This orange-scented cake is easy to make and tastes like a dream



Portokalopita is a Greek dish that perfectly fits the theme of my “5 Orange Dishes from Around the World” series. Our submission for portokalopita comes from Irene, a first-generation Greek American who lives in New York City.

According to Irene, portokalopita translates from Greek to English as “orange pie.” However, says Irene, a more apt translation might be “orange phyllo cake.” Portokalopita is made with phyllo strips and orange vanilla custard. Once it is formed, you bake the portokalopita and then soak it in an orange syrup.

Irene holds portokalopita dear to her heart because it has a very strong citrus flavor that isn’t overwhelming. She thinks this is a very unique dessert that will make you rethink what a cake can be.

Portokalopita is a dish that is served all around Greece. Irene says the dish is generally served to house guests. 

This dish isn’t one that Irene actually has many fond memories of. In fact, she only started making portokalopita in the last year. Portokalopita was the first recipe that inspired Irene to be much more creative in the way that she thought about making Greek food. The main reason that Irene says people should try portokalopita is that it is unlike any other cake you will ever bake. Portokalopita has no flour, so it tastes nothing like a sponge cake. Instead, portokalopita turns into a bouncy custard-like cake that is very unique.

When I heard this cake had custard, I was very nervous about making it. In the past, I have struggled with custard. However, this cake ended up being super easy to make. Portokalopita is absolutely delicious. It’s full of orange flavor, but not in a way that overwhelms the palate. The cake’s texture is spongey, yet it doesn’t feel like any other cake I’ve ever had. I think the best way to describe this cake is a joyful cake.

Other than orange, this dish really highlights phyllo dough. This isn’t my first time using phyllo dough, and I’ve often wondered what to do with all the phyllo dough sitting around in my freezer. This dish is the perfect answer. Portokalopita is very simple to make but looks super impressive, so it’s perfect for surprising your guests. You just need to try this dish!

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For cake

  • 450 g phyllo dough sheets
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • zest of 1 orange
  • ¾ cup strained Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For syrup

  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • peel of 1 orange


  • If frozen, defrost phyllo.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and brush a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with a little oil or butter.
  • For the cake, put the eggs, vegetable oil, and sugar in a large bowl. Beat the mixture well with an electric mixer until the ingredients are well combined. Add the yogurt, orange zest, baking powder, and vanilla. Beat to combine.
  • Cut phyllo into long, thin ribbons. Add phyllo ribbons to the cake batter and stir it in with a spatula. Evenly spread the batter in the prepared pan.
  • Bake the cake for 45 to 55 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
  • Make the syrup while the cake is baking. In a medium saucepan, stir together the orange peel, water, and sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil then simmer it over medium heat for 20 minutes, until it thickens to the consistency of maple syrup, stirring often. Let the syrup cool.
  • When the cake comes out of the oven, pour the syrup on top. Allow cake to cool and absorb all the syrup.
  • Slice and serve!


Recipe inspired by Ken's Greek Table
Course: Dessert
Region: Europe


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