Orange-Ginger Phyllo Custard Cake

A friend of mine introduced me to the delightful variety of flavors and textures of desserts within Greek cuisine when I was in college. And while I will pour over a menu to find good baklava, I rarely wander into making such desserts on my own. They are tasty treats that I generally do not have the time or patience to make at home. However, I do make my own version of a custardy pie that I once had with tea and lemon.

This rich cake is inspired by the Greek sweet, Galaktoboureko, which is a custard pie often topped with filo and always drizzled/soaked with a citrusy syrup. When I make it, I use a round cake/soufflé pan and build up enough varying texture that I feel calling it a cake is more accurate than a pie. I love the nooks and crannies introduced by the crinkled and lightly spiraled phyllo and filling them with a citrusy custard is just lovely. Then a quick and dirty syrup assembled with marmalade and ginger beer takes it over the top, which is exactly where I want my desserts hanging out.

I love having a little slice of this cake with a cup of coffee or tea. With so much happening on the texture and flavor fronts, a warm beverage washing each bite away and gets you ready to experience that joy again and again. Any cake not enjoyed the same day can be stored tightly wrapped in the refrigerator for up to three days - but I'm guessing it won't last that long!

Orange-Ginger Phyllo Custard Cake

For the pastry:
  • 8 oz. packet thin filo dough, at room temperature
  • 2 oz. butter, melted
For the custard:
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Zest of one orange
  • 2 oz. plain Greek yogurt
For the citrus-ginger syrup:
  • 1 cup orange marmalade
  • 6 oz. ginger beer

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Spray a 8-inch or 9-inch cake pan with cooking spray. Place two sheets of filo dough in opposite directions into the pan and press into place, adding more cooking spray if necesary.

Lay the rest of the packet of filo dough on a cutting board and, with a sharp knife, cut the stack vertically through the center. Take one filo sheet and place it on the counter next to your cutting board. Lightly butter it with the melted butter. Place a second one on top of the first and brush it with butter as well. (Keep the rest of the stack of filo covered with a tea towel while you work). Using your fingers, scrunch it into a loose pleated strip. Form a loose spiral and place it in the middle of the prepared pan. Repeat this with the remaining filo sheets, making 5-8 more filo spirals and placing them close and tight in the pan.

Brush the top of the spirals with some more butter and bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until the filo is lightly brown and crisp.

While the pans are in the oven, prepare the custard. In a large bowl, cream the sugar and the egg. Add the oil, the baking powder, the vanilla, and the orange zest. Fold the yogurt into that mixture and it set aside until the filo is done baking.

Remove the pan from the oven. Pour the orange custard mixture between and over the spirals in the pan. Return the pan to the oven and bake the rosettes for another 20 minutes, or, until the custard has set in the middle.

While the cake bakes, make a syrup by microwaving the marmalade for 30 seconds at a time until it is melted - stir it after each heating. Add the ginger beer and stir gently until it is fully incorporated.

Remove the cake pan from the oven and pour the orange syrup evenly over the hot filo ruffles. Wait for at least fifteen minutes, until the filo slightly cools and the syrup is mostly absorbed before you serve. To serve, slice and drizzle some of the syrup over the top of each slice.

  • Yields: 8-12 servings, depending on how thinly you slice the cake
  • Preparation Time:1 hour