Bake a cake, find something – or someone, you’ve lost. On August the 27th, the feast day of Saint Fanourios, many Orthodox Greeks take part in the tradition of lighting a candle and baking “fanouropita,” a sweet lenten (and vegan) cake to be taken to church and blessed, before being shared with fellow church-goers, family and friends. It is said that by doing so, the bakers will find something that they’ve lost.
As the story goes, Saint Fanourios’ mother was a sinner, loved only by her son. Never showing remorse for her sins, after her death, the mother was sent to hell, but that didn’t change Saint Fanourios’ wish to save her soul. Fanouropita is baked not as a tribute to the saint, but in memory of his mother, and before eating a piece, you should say the prayer “God forgive the mother of Saint Fanourios” (“Θεός σχωρέσει τη μάνα του Αη Φανούρη”) . As a thank you, the saint will bring back something that you have lost.
The origin of the legend is unknown; not much supports it as very little is actually known about Saint Fanourios, whose icon was first found on the island of Rhodes on the 27th of August ca 1500 AD. Nonetheless, the tradition of blessing fanouropitas has been embraced by the church and the orthodox community. If you do bake one and bring it to church, know that you should share it with the parishioners – at least seven pieces should be handed out at the church.
The cake consists of seven or nine ingredients, symbolizing the sacred mysteries, or sacraments, of the church. There are many versions, but olive oil, flour and sugar are the basic ingredients, and orange is a common flavor. This nine-ingredient recipe by renowned pastry chef Stelios Parliaros makes a particularly moist and fragrant cake, accomplished by the adding of almond flour and whole, boiled and pureed oranges to the batter.
Preheat your oven to 160°C.
Clean your oranges and cover them with water in a pot on the stove. Boil for about 40 minutes, or until soft enough to easily pierce with a fork. Strain, dry, and cut the oranges into chunks. Remove seeds and any membranes that haven’t softened, and puree in a food processor. Weigh and keep 320 g.
Mix the orange puree, powdered sugar and orange juice in the food processor. Add the remaining ingredients for the batter one by one, mixing well after each addition.
Pour the batter into a round 24cm diameter baking tin lined with parchment paper.
Sprinkle the top of the cake first with granulated sugar, and top it with powdered sugar.
Bake for 1 hour.
This recipe was previously published in Greek at gastronomos.gr.
500 g all-purpose flour
320 g olive oil
320 g puree of whole, boiled oranges
340 g powdered sugar
80 g orange juice
1 tsp. baking powder
120 g grated almonds
50 g orange liqueur
Granulated sugar and powdered sugar, for dusting