Carl Jung, noted Swiss psychiatrist and one of the founding fathers of modern depth psychology, developed a clinical diagnostic tool, the Word Association Test, in which patients are presented with various stimulus words and asked to give responses to them. These responses are used to identify unconscious personality dynamics and the existence of underlying problems.
Let's combine it with a little free association and let's give it a try. Stimulus word: dessert. Go!
Well, you don't need a degree in Psychology, though I do have one, to figure out what my unconscious is saying. A dessert for me right now equals a Greek dessert.
That wasn't always the case though. A few years ago, my response to the stimulus word "dessert" in a word association test, would be a very specific one. Dessert = Chocolate. Not any more!
Even though I still love chocolate, I've come to appreciate the wonders of sponge cakes and fruity desserts. Most of all, I have come to love "siropiasta" desserts. "Siropiasta" is a category of Greek desserts that are drenched in syrup, like most traditional Greek desserts are. Take Baklavas, or Kantaifi, or Galaktompoureko, or Ravani which is one of the Greek desserts that have been a revelation for me.
Ravani or Revani is a buttery cake doused with syrup. I never used to like it, it always seemed too stodgy to me, so heavy with all that syrup, always wanting to reach for a glass of water as soon as I took one bite of it. But one day my mother called, sounding so excited, declaring that she had found the perfect Ravani. Yes, my mother is as crazy about food as I am. Of course she gave me the recipe and I was blown away by the difference this version of Ravani had in comparison to every other I've ever tasted. So naturally I'm going to share it with you. Because a good thing needs to be shared!
This Ravani is the best you'll ever have. I'm not exaggerating. It's true. It's so delicate, it's so fluffy, it's so moist, it's sweet but not overly sweet and there's a twist. The addition of desiccated coconut to the batter that makes it taste divine and that it gives a different, more luscious texture to the cake.
The syrup is lemon flavored and it permeates the cake giving it a delicious lemony taste that's prominent but not overpowering. This syrup is so light, "showering" the cake, balancing out its buttery and sugar notes.
Its pale yellow color with its golden brown top is a beautiful sight. It's mouth watering and the smell is incredible. As you bring a piece to your mouth you can smell the butter, the lemon and the exotic coconut and when you taste it, it fulfills every expectation.
You can serve it with a dusting of desiccated coconut, with a side of vanilla ice cream, accompanying your coffee or tea and it is guaranteed to satisfy your sugar craving after dinner.
Greek Cake with Desiccated Coconut and Lemon Flavored Syrup or "Ravani"
Most versions of Ravani contain semolina flour. Not this one. The recipe calls for all-purpose flour which is a far better choice for this cake. Semolina flour is one of the ingredients that for me make Ravani incredibly heavy.
I prefer using a 22 cm in diameter round spring-form pan for Ravani which yields a thicker cake but you can use a slightly larger pan (25 cm) or a square pan.
Yield: 1 cake
160 g unsalted butter, at room temperature plus extra for greasing the pan
230 g sugar
3 medium-sized eggs
160 ml whole milk
250 g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
140 g desiccated coconut
350 g sugar
360 ml water
20 ml lemon juice, freshly squeezed
Lemon peel from 1 medium-sized lemon
Preheat your oven to 175 degrees Celsius.
Grease the bottom and the sides of the spring-form pan with some butter.
In a large bowl, beat with a hand-held mixer the sugar and butter until fluffy. If you have a stand mixer, you may use that instead, fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the eggs one by one, beating continuously, until they are incorporated into the mixture. Pour in the milk and beat well.
Add the flour and baking powder and beat until incorporated and then add the desiccated coconut. Mix in the coconut with a rubber spatula until the mixture is well blended.
Pour the batter in the spring-form pan and place it on the lower rack of the preheated oven. Bake for 35 minutes and then move pan to the middle rack and bake for another 15 minutes or until when inserting a knife in the middle of the cake it comes out clean.
Meanwhile prepare the syrup. In a small saucepan, add the sugar, water, lemon juice and lemon peel. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and leave to infuse, covered, for 10 minutes. Remove the lemon peel from the saucepan and discard it.
When cake is ready, remove from the oven and place on a wire rack. When it has slightly but not completely cooled, pour the warm syrup over the cake, a spoonful at a time, starting to pour always from the middle of the cake.
Leave the drenched cake on a wire rack to absorb all the syrup and cool completely. Then remove the interlocking side band of the pan and cut the cake into squares (while still being on the round base of the pan). Remove each square and place it on a cake dish.
Note: The cake will be almost stuck at the bottom of the pan and that is why you need to cut it into pieces first so that it doesn't crack while trying to remove it as a whole.
Serve the cake and keep in mind that it tastes far better the next day!!
The cake will keep for 4-5 days, covered, at room temperature.