Recipe Contest Winner: Portokalopita, an Orange Phyllo Cake

Photos by Jakob N. Layman

We received a ton of entries for this month's recipe contest -- after all, citrus is abundant in SoCal this time of year (and our readers are rather talented cooks, too). Our runner-up, Spiced Grapefruit Sorbet, included a number of unexpected ingredients. And our winner, portokalopita, was new to us as well.

Diana Moutsopoulos, a new California resident, won with her Greek cake: the fats come from yogurt and olive oil, the carbs from shredded-up phyllo dough. The cinnamon rounds out the flavors and keeps it a little exotic while still feeling like comfort food. Diana recommends using Cara cara oranges, a variety we also love, for color and flavor (she got hers at the Monday West Hollywood market, too).

"The syrup makes this cake incredibly moist, letting you make this a day in advance before serving without any worries about it drying out -- perfect for stress-free entertaining," says Diana. Our thanks to her for sending in this recipe!

Portokalopita (Orange phyllo cake)
Serves 12
1 (1 lb) box phyllo pastry, defrosted if frozen
3 California oranges (Cara Cara work especially well)
5 eggs
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
 
Orange syrup:
2 cups white sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1 orange, juiced
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9x13 baking pan with olive oil.
Remove the phyllo from its packaging. Take each sheet and roughly tear into shreds, using your hands. Leave the phyllo shreds out to dry a little while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

Cut one orange in half, and slice that half into very thin half-moons to garnish the cake. Zest and juice the remaining oranges. Reserve the juiced and zested orange halves to use in the syrup later.

Combine the orange juice, zest, eggs, yogurt, olive oil, 1/2 cup sugar and baking powder in a bowl, blender or food processor. Blend together on high speed for a couple of minutes, till the mixture is frothy.

Loosely place the phyllo shreds in the prepared baking pan - the messier, the better! Pour the orange and egg mixture over the phyllo. Stir together gently, right in the pan, to ensure the egg mixture is evenly distributed. Decorate the top of the cake with the thinly sliced oranges.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until the top is golden and the filling set. Allow the cake to cool to room temperature.

Once the cake is cool, combine all of the syrup ingredients in a saucepan, along with the reserved orange halves. Bring to a boil. Once at a boil, boil vigorously for 8 minutes. Immediately remove from the heat and pour over the cooled cake. Let the syrup soak in for at least 1 hour before slicing and serving.
 
Prep time: 30 minutes
Bake time: 45 minutes
Extra time: 90 minutes, cooling and soaking

See reader-submitted recipes for previous winners Apple Clafoutis and Roasted Tomato Bread Pudding.

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About the Author

Katherine's role as the Living editor at KCET.org keeps her running from farms to markets to restaurants to pop-up swaps all over SoCal. She's been living in and writing about this area for over a decade.
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One of the great things about this cake is that it is good for any meal - breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner.

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One of the great things about this cake is that it is good for any meal - breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner.