Presvytera Vassi Makris Haros is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Art, Architecture & Planning and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. She is the owner, designer and photographer of V’s Cardbox, In Service and Love. a greeting card company featuring cards with an Orthodox voice. She strongly feels that experiencing the Orthodox Faith through the church’s cyclical calendar of feasts and fasts is a gift that is too often overlooked.
Orthodox faithful have a variety of traditions when it comes to thanking a saint who has interceded or taken action in answering a prayer. Some faithful offer monetary donation to churches named after the saint. Some make journeys across the globe to venerate the relics of the saint. Others will name their children after the saint. But when they’ve lost something and prayed to St. Phanourios for intercession and prayed for his mother, they make a cake and share it among their friends as a testimony or thanks for the answered prayer.
I was first introduced to St. Phanourios when I was a teenager. We were traveling and had misplaced several items, jewelry, keys, etc. My mom told us about the saint and we all prayed. Our prayers were answered, and I’ve been a fan ever since. I’ve seen people find a contact lens on a soccer field, a diamond in a bin of whole wheat, and most recently, I found my keys after praying to the helpful saint.
The cake is usually a simple Lenten spice cake, dairy and egg free. Although there are several varieties interchanging walnuts, raisins, and dried cranberries, and some which include butter, egg, and brandy, I opted for the fasting version in consideration that my cake was an offering of thanksgiving.
To begin, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour a 9” round or Bundt cake pan and set aside.
In a medium bowl, sift together 4 cups of flour, 1 ½ t baking soda, 1 ½ t baking powder, 1 t cinnamon, and 1 t pumpkin spice. You can add another ¼ t clove for a stronger flavor.
Mix in 1 c chopped walnuts and 1 c raisins.
In small batches, add the flour mixture to the orange juice mixture, whisking until all the flour is combined. Tradition says to whisk by hand for 7-9 minutes as you incorporate the flour. This is a good time to thank St. Phanourios for his assistance. It’s also a good time for the chemical reaction to take place in the batter so the cake will rise.
WARNING: The batter will be very thick and gooey.
Scoop the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake the cake until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Remove cake from the oven and cool in the pan for 5 minutes.
When cooled, plate and dust with powdered sugar. The cake will dry quickly, so be sure to store in an airtight container or cover tightly with plastic wrap.