Portokalopita is a Greek orange-scented cake, or maybe it’s closer to bread pudding. Photo by Ellie Chatto

The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is make my pour-over coffee and start looking at my email, Facebook and AppleNews+ app to read the latest about food and food culture. There’s a lot out there to digest. Recently, I saw an article titled “Lean into Your Inner Rebellious Baker with These Rule-Breaking Desserts.” That was an invitation I couldn’t resist! I like to bake, and I really like to try something new and different. And everyone has a rebellious side, right?

The article was a collection of mostly spring-themed desserts like lemon merengue pie baked into bars and tangy rhubarb upside-down cupcakes. But what caught my interest was a dessert called portokalopita. It’s a citrusy bread pudding using phyllo dough, instead of bread, as a base. No need to make the phyllo, as there are perfectly great ones right in the freezer section of the grocery store. The recipe calls for tearing the dough sheets into small pieces and spreading those onto a sheet pan or two to dry. That sounded easy to me, and I think the “rebellious” part just might be all that ripping and tearing.

After thawing the phyllo for a short time, I tore up the dough sheets and and spread them in a single layer in a sheet pan to dry (I used two sheet pans). The recipe said this should take about 30 minutes, but I found it took more like 90 minutes. The timing will probably depend on the humidity level in your kitchen. While I was waiting, I got busy zesting and juicing the oranges to make both the custard and a citrus sugar syrup that is poured over the warm baked pudding. The custard was a standard one made with eggs, but instead of the usual milk or cream, the recipe rebelliously calls for Greek yogurt. It is easy to make by combining the ingredients into a blender.

After putting the dried dough pieces into a 9×13 pan, as instructed, I poured the prepared custard over them, gently stirred, patted the surface to smooth it, and then carefully arranged the orange slices on top. I was orderly rather than rebellious when I placed the slices so that it would make cutting the dessert into twelve servings easier – one orange slice per serving.

While the cake baked, I made the sugar syrup to pour on top. To be extra rebellious, I added a glug of Cointreau, the orange liquor, to the syrup.

The pudding puffed up and baked to a beautiful browned top. I took it from the oven and poured the syrup over the top. Though it seemed like a lot of liquid, which formed a moat of syrup along the sides of the pan, I needn’t have worried. It soaked in perfectly after an hour.


The result? So delicious! The recipe made 12 generous servings, and it was a hit with my dinner guests. So, break out your “inner rebellious baker” and work out some frustrations while tearing up that dough!


The recipe is very slightly adapted from one on the online website, allrecipes.com.


2 cups granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


1 orange, halved

Glug of Cointreau, optional


1 (16-ounce) package phyllo dough

3 oranges

5 eggs


1 (7-ounce) container Greek yogurt

¾ cup olive oil

½ cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

To make the syrup, combine the sugar and cinnamon in a saucepan over medium-high heat with 1½ cups water. Squeeze in the orange juice and add the juiced halves, too. Bring the mixture to a boil and boil vigorously for 8 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and add the Cointreau if you like. Allow the syrup to cool while you prepare the cake.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan with olive oil.


To make the cake, remove the phyllo sheets from the package. Tear each sheet roughly into shreds and pile up in the baking pan. Let the shredded phyllo dry out a little while you prepare the remaining ingredients. Cut 1 orange in half, and slice 1 half into very thin half-moons, which you will use to top the cake. Zest and juice the remaining 2 ½ oranges.

Combine the orange juice, orange zest, eggs, yogurt, olive oil, sugar and baking powder in a blender or food processor. Blend together on high speed until frothy, about 2 minutes. Pour the mixture over the shredded phyllo in the baking pan. Stir everything together gently to ensure that the egg mixture is evenly distributed. Arrange the reserved orange slices over the batter.

Bake the cake in the preheated oven until the top is golden and the filling set, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately pour the cooled syrup over the hot cake. Set aside for at least 1 hour, until most of the syrup has soaked in. Slice into squares and serve.

Ellie Chatto. Photo courtesy of Ellie Chatto


“I read extensively every day about food and food culture. I love to try new recipes and I like to be inspired by what I read, what’s on sale at the store, or an item in the pantry I am trying to use up. I enjoy entertaining in my home in South Portland, and I’m not afraid to try a new recipe when serving guests. I know that’s a bit risky, but I haven’t had a disaster yet!

“I am a Sommelier, having passed the Level I course offered by the Court of Master Sommeliers in 2014. The course of study is rigorous, and it was a proud moment for me when I passed that first exam.

“I have a small kitchen so I don’t have room for lots of extra cooking tools I might use only once in a while. About 15 years ago, I decided that I would just get the best tools I could afford as I replaced worn-out items. I treasure my All-Clad cookware collection, my Kitchen-Aid stand mixer I inherited from my mother and my silicone spatulas. I don’t own a potato masher because it takes up too much room, but I can make wonderful, slightly chunky mashed potatoes with just a fork. I learned that in a cooking class in France and I wouldn’t do it any other way now.

“Food, wine, restaurant dining, and travel are not just hobbies, but passions for me.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: