Saturday, March 23, 2013

Baklava Cake



In a few days (March 26th, to be precise) I'll be entering the latter half of my twenties. To celebrate, Jeremy and I are heading out to the Palm Desert today to enjoy a relaxing weekend at the Highland Springs Resort where we'll do some hiking, antiquing, and partake in general merrymaking. Each year for my birthday, I like to make myself a special sweet that I know I'll love but that's also something that  I've never made before. Last year I made myself a Thai tea-flavored cake with a coconut cream icing, which combined my love of Thai iced tea with my love of cake. New, yet something I was certain I'd enjoy. This year I decided to make an old family recipe from my family's cookbook, but gave it a bit of a twist. Yep, I put baklava in cake form.


Baklava is a Greek dessert made from layers of buttered filo dough alternated with a nut-sugar-spice mixture, which is then baked until golden brown and then soaked in a chilled honey syrup immediately upon removal from the oven. When done well, it tastes like a warm, buttery, nutty, and honey-tastic version of heaven. If you've ever had generic baklava, it's probably been made too dry to help keep it from being quite as sticky. Even a lot of Greek restaurants have trouble getting the syrup-to-baked good ratio quite right. Another important aspect of baklava-making is how ground-up the nuts are. You want them to be fairly ground but not completely powdery, there should be some pea-sized bits mixed in there, too. If the nut chunks are too big, half of them will fall out when you bite into the baklava because they're not fine enough to get all stuck together when soaked with the syrup. And if they're too small, you loose the nice crunch of the nutty texture. Because of my repeated commercial-baklava disappointment, I don't buy baklava anymore and only have it a couple times a year when I or my family decides to make some. And that makes it all the more desirable because the few times I do have it, it is consistently amazing, and has thus seared itself into my subconcious as some sort of super-secret dessert weapon I have access to.

Mmmmmm honey syrup.

I've been thinking about making a baklava cake for a long time now, so I decided to google it to see if anyone else had had success with it before, and that's when I came across this recipe from The Hungry Rabbit. She made regular cake layers and also some thinner baklava layers and alternated them, which turned out beautifully. But my Greekness did not want anything in the cake except good ol' baklava, so I went ahead and gave my dad's recipe a whirl in three separate cake pans. I used an Athena frozen filo package (which comes with two rolls of filo, you'll need both), thawed it out, folded the stack of sheets in half, cut a 7-inch circle out, and started the tedious process of buttering and layering. When I was done, I was worried that they weren't going to be tall enough to end up looking like a cake, but when they baked the filo layers puffed up a LOT and they ended up doubling-to-tripling in height, which was great! I also loved that The Hungry Rabbit baked the leftover cuttings of the filo dough and used it as a cake topper, so I did that as well except I tossed all the pieces with some of the sugar-nut-spice mix and patted them down in a cake pan so that they'd bake into a sturdy top layer.


In the end, the cake tasted just like my Dad's baklava, except there was sooooo much more of it in a single piece because of how high up it was. One thin slice of the cake was really like 3 baklava slices in one (that's not a complaint, fyi), so I tended towards eating a layer, putzing around for ten minutes,  coming back and eating the other one, putzing around, eating the last layer, putzing around, cutting another slice, and repeating.

It was a good day.


And speaking of good days, today I am announcing the winner of the Craft Cocktails at Home giveaway! And the winner is......


Congratulations Laura! I will be getting in contact with you soon about your new book!


Ingredients:

Baklava Layers

(40) 9 x 14-inch Sheets of Filo Dough (this is the package I purchased from the frozen desserts section of my grocery store)
3/4 Cup Butter, melted
1/3 lb Crushed Almonds
1/3 lb Crushed Walnuts
3/4 Cup Sugar
1 and 3/4 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Cloves

Honey Cinnamon Syrup

1 and 1/3 Cups Granulated Sugar
1 Cup Water
1/3 Cup Honey
1 Tablespoon Plus 1 and 1/2 Teaspoons Lemon Juice
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon or 1 Cinnamon Stick

Tools

Pastry Brush, about 4 inches wide
Sharp Small Knife, such as a paring knife
(3) 8-inch Well-Greased Cake Pans (springform is best but normal cake pans will work too)
Parchment Paper
Slightly Damp Towel, (if you can just mist it a bit with water that is best)


First, make the honey cinnamon syrup. Bring the sugar, water, and cinnamon to a boil in a small pot. Add the lemon and the honey, stir well, and lower the heat to a simmer. Allow the mixture to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring every 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool to room temperature, and then refrigerate.


In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the nuts, sugar, cinnamon, and cloves until well blended. Set aside. Cut (3) 8-inch circles out of the parchment paper and place them in the bottom of each of the well-greased cake pans. Then remove the filo from the package and lay flat. Fold the entire stack in half so that it now measures 9 x 7 inches. Using a small sharp knife, cut a 7-inch diameter circle out of the stack of filo. Cover the circular filo sheets and the leftover cuttings with the towel. This will help keep the filo dough from drying out while you're working.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Take a circular sheet of filo, place it in the bottom of a cake pan, and lightly brush it with the melted butter. Repeat this process 8 times so you have 8 buttered sheets of filo dough in the bottom of the pan. Take 1/3 cup of the nut mixture and evenly distribute it over the filo in the cake pan. Repeat the layering and nut sprinkling process 3 more times, and then add 8 more buttered filo sheets over the last layer of the nut mixture. You should have used 40 sheets of filo dough. Take the small sharp knife and cut small slices into the top of the filo, going down several layers but not all the way to the bottom of the pan, and not all the way from the center to the edge. you just want a line about 3-4 inches long to help the baklava absorb the syrup later, and also to make the cake easier to cut when serving. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. Repeat this process with the second cake pan.

Lightly brush the leftover cuttings of the filo dough with butter and place them in the bottom of the third cake pan until they have covered the bottom, then sprinkle half of the remaining nut mixture over them. Continue brushing the cuttings until they're all buttered, tossing these buttered cuttings into the bowl with the nut mixture as you butter them. Toss them with the remaining nut mixture and then empty them onto the third cake pan, pressing down just a bit to help everything stick together.


Remove the other two cake pans from the refrigerator, uncover them, and now place all three cake pans in the oven. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until the filo dough puffs up significantly (doubles to triples in height) and turns golden brown. Remove from the oven and pour all the honey syrup over the pans, (pouring just a tad bit more into the two pans with the circular sheets of filo). Allow them to sit in their pans, cooling and soaking up the syrup, for at least an hour and a half.

For the layering part, I really recommend just using your hands to lift and move the filo cakes rather than a spatula because filo is brittle and you'll have a better grip on it if you just hold it yourself. (Warning, your hands will get sticky.) If you used a springform cake pan, remove the sides and layer the two circular filo cakes on top of each other on your serving plate, lining up the slice marks on top and making sure that you remove the sheet of parchment paper underneath. Now place the filo cake with the cuttings on top, again making sure to remove the parchment paper. If you used regular cake pans, just reach down into the pan and push your fingers underneath the layer of parchment paper and lift up the filo cake (thumbs on top, remaining fingers supporting underneath) and follow the same layering process outlined above. Congratulations, you made a tricky but wonderful baklava cake! Now eat and enjoy it.








61 comments:

  1. This. Looks. Like. Heaven. I have never made a baklava before and your description makes it sound so good, looking at your beautiful pictures my brain just thinks 'get in ma' belly!' (:

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    1. Hahaha, perfect! That is exactly what I was going for :) Thanks Emily!

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  2. O....M....G!!! This put a permanent smile on my face for the rest of the day. I lived in Egypt for three years and the baklava there was divine honey, buttery elation! I love your blog!

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    1. That is so awesome! I love Egyptian food but haven't been to Egypt, it is definitely a life goal though. Thank you for your kind words, so glad you are here!

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  3. This looks insanely good! And so rich. Could you eat a whole slice?
    Happy birthday for 26th!

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    1. The whole slice was a long nibbling adventure, it took me like 45 minutes of nibbling and returning for more until I finished it. Soooo rich, but sooooo good. And thanks for the bday wishes!

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    1. Aww you're making me blush :) Thanks Ellen!

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  5. I love baklava! My grandma made it a lot when I was younger. making it into a whole cake is just genius!

    Paige
    http://thehappyflammily.blogspot.com

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    1. Baklava is just the tastiest! And grandmas always make the best versions of sweets, they've had long lives to get their recipes juuuuuust right :)

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  6. Happy birthday soon! the 26th is my husband's birthday, too! Have fun celebrating, and this looks SO yummy!

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    1. That is so funny! I hope you guys have a blast celebrating his birthday :D And thanks for the bday wishes!

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  7. Baklava is too sweet for me, so when I eat it, I take really small bite. Did you eat whole piece? :)

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    1. It is a very sweet dessert, and I actually did end up eating a whole piece haha. But not all in one sitting, it took me about 45 minutes of going back and forth to it from doing other things around the house before I finished it. So worth the time though, something about the buttery honey and nut flavor combination makes me go crazy haha!

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  8. This is the coolest twist on baklava! Your photos are beautiful too. I love the presentation and I'm thinking that a very thin slice would be sweet enough for just about anyone. Happy Birthday!

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    1. Thank you so much Mary! And yes, a thin slice of this cake goes a loooong way haha :)

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  9. I wish you a great birthday. Your pictures are soooo awesome. I just found your blog and I had to
    drop a line. Keep up with your great work. Thanks for sharing;-)
    cheers sabrinasue;-)

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    1. Awww thanks so much Sabrina! I'm so glad you found it and are enjoying it here :)

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  10. Eva, this looks amazing! I can't wait to make it. Hungry Rabbit is the brainchild of Ken Leung - he is amazing. By the way, my coupon finally came from King Arthur. Thank you!

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    1. So happy to hear it! I was wondering about that haha. And the Hungry Rabbit is such an interesting blog, I'm really looking forward to reading through all the older posts!

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  11. Whoa! I never even imagined a baklava cake existed. This looks absolutely amazing! :)

    Sues

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  12. I LOVE baklava! I haven't had it in years, and I'm absolutely positive that there's not a decent piece of the stuff anywhere near where I live. What a fun way to celebrate your birthday!

    Happy birthday!!

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    1. Thanks Brianne! If you can get your hands on some filo dough, definitely try making it yourself. It is a bit tricky at first but once you get the hang of working with filo it gets a lot easier :)

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  13. Haaaaappy Birthday! Yay!

    And, dude, this cake — HOLY COW. It's like, my dream. Baklava was actually one of the first things I tried making when I started feeling a little confidence in the kitchen. I made that and dolmades for an office party, and it was a semi-harrowing experience. It taught me that both tasks require patience and counter space (neither of which I had very much of at the time), and probably should not be attempted simultaneously or consecutively. :) I just worked with filo for the first time since then to make bourekas last month. It was really frustrating at first, but once I calmed down and started being extra generous with the butter, I was able to get into a rhythm with it and enjoy the process. I'd like to try my hand at baklava again sometime soon, especially now that I'm totally enamored with this cake.

    Hope you have an awesome day, Eva!

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    1. Thank you for the birthday wishes, Carey! And man, I admire you for attempting both of those at the same time. Those are probably two of the most tedious Greek foods to make that I can think of. but you got the trick to working with flio, and that is using a good amount of butter :) Also covering the pile you're not using yet with a barely damp towel helps keeps it from becoming dry and brittle and keeps it nice and pliable. If you try making baklava again let me know, I would love to hear about it!

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  14. Hi! I’m new follower of your blog and would like to invite you to join me at my weekly Clever Chicks Blog Hop:

    http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2013/03/clever-chicks-blog-hop-27-pizza-rustica.html





    I hope you can make it!



    Cheers,

    Kathy Shea Mormino

    The Chicken Chick

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  15. as baklava is one of my favorite desserts ever imagined, i have to bow at your feet for this one. brilliant and delicious! my birthday's coming up, and an attempt at this might just be in order. :)

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    1. Thanks so much Grace! Let me know how you like it if you try it :)

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  16. Do you think I could do this in one big springform cake tin, as I only have 2 small tins???

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    1. Yes you definitely could. The baklava might not puff up as much because of the additional weight but it should still taste fine :)

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  17. Baklava in cake form? This is exactly what I love about food blogs: the creativity and fearlessness in cooking that one can find by perusing the culinary journals of people who love food--and love sharing their love for it with others! Bon appetit.

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    1. Thank you so much Daytona! My fiancé is half Norwegian and I always love eating Scandinavian food when we go to Montana to visit his family. Love the recipes on your blog! I'm going to have to try and make some for him :)

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  18. Thank you for the quick reply, I'm totally taken by this cake since I saw my friend comment on it!! What a clever, wonderful thing to do!! Hope mine is just a little like yours!!

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    1. You are very welcome! And thanks so much! Let me know how it comes out for you when you give it a try :)

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  19. I read through this post and just kept saying, "Oh.My.Gosh." over and over again. I'm an Armenian girl who looooves baklava and this cake is genius! So glad to have found your site! I'm bookmarking this and making it for MY next birthday!

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    1. Wonderful! So happy to hear that Caroline! Thank you so much :) Let me know how you like it when you try it!

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  20. Happy belated! And my goodness gracious, this is just gorgeous and absolutely inspirational. I love Greek food, and I'm seeing sparks fly in more than one way right now. Can't wait to try my hand at this in the near future. Thank you for the fabulous photos and history! I always love reading and seeing your work...and I love your sparkler, too ;)

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    1. Thanks so much Ala :) Makes me so happy to hear that! Let me know how you like it if you try it :)

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  21. Aww sorry i wasn't here earlier to wish you a happy birthday, Eva! I hope it was a lovely one with that incredible cake.

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  22. Just discovered your beautiful blog via Pinterest and am happily browsing through the fantastic archive, bookmarking lots of ideas to try myself. Just wanted to let you know how much I'm enjoying it! Thank you!

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    1. Awwww thank you so much Kavey! I am so happy you're enjoying the site :D If you ever have any questions about the recipes feel free to ask anytime :)

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  23. Oh my goodness, this recipe is such pure genius. I now officially want a Baklava Cake for every single one of my future birthdays.

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    1. Thank you so much Allison! Highly recommend it :)

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  24. how is that I have only JUST stumbled across this delicious space!
    this is utter brilliance, I can't wait to give it a shot, get all the turkish family members in a state of shock!!
    huge new fan here, so thank you very much!
    Yeliz

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    1. Thank you Yeliz! I hope they like it, and am so happy you came across this post :)

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  25. This looks fabulous. A Greek owned fishmonger in my childhood neighborhood always had baklava that 'Grandma' would make - best I ever had. I adore phyllo and can't wait to try this. The pictures are gorgeous; wonderful lighting!

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    1. Thank you so much Renee! Let me know how it turns out for you :)

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  26. Last week I was challenged to make a dessert for a mediterranean themed dinner party. I had never made baklava before, but when I found this post through foodgawker, I fell in love with it and had to try it myself. It turned out amazing (though I did change it a bit, cutting out some sugar, adding some rosewater, and substituting in pistachios). Thank you so much for the inspiration!

    P.S. I'm going to have to try out other recipes of yours. They all look so good.

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    1. Thank you so much BambI! I am so happy that you liked it and that is came together well for you :)

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  27. Eva, this is the first time I have visited your site. I agree with previous posts. Your presentation is fantastic. The cake is beautiful, inviting, mouthwatering and in good taste. The exact same words can be used to describe your photography. This is the only post I visited today, but I'm sure the rest of it it just as good.

    I have a question for you. Decades ago I had a recipe for the filo dough and made baklava totally from scratch. It was divine. I have misplaced that recipe and have not been able to find another since. Of course I haven't looked diligently, but none-the-less I haven't found one. Would you have such a recipe or know where I could look? I am gluten-free out of necessity so I can't use the filo sheets. I have seen several mouth-watering recipes which use filo sheets, so I can't take advantage of them. It would probably take me a year and a hundred tries to convert a regular recipe to a gluten-free one, but I think it would be worth the effort. So, if you could point me in the right direction to get a recipe for the filo sheets, I would appreciate it very much.

    Keep posting those beautiful desserts.

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    1. Hi Linda! Thank you so much for your kind words, you are such a sweet person! I did some looking around and this video seems to explain and demonstrate the process of making homemade fill dough very well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPqZdHtWqnA
      As for converting it to a gluten-free recipe, I'd try it out first with a pre-packaged gluten-free baking mix first, like the ones from King Arthur Flour or Bob's Red Mill. If that's not quite the right texture, you'd have to get some different gluten-free flours, like tapioca, almond meal, etc, and start to experiment with getting the texture near the wheat version. I am really excited to hear about how the gluten-free homemade filo adventure turns out for you! I have always wanted to try making homemade fill but have yet to attempt it, but I think your description of the homemade fill baklava has inspired me to try my hand at it :)

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