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Broken Phyllo Cake with Orange and Bay

10 to 12 Servings

2 hours 30 minutes active, plus cooling

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In “Aegean,” chef Marianna Leivaditaki tells of her attempts at portokalopita, a cake made with dry, broken-up bits of phyllo dough in place of flour. Like many Mediterranean sweets, the cake is doused with syrup after emerging from the oven, which partly explains the tendency toward a heavy, sodden texture. She recounts that it was a friend’s mother who baked the best, lightest version of portokalopita she’d ever had, and she obtained the recipe. The phyllo, cut into strips and dried in the oven, creates a layered structure in the cake that, when soaked with syrup takes on a moist, pudding-like consistency. Greek yogurt and oil add richness while eggs bind and lift, with an assist from baking powder. The cake is citrusy with grated orange zest, and the soaking syrup is infused with cinnamon, cardamom and bay for added dimensions of flavor and fragrance. (Leivaditaki suggests dusting the cake with bay dust, but we put the bay into the syrup.) If you like, serve slices of the cake topped with a spoonful of lightly sweetened cream whipped with a little Greek yogurt. Leftovers will keep well wrapped in the refrigerator for up to four days; serve slices slightly chilled or at room temperature.

10 to 12



Don’t forget to zest the orange before juicing it. To remove the zest in strips, a Y-style peeler is the best tool. You will need two large oranges for this recipe—one to provide the zest strips and juice for the syrup and one to supply the grated zest for the cake. Also, don’t use a cake pan that’s less than 2 inches deep. In a shallower pan, the syrup may overflow the rim. Lastly, don’t allow the cake to cool before pouring on the syrup, and after the second half of the syrup is poured on, don’t be alarmed if the syrup floods the pan. As the cake cools, it will absorb the syrup.

2 hours

30 minutes active, plus cooling

For the syrup

  • 214

    grams (1 cup) white sugar


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Karen F.
May 19, 2023
Most requested cake recipe in the house
My daughter just texted me from her apartment and said she had a dream about the cake, which I haven’t made since last summer. Easy winner!
Alan D.
April 12, 2023
Unique and Delicious
Everyone I served this to loved it. Most were struck by how it looked, and then the taste/texture had them asking for seconds. A bit of a process to make (syrup, baked phyllo, then batter), but each step was very simple. This recipe will be in rotation for a while.
Anna S.
April 5, 2023
Question: can this be frozen?
This looks exactly like something I would love. Can this be made in advance and frozen? So many baked goods taste perfect after freezing but given the nice contrast of textures (crisp and pudding-y) I wonder if that would hold up.
Alexa R.
October 30, 2022
Even more amazing than it sounds
The texture and flavor of this cake are astoundingly good. I'm considering using the basic recipe with other flavor combinations, just for fun. Never would have thought of something like this!
Lloyda F.
May 25, 2022
Easy & Delicious
This was an easy and excellent recipe. I will make this again.
Carly J.

This is delicious and turned out beautifully golden and shiny on top. It is a really unusual texture, and has a flavor that is reminiscent of french toast.

Mary W.

When do I strain the solids out of the syrup. Before or after cooling ??

Lynn C.

Hi Mary -

When the cake is almost done baking in Step 6 you remove the zest, cinnamon, cardamom, and bay from the syrup.

The Milk Street Team

Alicia E.

Loved the idea of this cake, very original. Nonetheless the flavor was a little lacking. Not as punchy as I thought it would be.

Regina C B.

I made this for our biweekly ladies' game night.... I usually make something savory, but I was intrigued by this cake. (Interestingly, the woman who usually bakes hit off the list of who's bringing what with something savory.). It was a hit! Everyone loved the flavor and flaky texture, expecially of the "crusty " top, bottom and edges. It was also very easy to make.

I actually repurposed the cinnamon stick, orange peel and bay leaves as a candied garnish for the top of the cake.

Kelley B.

I made this cake. I make many cakes for personal use and commercially for weddings and high school food and culture class. I am always looking for new recipes. The flavor is nice but not in love with the pudding like texture. All agreed that it needs more orange rind. I would be a nice summer dessert if you want a pudding type dessert.

Kelly A.

This cake was phenomenal! I loved the custardy texture and was happy eating it even on day 4. I will definitely make this again.

Michael L.

I usually love the milk street recipes but this one was too sweet and I tried upping the zest but still didn’t have enough orange flavor