as they are in keeping with Greek produce.

1 cup (5oz) sultanas
½ cup (4 fl oz) Cointreau or other orange liqueur
1 cup (8 fl oz) olive oil (plus extra for greasing)
1 cup (7 oz) golden caster sugar
1 cup (8 fl oz) orange juice + 1 tablespoon orange zest
3 cups (13 ½ oz) self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup (6 oz) mixed nuts (almonds and walnuts), roughly chopped

To decorate
3 tsp olive oil
3 tbsp icing sugar
½ tsp cinnamon

  1. Place the sultanas in a small bowl with the liqueur and set aside to soak for an hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 190C. Brush a 9 inch round spring-form pan with olive oil and then lightly flour it.
  3. In a bowl, beat together the olive oil, sugar and orange juice.
  4. Sift in the flour, baking powder and cinnamon and beat.
  5. Strain the liqueur from the raisins into the mixture, add the orange zest, and beat.
  6. Fold in the sultanas and nuts with a large metal spoon.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake it for 45 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
  8. Cool on a wire rack for 5 mins before removing from the tin and leaving to cool completely.
  9. Brush the cake with a little olive oil and place a doily or stencil cut out of baking paper over the cake.
  10. Mix the icing sugar and cinnamon together and sift over the cake, then carefully remove the stencil.

1 comment:

  1. Charlie!
    I am loving reading your blog! Only just dic=scovered it today....
    I just don't have time to bake all the cakes I want to.
    I cam across a recipe (via a friend) for scones made from just 325g self raising flour, 2/3 cup whipped cream and 2/3 cup of lemonade. My friends daughter made them and they were beuatifully light and fluffy. I made them (and did some colouring, read a story, bandaged a sore knee and mopped up a spilled drink at the same time) and surprise surprise they came out flat and rubbish, so I was wondering what you could do???!
    Love to you both,