Depi does fantastic Thai Yoga massage in Ithaca and on the retreat. Whilst waiting for her customers she will sometimes come and chat with us in the kitchen, helping us to sample a new dessert (or 5).
Depi herself makes fabulous cakes and last week she cooked a walnut cake for the new guests, which was one of the most delicious cakes I have ever tasted. It has a very similar flavour to carrot cake but I think is even more delicious and is really gooey because of the syrup poured over it once it comes out the oven. It is also far less labour intensive than carrot cake.
Winters in Ithaca are cold, rainy, and quiet with many locals leaving the Island to other parts of Greece or the world because there is so little work here. Depi said that one boring, rainy winter she entertained herself by making desserts and her mother gave her this walnut cake recipe. It was also a convenient recipe for her because she didn’t have a set of scales and all the measurements are in cups.
Depi and Gioula (my assistant/sous chef) are good friends and on the day of the new retreat Gioula agreed to deliver the walnut cake that Depi had made for the guests, since Gioula was heading there anyway for her first day of work. The girls pondered how they were going to get such a big tray of cake (for 20 people) onto the back of Gioula’s moped (this is the most common form of transport in Ithaca). With Depi’s mother’s assistance they tied the cake to the back of the bike using a bit of gardening rope.
5 minutes after Gioula set off with the cake Depi received a phone call from Gioula who wasn’t able to speak because she was laughing so much. Finally Gioula explained that unfortunately the rope had failed to stay in place and that the cake had fallen off the bike.
Gioula asked a passer by to help her strap the cake back onto the bike and rang Ingrid (her new boss) to inform her that she would be 10 minutes late. Well the cake made it to the retreat in the end, not quite in the immaculate condition it started out in, but I’m guessing just as delicious nonetheless… Depi recognised that the rope/bike method of delivery ‘didn’t work so well’ but concluded that ‘I think people were happy with that cake’ and that ‘In future I’m coming here to make the cake’.
Depi’s walnut cake recipe
2 cups of ground walnuts
2 cups of breadcrumbs
5 eggs (yolk and whites separated)
1 shot of cognac (or similar)
1 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of ground cloves
1 cup of caster sugar
1 packet of unsalted butter (250g)
1 cup of water
1 and a half cups of caster sugar
2 inch piece of lemon peel
Pre-heat the oven to 170c. Whisk the egg whites until stiff and set aside. Mix all the other cake ingredients in a food processor or with an electric whisk. Once combined fold through the egg whites. Pour mixture into a greased baking tray and put in the oven for 1 hour. Whilst the cake is cooking make the syrup by heating all the syrup ingredients in a small pan and giving it a stir once or twice. Once the syrup comes to the boil remove from the heat and allow to cool. Pour over the syrup once you take the cake out of the oven and the cake is still warm. It is important that either the syrup or cake are warm but that the it her is cold. Alternatively you can pour the warm syrup over the cake once the cake has cooled down.
Depi said she added icing to this cake for decoration, but for taste it’s not necessary.