Meera Sodha's recipe for vegan portokalopita, or Greek orange cake

A vegetarian option for a classic Greek dessert

I ate this cake years ago when I was on a date with a teacher who really loves Greek food. I didn't fall in love with it, but I really enjoyed the cake. It tastes like home, and gulab jamun, because of the syrup that seeps deep into the dough. Dense, like pudding, but also very bright with the citrus flavors of January. In fact, it felt like what one would expect in a lovely partnership: brightness and a feeling of home. My connection to this cake outlasted the guru, and for that I have no regrets.

  • Portokalopita (Greek orange cake)
  • Preparation 15 min
  • Cook 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Rest 30 minutes+
  • Makes 1 x 20cm cake, for serving 8
  • For cake
  • 1 x 270g pack of filo pastry
  • 400g vegan yogurt – I use Oatly's Oatgurt
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 3 large oranges, 2 grated and juiced, to make 250ml, the other thinly sliced, for garnish
  • 150 grams of caster sugar
  • 150 ml of extra virgin olive oil
  • Vegan creme fraiche, to serve
  • For syrup
  • 125 grams of caster sugar
  • 1 large orange, juiced, to get 125ml

Preheat oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6, and grease and line a 20cm springform cake pan.

Line a baking sheet with reusable parchment paper, crumple the filo sheets individually into loose balls and place them on the baking sheet. Bake for five minutes, until slightly golden, then remove and set aside.

In a bowl, combine the yogurt, baking powder, cornstarch, orange zest and caster sugar, then add the olive oil and orange juice. Grind the baked filo into chunks, then stir into the batter. Pour everything into the prepared cake tin, decorate the top with an orange wedge, then bake for one hour and 15 minutes, until golden.

While the cake is baking, make the syrup. Boil the sugar and orange juice for 10 minutes, until the sugar dissolves and a light syrup remains.

Once the cake is done, punch a hole in the top (keep the cake on a tray, as the syrup will leak) and pour the syrup over it. Wait at least 30 minutes, for the syrup to infuse while the cake cools, then unclip and serve with vegan creme fraiche.

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