Sometimes I wonder what makes something traditional in cooking. I suspect it is a combination of factors: local ingredients, eating habits and sometimes our ability to incorporate into our own tradition methods and ingredients that come from other countries with different cultures or even a different climate.
This flexibility probably keeps traditions alive within generations and endlessly produces more traditions. A good example is spices. They are now widely used all over the planet in all cuisines. Who can imagine pastry making without vanilla? Such ingredients seem to have been in our kitchens since the day we started cooking our food.
That’s how my grandmother used to make her delicious coconut ravani cake, - without ever wondering what coconut ( καρύδα in Greek) had to do with Greece. We usually make this light dessert when the weather gets warmer because it smells like summer and it’s the very best partner for coffee on hot summer days. Enjoy!!
For 24 squares (I used a 23x33cm baking pan)
150gr butter melted
250gr granulated sugar
4 eggs (yolks separated from whites)
200gr lukewarm milk
250gr self-raising cake flour
½ tsp baking soda
80gr grated dry coconut (store bought)
120gr semolina flour (semolina absorbs syrup, keeping the cake moist)
½ tsp salt
vanilla for flavoring
more grated coconut for decoration (about 3Tsps)
For the syrup: 700gr granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 170 C. Grease the baking pan and dust with flour. That is, shake to cover with flour the whole surface and discard the excess flour.
In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites with a mixer at low speed until foamy, and then beat at medium- high speed until they become shiny, thick, and stiff, but not dry. Set aside.
Cream the butter, sugar and salt in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add the egg yolks one by one, beating continuously. Add milk, baking soda and vanilla and all at once add the coconut and the flour to the batter; beat at low speed until the flour disappears. Add half the egg whites, folding gently with a rubber spatula or a large spoon until they are well mixed into the batter. Fold in the remaining egg whites gently, and then pour the batter in the baking pan.
Bake for 50-60min or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the ravani cool completely.
In a sauce pan over medium heat add both water and sugar and bring to a boil; let simmer for 3 min and with care pour it slowly all over the cool ravani. Sprinkle with grated coconut when cool again. Keep refrigerated.