My wonderful friend Elainee picked blood oranges off of her tree the other day and I decided to keep the last few for a dessert. As I brainstormed on what to make, I thought of this variation on the traditional karydopita, which is a walnut cake full of warm spices like cinnamon and clove, soaked in a honey syrup.
Every Greek has a memory involving this dessert. It’s a dessert associated with family celebrations and happiness. As far as I can remember, in the family the aunt that made the best karydopita, as I beleive it was her trademark dessert, was my grandfathers sister, our thia Koula. I remember visiting her often as a kid and her having this syrupy walnut cake, cut in diamond shapes and in individual silver, pink and white paper treat cups. It was always deliciously sweet and fragrant!
My husband George has memories of being a little boy helping his mother with this dessert. They had a walnut tree in their yard and his job was to help her pick the walnuts out of the cracked walnut shells. She was always catching him munching on the walnuts instead of placing them in the bowl.
As blood oranges are not keto friendly, I can not righftully call this the keto version of this beautiful dessert. However, by exchanging the other high carb ingredients in the recipe, it is very easy to lower the carb count by quite a bit. It is gluten free and paleo by omitting the traditional breadcrumb /and or flour that it calls for and combining the walnuts with super fine almond flour. If you are not counting carbs, then making a honey syurp is lovely and it is the way it has always been made. However, if you are watching your carbs, then you can make a syrup using yacon syrup, or a sugar free maple syrup. Even a simple syrup using your favorite sugar free sweetener will do. There are certianly a few ways to cater the walnut cake to your dietary needs.
For the syrup I created a reduction of the blood orange juice, the yacon syrup and the spices. This enhances the flavors and the richness of the syrup.
1 1/2 cup of walnuts (ground them)
1 cup superfine almond flour
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup metaxas cognac or brandy
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 4 blood oranges
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
2 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pure monk fruit
1/3 cup yacon syrup
(You can exchange the monk fruit/yacon syrup for 1/2 cup of sugar, coconut sugar, sugar free sweetener, honey, maple syrup, date syrup, etc. This will totally depend on your dietary preferences or restrictions.)
Juice of 4 blood oranges
1/2 cup of water
2 tbsp yacon syrup (or honey or maple syrup)
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp whole cloves
1/4 tsp whole pink peppercorns
1/2 tsp whole cardamom
Ground your walnuts in a food processor. As fine as you can get them. Mix them with the almond flour and all the other dry ingredients to evenly distribute them. Add in all of your wet ingredients. Beat them together with a hand or stand mixer. In all honesty, if you don’t have a mixer, you can do it by hand. I suggest wisking together the wet ingredients and them combing them with the dry using a wooden spoon to blend it all together.
Pour the batter into a greased pan. I used a pyrex 8 inch square pan for mine. Bake at 350 F for 45 minutes to 1 hour. I check to see if it is done at 45 minutes by piercing it with a knife making sure that the knife comes out dry. If so, then it is ready. When you pull it out, poke many holes allover the cake so that you can pour the syrup over it and it will soak in .
While the karydopita is baking, make the syrup. In a small sauce pan, bring all of the syrup ingredients to a boil. Keep it going at medium to high heat until the liquid is reduced by nearly half. It should take 15 minutes.
Right after you have removed the cake from then oven and have poked holes in it, pour over the strained syrup and allow it soak in and cool.
It will be ready to serve when it has cooled down. I slice it into small squares resulting in 16 pieces.