Greek Labor Day Party

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A surprised us early last week by coming to Boston for the week, including Labor Day Weekend. We were literally sitting down to lunch on Monday at Sam’s – to commemorate their last day in the current building (SNIFF! SNIFF!) when she came walking in. Since we is here, we had to have a deck dinner (or several) ! So we had a small Labor Day Deck Dinner Party on M & C’s deck. M & C  like themed cuisine and thus picked Greek as the theme. What Greek cuisine has to do with Summer or Labor Day is unclear 1. It’s just a favorite destination of theirs and delicious food.

As usual, I had dessert duty and initially considered making portokalopita (Greek Orange Pie) but I’ve made it a couple of times and I was in the mood to try something new. Lacking any Greek cookbooks, I consulted Google and found this fantastic site called My Greek Dish – a panoply of recipes for sweet and savory Greek food with enticing photography and helpful organization and recommendations. In the category “extra sticky desserts”, which is where they also classify portokalopita, I found Ravani – coconut cake with syrup – a simply but tasty-sounding coconut and citrus cake.

Greek Ravani  (Coconut Cake With Syrup) (adapted from

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According to the website, there are some key tricks to this cake, and I figured out one along the way.

  • Separating the egg yolks and whites to add to the cake separately. The yolks go in after the butter and sugar have been creamed, and the whites get beaten into a meringue, then folded into the batter at the end. This supposedly makes a fluffier, less “egg-y” cake.
  • (Mine) I didn’t have the right sized pan. The closest thing I had was a springform that was 2 inches shorter than the requirement. It worked, but it leaked as it was baking and cooling. The cake was incredibly moist despite this, but I’m curious if it would have been more moist if I’d used the right type of pan and not lost whatever leaked. It was almost like melted sugar and egg white.
  • (Also mine) I used Baker’s unsweetened coconut – the one in the blue bag. I wonder if it much moister than whatever the original recipe used. Not that it’s that moist, but maybe enough? Next time I make it, I might try to  squeeze out some of the moisture by putting it into a paper towel and wringing it out.
  •  When adding syrup to the ravani cake, always make sure that the cake is cold and the syrup is really hot. Ladle really slowly the hot syrup over the cold ravani, enabling each ladle to be absorbed, so that the syrup is absorbed evenly.
  • Even though it will be really hard…you should wait for the ravani to cool before cutting into pieces, or else it will crumble. Ideally serve this Greek coconut cake cold from the fridge the following day.


4 eggs (separated into whites and yolks)

2 cups of butter at room temperature

2 cups of sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 cups flaked coconut

Zest of 2 oranges

  • Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  • Put a  second, very clean, mixing bowl and whisk in the freezer to chill.
  • Butter and flour a round cake tin, approximately 30cm in diameter. Use a cooking brush to butter the bottom and sides of the cake tin. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp of flour and shake the cake tin, so that the flour covers the butter. Tap to get rid of any excess flour. This technique will prevent the ravani from sticking on the pan.
  • In a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy – about 5 – 7 minutes.
  • Add the egg yolks, one at a time, allowing each one to be incorporated. Set the mixture aside.
  • Place the egg whites and a pinch of sugar in the cold clean mixing bowl.
  • Beat the egg whites until the mixture is very thick and glossy, and a long trailing peak forms when the whisk is lifted.

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  • In another bowl, blend the flaked coconut, the flour and baking powder.

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  • With a spatula add the meringues and half of the flour mixture into the whisked butter and blend lightly, until the ingredients are combined. Add the rest of the flour mixture and the orange zest; folding very lightly.

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  • Pour the ravani batter into the pan and smooth out the top.

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  • Bake the ravani in preheated oven at 40-45 minutes, until golden and cooked through.
  • After baking the cake, let it cool down for a while.
  • While the cake is cooling, make the syrup.


1 ½ cups of sugar

1 ½ cups of water

Juice of ½ lemon

  • To achieve the right texture for the syrup of the ravani cake, you should never stir the syrup while it is boiling.
  • Just bring to the boil, let the sugar dissolve in the hot water and boil for 5-10 minutes, until the syrup thickens a little bit.
  • Add in a saucepan the sugar, the water and lemon juice; boil for about 5-10 minutes, until the sugar has dissolved and the syrup has slightly thickened.
  • Remove the pan from the stove and ladle slowly the syrup over the ravani cake, allowing each ladle of syrup to be absorbed, before ladling again. Allow time for the syrup to be absorbed and place in the fridge.

I could only get the cake to take about half of the syrup. I never put it in the fridge like I was supposed to which may be the reason. Nonetheless, it was the hit of the party, and I’ve already been told that I have to make it again because not everyone got a piece. The cake is incredibly moist, coconut-ty and citrusy. Despite the large amount of sugar in the recipe and the sugar in the syrup, it’s not cloyingly sweet. It’s complex, light with the citrus zing, and might even be able to be made gluten free because there is so little flour in it. It’s also easy to make, just a bit time-consuming. This is definitely one to add to your repertoire.

1 Nothing. But I suppose you could say that the weather is rather summer-y in Greece and, unfortunately, not a lot of people are working.

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