Thursday, March 11, 2010

Food word association

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 a couple— 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.

Ravani me Indokarydo (Greek Cake with Desiccated Coconut and Lemon Flavored Syrup)

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


for 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

for syrup
350 g sugar
360 ml water
20 ml lemon juice, freshly squeezed
Lemon peel from 1 medium-sized lemon


for cake
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.

for syrup
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.


  1. The first word that came to mind when you said dessert was 'love'. I had a smile on my face, so I hope that means I'm well adjusted. :)

  2. I remember playing this as a game when we were kids:) Your revani sounds delicious and love the addition of coconut in it.

  3. Revani is the most delicious cake! One of my favourites....interesting how you used all purpose flour and no semolina. I think I will make this tomorrow and play round with the ingredients as well...thanks for sharing!

  4. Tracy, great response. And having a smile on your face is certainly a good sign :)

    12th Man, good choice.

    Ivy, I've never played it as a game... until now! :)

    Peter, let me know how it went. Actually the texture of the desiccated coconut mimics the texture of the semolina flour in the cake but it's far better!

  5. I love this post. It's great fun. I've never tried this cake before so I'm looking forward to it. Looks wonderful!

  6. I love your coconut cake. It reminds me of a similar cake I had every summer in a small Mediterranean town in northeast Morocco.


  7. Lovely Greek Cake. Very intrigued and will try soon.

  8. Oh My these look so moist and delicate and irresistible. Bookmarking this recipe !

  9. Thanks for visiting me, nice to know another expat = ) Did you find me from expat blog? I'm bookmarking your site, and look forward to getting to know you = )

  10. Delicious! I adore sponge cake, lemon, and coconut. I imagine this cake is heavenly! Can't wait to try it :-)

  11. Hi Magda, Cake looks yummy. I love coconut and lemon and cake!!!!! I got the Nestle chocolate from a Mexican friend, from Mexico!!!

  12. Haha I'm taking my first psych class right now and the fact that you went from Jung to cake made me giggle. And the cake looks amaaazing, I'm going to have to try it! Thanks for sharing.

  13. Μου έρχεται να γλύψω την οθόνη :-)

  14. El, thank you. You must try it.

    Nisrine, thanks.

    Ellie, let me know how it goes.

    Kajal, thank you.

    girl Japan, same here.

    Just a plane ride away, it really is heavenly!

    Kitchen Butterfly, I should get a friend from Mexico! :)

    Tumbleweed Woman, thanks for stopping by.

    Σοφία, χεχε

  15. Magda φοβερό το ποστ σου αυτό!Και ειδικά έτσι όπως παρουσίασες το ραβανί, με έκανες να μου τρέχουν τα σάλια!!Δεν το είχα σκεφτεί ποτέ έτσι όπως το έθεσες με τον Γιουνγκ!(έχω διαβάσει λίγα από αυτόν, προτιμώ άλλους, αλλά έχεις δίκιο έτσι όπως τα γράφεις!)

  16. I have just poured the syrup on and am waiting for it to cool - it looks so delicious! Not sure if I will try a slice tonight, or wait and have it for breakfast in the morning! Just so you know - you forgot to mention adding the baking powder.... Thanks!

  17. Kate-Amie-Kate, oops, you're right, I corrected it. Thanks! You must have a slice tonight and then one in the morning and then one in the afternoon!

  18. Mάγδα έκανα share στο post σου, στο group του History of Greek Food στο FaceBook!/group.php?gid=22528783091&ref=ts
    Πολύ ωραία συνταγή! :)

  19. Μαριάνα σ' ευχαριστω! Εάν το φτιάξεις πες μου πώς σου φάνηκε :)

  20. Thanks for your comment on our blog! The cake turned out wonderfully, and everyone who tasted it loved it! Next stop - find phyllo dough in Florence to make those amazing-looking tartlets!

  21. Kate I'm so glad you enjoyed the cake! :) In case you can't find phyllo you can make the tartlets with shortcrust or puff pastry.

  22. I recently discovered your blog and I love it. I did your Ravani and it almost worked until I took it out of the oven. In less than 5 min. it went from a nice puffed cake to a flat deflated cake. I poured the syrup nonetheless and it tasted great but it didn't have this nice fluffy texture that I expected. I really don't know what could have gone wrong. I used a Pyrex pan, could it be why? I also didn't place it out on a wire rack (don't have one). I also didn't get how I am suppose to put it on a wire rack before taking it out of the pan? perhaps I should read your recipe again. Thanks for a great cake though!

  23. Hello there. I'm sorry you had trouble with the ravani. But, are you sure you followed the recipe exactly? This type of cake doesn't tend to deflate, it's rather "tight" since it has a fair amount of flour in it as well as the desiccated coconut. I really can't imagine what would have happened. Was it cooked all the way through? Did you stick a knife in the middle and did it came out clean? Did you use the baking powder? I have never used a Pyrex pan for baking cakes so I don't know how that may have affected the outcome.
    As far as the rack is concerned, as I say in the recipe, you're not supposed to take the ravani out of the pan at any stage. You simply place the pan (with the cake still inside) on a rack, so that it cools down faster. If you don't have a rack, it's ok. The cake will just take more time to cool down.
    I'm glad to read that you liked the flavor of the ravani. I hope it will be a success the next time you make it!

  24. Hi Magda, I just wanted to let you know I made this lovely cake and posted about it linking back to you. It was delicious! I just read the comment above: I used a Pyrex dish and had not trouble with it.

    1. Hello. I'm very happy you liked it and good to know the Pyrex works out well! Heading over to check it out!

  25. Hi Magda... I think I have just died and gone to heaven by finding you and your recipe:) I have been looking for a recipe that incorporates coconut:) xxxxLara from a life on a plate:)
    Can I post about this and link you in the post?

    1. Hi Lara. Thank you! Sure you can!
      I hope you enjoy the cake, it is indeed delicious!

  26. This cake is so delicious!! I love coconut cakes, and I felt the lemon syrup made a fantastic combination. This cake is definitely becoming a staple in our house :) I made it for my husband to distribute to his office colleagues on his birthday, and it was liked tremendously by everyone. I reduced the amount of sugar (in both the cake and syrup); yet, everyone thought the sweetness was just right. Thank you for putting up this post. It's your pics that enticed me into making this cake :)

    1. Hi Jolene! A staple huh?? That's fantastic! I love this cake and I'm so happy you like it as well.
      As far as the sugar is concerned, these kinds of Greek desserts (like the Ravani), are supposed to be very sweet, that's why they are served in small pieces, but reducing the amount of sugar to your liking is what cooking and baking is all about; making the appropriate adjustments to suit your tastes.
      Thank you for your feedback!

  27. Wow it tasted incredibly delicious, me and my hubby enjoyed it a lot!

    Thanks for sharing Magda.....:)

    1. Thanks Nidhi for the feedback and for writing a comment on the blog! :) I'm glad you and your husband enjoyed it.

  28. This has become my FAVOURITE cake, and one that I take with me everywhere. I have made it into cupcakes, in a loaf pan, and round as you suggested. One MINOR tweak: I add a capful of coconut rum (I use Malibu) to both the cake and the syrup. It enhances the coconuttiness and who doesn't like a shot of booze in cake? Thanks so much for reminding me of my favourite cake as a kid (and now I make it for my mom!)

    1. Hi! I'm glad you like the cake and thanks for the feedback. :)

  29. Hi, not sure if I can find dessicated coconut in the states. Is it the same as dried coconut flakes and do you use sweetened or unsweetened?

  30. Susan, it's the same as regular dried coconut that you get in the States (UNsweetened), but tends to be smaller here in Greece -- not those big shredded pieces which would actually be sort-of unappealling in this IMHO.

    However, Magda, without semolina? Why?! That slightly crunchy texture is 9/10ths of the unique charm of this delicious Greek cake!

    1. Semolina makes it a bit too heavy for my taste even though I make it with semolina from time to time. This is a lighter version of the classic ravani with coconut flavor. The desiccated coconut compensates for the crunchy texture. Try it!

  31. I would love to see your recipe for galaktompoureko please!

  32. Hi Magda,

    Thank you for a beautiful blog. In your ravani recipe do you use sweetened or unsweetened desiccated coconut? I live in the US and have never used this before.

  33. Made this cake once 8 years back and the taste was exquisite. Wanted to make it again, went through many recipes but at the end came back to this one itself. Simply awesome and the recipe is spot on. Thank you