My Family’s Vegan Melomakarona Recipe: Greek No-Honey Walnut Cakes

My vegan melomakarona

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’.

vegan melomakarona

Vegan Melomakarona: Greek No-Honey Walnut Cakes
Print Recipe
Rice malt syrup is used in place of honey for this delicious vegan version of a traditional Greek sweet. Other recipes call for eggs or butter but my family's version was always vegan, except for the honey.
Servings Prep Time
30 cakes 15 minutes
Cook Time
20-22 minutes
Servings Prep Time
30 cakes 15 minutes
Cook Time
20-22 minutes
Vegan Melomakarona: Greek No-Honey Walnut Cakes
Print Recipe
Rice malt syrup is used in place of honey for this delicious vegan version of a traditional Greek sweet. Other recipes call for eggs or butter but my family's version was always vegan, except for the honey.
Servings Prep Time
30 cakes 15 minutes
Cook Time
20-22 minutes
Servings Prep Time
30 cakes 15 minutes
Cook Time
20-22 minutes
Ingredients
Cakes
Syrup
Servings: cakes
Instructions
CAKES
  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180C (a moderate oven temperature). With an electric beater, beat together the oil, sugar and orange zest until creamy.
  2. Add in the ground cinnamon, ground cloves and walnuts. Mix until well combined.
  3. Sift in the flour and baking powder. Switch to mixing by hand (use a strong wooden spoon), adding in the orange juice as you mix. The dough mixture will come together and you should be able to roll balls that keep their shape.
  4. Take a walnut sized amount of dough and roll it in to slightly elongated little cakes. Place the cakes on your baking tray about 3cm apart.
  5. Bake for about 20-22 minutes, being careful not to burn the bottoms.
  6. Allow the cakes to cool completely. While they are cooling, start making the syrup.
SYRUP
  1. In a small to medium sized pot, combine all the syrup ingredients. Stirring often, bring to a boil then simmer for ten minutes.
  2. The cakes should be completely cooled and the syrup should be warm (not hot, it should be comfortable if you stick your finger in the syrup). Have a large plate, or plates ready.
  3. Put one cake in to the syrup. Swish it around gently for no more than ten seconds. Eight seconds is fine. Remove carefully with a slotted spoon and place on your plate.
  4. Repeat for all remaining cakes. Place the cakes on your plate in a single layer with no overlapping.
  5. Sprinkle the reserved 1/4 cup of finely ground walnuts over the tops of the cakes. When you serve the cakes, or if you are giving them away as gifts, you can stack them up neatly.
Recipe Notes

If you want to add brandy, try adding 1 1/2 Tbsp along with the ground cinnamon and cloves.

If you want to add lemon, add the zest of one lemon along with the orange zest.

Do not be tempted to dip the cakes in the syrup before the cakes have cooled competely! They may break apart and/or get too mooshy.

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12 thoughts on “My Family’s Vegan Melomakarona Recipe: Greek No-Honey Walnut Cakes

  1. Walnuts, orange and syrup sounds excellent for a cake to me – I am not sure it I have tasted them – occasionally I have had those little greek cakes but never know the names of them. But I will look out for them – and maybe might even make them as I love the sound of the recipe.

    • They’re always in Greek cake shops, though the ones I’ve tried have been too sweet for me. My mum’s were the best 🙂

    • You’re welcome! This is the first time I’ve had them in a long time too and I’m glad they taste like what I remember. The rice malt syrup is a really good stand in for honey!

  2. great recipe! my children couldn’t taste the difference well done. I want to make them for a friend of mine but she can’t eat orange can I substitute lemon instead ?

    • Some people make them with lemon instead (I’ve always preferred the orange though)! let me know how they turn out!

  3. Oh my gosh these look AHHHHHMAZING thank you so much for sharing. Can I ask you you stipulate not extra virgin olive oil? I’m new to baking and curious as to what impact this would have. Thanks, Veronica 🙂

    • hi and thanks! The extra virgin olive oil would have a much stronger flavour. Some would like it but when I’ve had them it’s a bit overpowering!

  4. Rookie chef had a power outage,and I lost my MOJO. The melomakarena end up crumbly and fall apart just looking at them. Do I add more flour to firm up the mixture? Zon

    • oh no! I’m sorry I didn’t see this sooner, I hope you were able to work something out (maybe use them as a crumble topping somewhere?) I would try a little more flour, though have some more olive oil and a bit of orange juice handy in case you need to add a bit more liquid. I’ve found recently it can also depend on the size of the ground walnuts too, if they’re not finely ground the melomakarona can be crumbly. Thanks for leaving a comment and I hope everything turned out okay!

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