One of my favourite Greek sweets was always melomakarona (meh-loh-mah-KAH-roh-na), small oil based cakes made with walnuts and finished with a honey based syrup. Cinnamon and orange help round out the flavours. Easter and Christmas were when these cakes would be made and as kids (okay, and as adults) we always hoped a relative would make them at one of our family get togethers.
Melomakarona, also known as Finikia in some parts of Greece, are usually already vegan, with the exception of the honey. I have seen some recipes online containing egg and butter but this is rather foreign to my relatives, who insist there should be no eggs or butter 😉
Another notable omission from my family recipe is brandy. Brandy (or whiskey, or ouzo, depending on the cook!) is often added to the cake mixture. I much prefer the cakes without the alcohol personally.
My family’s recipe calls for plain flour, but other cooks use part flour, part semolina. My recipe contains only orange, but others add lemon in as well. This is what I love about Greek cooking, there are so many different versions of one dish though we probably all have a favourite we always come back to! I’ve had melomakarona that are really soggy and others that are on the dry side. It all comes down to that cook!
One of my test recipes was made with white spelt flour. They turned out fine but if using spelt flour, I would add an extra half cup of (spelt) flour to the recipe.
One of those crazy things happened with my testing. I had run out of white sugar, so I used half white half brown sugar in the spelt flour version. I think that version turned out just as well as the recipe version I am giving you. So if you prefer to use spelt and a combination of half white half brown sugar, go right ahead!
I’m also working on making these gluten free, hopefully they’ll turn out and not be too delicate for the syrup stage.
My mum’s recipe is quite old and I have no idea where it originated as most of her recipes are handwritten, having been passed on from someone else. The cakes taste even better the next day and the day after, if they last that long! And look out for the delicious bits of walnut that gather on the plate along with some of the soft cake crumbs. Your cakes may be gone but you’ll still enjoy the crumbs 😉 Don’t worry if your cakes turn out more of a pale colour but dark on the bottoms (my mum said mine should have been browned a bit more but my oven wasn’t cooking things evenly). They’ll still taste great!
I’m very happy to share this recipe with you. If you make it, please leave a comment as well as any questions!
Greek language lesson
“Meli” (MEH-li) in Greek means honey. “Melissa” (MEH-li-sah) in Greek means bee, or honey bee. The female name Melissa means ‘honey bee’.