This Orange pie/cake is very popular here in Greece. It is a fragrant, juicy and decadent cake. We call it portokalo-pita, portokali means orange and while it is not exactly a pita, it does contain phyllo, but in another form. The phyllo basically replaces the flour. But don’t worry, you will not need to spread layers of phyllo for this cake, instead you get to smash and crumble it!
The Syrup Sweets
Portokalopita belongs to a family of sweets we call here in Greece siropiasta, which means that they have syrup in them. Basically the cake is drizzled with syrup after it is baked and is left to absorb all the syrup. The result? A very juicy and irresistible cake. Baklava also is made this way.
These type of “syrupy” sweets, taste better 2-3 days later as the syrup is fully absorbed. You also may notice that you will have a good amount of syrup on the surface of the cake when you first drizzle it, but don’t worry, it will be absorbed eventually, which is why you should wait at least 3 hours to after baking before serving. I also save a bit of syrup to drizzle when serving.
You may wonder why it is called orange cake. The syrup contains mostly orange juice rather than water and the orange zest in the cake gives it that zing. The syrup is made ahead of time as it is needed to be at room temperature before it is drizzled over the cake, otherwise the syrup will not be absorbed properly and you will end up with a dryish cake.
This cake is quite sweet so you do not need a large serving to satisfy your sweet tooth. I have used less sugar than usually recommended.,I also used olive oil instead of other vegetable oils and there is also a good amount of yogurt. So nutritionally it is a bit lighter than other cakes with less of the saturated fats.
Juicy Greek Orange Olive Oil Cake – Portokalopita
For the syrup
- 1 ½ cup orange juice
- ½ cup water
- 1 ½ cup sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
For the cake
- 5 sheets of phyllo about 6 ½ ounces or 180 grams defrosted if using frozen.
- 4 eggs
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 cup Extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 7 ½ ounces yogurt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- orange zest from 2 medium oranges
- Preheat oven at 250 F (120 C).
- Place 5 sheets phylo dough on a pan one next to the other in the oven (they may overlap) and heat for about an hour until phyllo is hard and crunchy (use fan if you have it). Turn them over half way. Once they are crunchy remove them from the oven and scrunch the phyllo breaking it in little pieces-set aside.
- While the phyllo is drying out make the syrup (you can also make the syrup earlier).
- In a small sauce pan mix the orange juice, water, 1 1/2 cup sugar and the cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer for 7 minutes (only stir in the beginning). Set aside to cool.
- Start preparing the mixture for the cake: In a large bowl add the eggs, sugar, olive oil, and vanilla. Beat until frothy.
- In a smaller bowl, mix the yogurt and baking powder and set aside for 2-3 minutes. Add the yogurt to the egg mixture and slowly fold it in.
- Add the orange zest and the crumbled phyllo gradually, gently mixing.
- Increase the oven temperature to 350 F (180 C).
- Grease a casserole dish or pan (I used 9 X 13 inches) and pour in the mixture and even it out using a spatula.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes until the surface is a dark golden color.
- Remove from the oven make a few slashes with a sharp knife and immediately drizzle the syrup (slowly) using a large spoon. Continue adding almost all the syrup (save about 2 tablespoons).
- Let the cake sit for at least 2-3 hours.
- Keep in the refrigerator and let it sit out a half hour before serving.
- Cut in square pieces and drizzle a bit of the saved syrup before serving.
SAVE FOR LATER AND PIN IT!
Photos by Elena Paravantes © All Rights Reserved
Hi Elena – we love this recipe! Out of interest do you use extra virgin olive oil or olive oil as stated in the recipe?
Hi Yvonne, Extra virgin olive oil in all recipes. I’ll edit that to reflect that.
I would love to make this cake but as gluten free and as I cant find gf phyllo (or even attempt to make it!!) Could you please offer an alternative ingredient and approx amount? Thank you so much, Jo
Hi Jo, You could potentially use gf puff pastry, it does have added fat compared to phyllo though.
Thank you Elena, I’ll cook this tomorrow. Love your website.
Does this go straight in the fridge after pouring the syrup on? Or sit out on the counter for 2-3hrs? Thank you!
Hi Chelsea, You let it sit out on the counter, until it is completely cool and most of the syrup has been absorbed.
is the phyllo you use for this recipe the paper thin one. Or is it a thicker version.
I’m not sure as you say to put the phyllo in the oven and then turn it, but it becomes very brittle due to the thinness of it.
Thanks for all your wonderful recipe’s, I cook them regularly.
Hi Christine! Yes it is the very thin phyllo. You basically want to dry it and break it in little pieces, so it should become brittle after drying.
In the middle of this now but unsure of the syrup. Does it get thicker as it cools? Seems a bit runny right now. Will update when it’s done.
Hi Kristi, The syrup will be watery when you pour it on the cake. It should mostly be absorbed after an hour.
This is amazing!!! We used 90g of sugar in the cake and just over 1 cup of sugar in the syrup. We had greek yogurt 0% fat( no added sugar) in the fridge and used it, and half a cup of oil only. It’s delicious!! Still mega sweet, still juicy and soft.
We are tempted to try with even less sugar in the cake and same sugar or less in the syrup. And we are kinda tempted to do a banana version of it, just for the fun!
Thank you Adi! Looking forward to your banana version!
This was delicious!
Not only that but there was a few cooking techniques involved here that I haven’t done before. So that was fun and interesting.
Wow. Just made this for the first time for a BBQ party tomorrow so had to try a little piece to check it’s ok and it’s delicious! If there’s any left, does it freeze ok?
Yay! I’m not sure that it would freeze well as it has the syrup.
Hello my ladies. I am greek but these days I am in the US. I cannot find phyllo but I wanted desperately to make portokalopita… so today I decided to make it… nomatter what…. with any kind of dough I would find. So I try it with pie crust. Never try this at home!!! 🙂
Thanks Georgia. Usually phyllo is sold frozen in US super markets. Pie crust would not really work for this type of recipe.
Is it Greek yoghurt or any regular U.K. yoghurt? Also caster sugar or granulated?
Do you serve it warm or cold?
It looks absolutely gorgeous can’t wait to make it.
Thanks Sara! I used Greek yogurt, but regular yogurt should be ok. Granulated sugar. Serving at room temperature is best.
I made the orange cake exactly as instructed and it was fabulous!
I’m confused about the sugar quantity. In Ingredients you say 1 1/2 cup for the syrup, but in the written instructions you say 1/2 cup.
Also, please verify how much sugar for the cake.
NB I make lots of your recipes and they are all great.
The sugar in the cake is 1/2 cup as noted in the ingredients. And for the syrup it is 1 1/2 cup, there was a typo (corrected) in the directions, but the correct amount is noted in the ingredients.
This orange flavored cake is a classic of Greek cuisine but I don’t have it nearly enough! When people think of Greek desserts they often stick with the standards, such as baklava. This is also a great choice!
As a Nutritionist i can say this food is 100% healthy and nutritious. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe, I will must try to home.
Elena: This looks wonderful! I must try it! Love trying your recipes. They are always wonderful! Now I understand where the name of the family comes from in My Big Fat Greek Wedding: The Portokalous family was named after oranges as Pop said when introducing the families! Thank you so much for all that you do! Sam George
ha ha! Thanks for sharing Sam!