Zambolis apartments

Zambolis apartments
For your holidays in Chania

Thursday 26 August 2010

Fanouropita (Φανουρόπιτα)

Lost something? Want to discover something? There is still time...

Tomorrow is dedicated to Άγιος Φανούριος, St Fanourios, in the Greek Orthodox church, whose icon was found in the Byzantine period on the island of Rodos (Rhodes). The attribute associated with St Fanourios in popular tradition is that he is the finder of lost objects, as his name suggests: in the Greek language, φανερώνω (fanerono) means reveal. Breads and cakes are baked in his name and offered at the church in the vespers (the night before the feast day) or the morning service (on the feast day), which are then blessed by the priest and shared among the congregation. In this way, the maker of the cake has hope that their lost object may be found. For the same reason, unmarried women may bake a cake in his name, in the hope of discovering the name of their husband (there is no account of the vice versa happening!), and sick people may do the same in the hope that a cure will be found to treat them of their ailment; the 'lost object' takes on a metaphorical meaning: luck, fate, destiny. St Fanourios is often depicted carrying a candle like a torch, looking for something. 

Although St Fanourios was a saint, his mother apparently did no good during her time on earth, according to one version of the story of his life:
"Η μάνα του Αγίου δεν ηκαμε καλό ποτέ τζη. Μόνο ένα κρομμυδύφυλλο ήδωσε μια βολά σ'ένα διακονιάρη. Σαν απόθανε ήβραζε σ'ένα καζάνι με πίσσα και ο Άγιος αρώτησε: α-Γιάντα η μάνα μου είναι εκειά μέσα;
Ο Μιχαήλ Αρχάγγελος τ'απηλοήθηκε: -Γιατί δεν ήκαμε ποτέ καλό. Να ρίξομε το κρομμυδόφυλλο που ήδωσε κι ανέ τηνέ σηκώσει να βγει επάνω, να σωθεί...
Ερίξανε το κρομμυδόφυλλο και η μάνα ντου βγήκε στα χείλια του καζανιού μαζί με τρεις άλλες γυναίκες που πιαστήκανε κι αυτές από το κρομμύδι. Μα η μάνα ντου τώσε δίνει μια σπρωξιά και πέφτουνε πάλι μέσα. Τοτεσάς λέει ο Αρχάγγελος: Θωρείς πως κι επαέ είναι ακόμη κακή.
Τοτεσάς ο Άγιος Φανούριος ζήτησε μια χάρη: Να μην πηγαίνουνε πράμα γι'αυτόν, μόνο για τη μάνα ντου για να λένε να τση συγχωρέσει ο Θεός..." (quotes found in
The above text about the mother of St Fanourios has been written in the Cretan dialect. This is not surprising, since the saint is more highly revered on the island than in other parts of Greece. The churches that are named after St Fanourios take on a more celebratory nature during this time: racks are brought in, tables are laid out, people arrive with their cakes and breads, and the priest blesses them during the service.

The vegan cake baked in St Fanourios' honour (called φανουρόπιτα, fanouropita) is the Greek version of gingerbread, resembling a sweet bread rather than a cake. Although it doesn't contain ginger, this spice could easily replace the traditional ground cloves and cinnamon. It also has special properties: it must be made with seven or nine ingredients. Apparently, this is not up to chance, as the power of  7 or 9 is well known in prophetic or magical practices! In keeping with the tradition of 'finding things', the cake batter always contains spices and dry fruits; as you eat it, your teeth will 'find things' in it! The cake also uses typical Greek-inspired ingredients like olive oil and orange juice, two products my island has a plenty of. 

St Fanourios parish in New Jersey provides a simple recipe in English, which is the one I used to bake a small fanouropita yesterday. Most fanouropita recipes are based on this one. To maintain the idea of the 7 or 9 ingredients, use self-raising flour and a spice mixture to give yourself more leeway!

As Allison says, the cake is a forgiving one, because it is very easy to make; Allison also makes fanouropites for charity in New York. Recipes abound on the web for fanouropita, so you can easily make one of your own. Mixing olive oil and flour is a tricky business - if there is too much flour, the batter will thicken too quickly and won't be able to be poured into the baking tin easily. As you add the flour to the oil mixture (containing spices, orange juice, brandy or water and raisins and/or walnuts), keep stirring the mixture without stopping, until you are ready to pour it into the baking tin to cook. Some people dust the cake with cinammon-scented icing sugar once it's cooked after it has cooled down a little.

The timing of the feast is an appropriate one: the summer heat is waning and the weather is slightly cooler on the saint's feast day, just when a spicy cake will go down well with a cup of tea in the evening.

UPDATE 26/8/2012 - The link that I used to make my fanouropita doesnt seem to be working. Here is a similar recipe:
1 ποτήρι λάδι (1 cup olive oil)
1 ποτήρι ζάχαρη (1 cup sugar)
1 ποτήρι χυμό πορτοκάλι (1 cup orange juice)
1 κουταλιά κουταλιά ξύσμα πορτοκαλιού (1 tablespoon orange zest)
3 ποτήρια αλεύρι που φουσκώνει μόνο του (3 cups self-raising flour)
1 κουταλάκι σόδα (1 teaspoon baking soda)
1 κουταλιά κανελογαρύφαλα (1 tablespoon cinammon and clove spice mixture)
1/2 ποτήρι καρύδια χοντροκομμένα (1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts)
1/2 ποτήρι μαύρες σταφίδες (1/2 cup raisins)

Χτυπάμε το λάδι με τη ζάχαρη, προσθέτουμε το ξύσμα και το χυμό του πορτοκαλιού και τέλος το αλεύρι ανακατεμένο με τα υπόλοιπα υλικά. Αδειάζουμε το χυλό σε ταψί Νο 28 και ψήνουμε σε μέτριο φούρνο για 45-50 λεπτά. Όταν κρυώσει λίγο, πασπαλίζουμε με ζάχαρη άχνη." (Νίκος & Μαρία Ψιλάκη, "Το ψωμί των Ελλήνων και τα γλυκίσματα της λαϊκής μας παράδοσης").

Beat the oil with sugar (REALLY WELL), add the zest and orange juice, and beat again (REALLY WELL), then add the remaining ingredients. Pour the batter into a 28cm diameter baking tin. Cook 40-50 minutes in a moderate oven (180C). When cold, you can also 'ice' it with a dusting of icing sugar. (From Psillakis N and M "The bread of the Greeks, and the sweets of our traditions").

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.


  1. Very interesting. I didn't know about this day or this cake. It looks wonderful though. :)

  2. I really, really liked the story and especially the way you wrote it(cretian speaking)!My fanouropita will be made tommorow since I didn't lost the time to buy all the ingredients today and the shops closed!I'm still trying to organise our life!

  3. hi ,, my mum swears by this , everytime she loses something she makes the cake and tells us to have a piece and we have to say , O theos shoresi ti manna tou ayiou fanouriou, , funny thing is it works,?and she has to share it out to at least 7 people, thanks for the info didnt know this was a patron saint of crete , nice spicy cake

  4. It is always interesting to read about these celebrations.

  5. I'm not really familiar with this cake but it does sound amazing as I love all those ingredients! Thanks for sharing Maria!

  6. Here in the village, they say fanouropita must be made with an odd number of ingredients, 7, 9, 11, etc. This morning I heard a woman bragging that she put 13 in hers. Everyone listening was duly impressed!

  7. the link with the recipe that i used to make the fanouropita pictured now seems to be working ok