Sugar Rush: Greek Walnut Cake at Areti's Gyros, Cincinnati

[Photographs: Jacqueline Raposo]

I love Findlay Market on the weekends, when the halls are a mad rush of tourists and locals rubbing elbows as they fight for Kroeger and Sons sausages or cheese from Gibb's. But it's equally magical mid-week, when people come in for lazy lunches, half the stands are closed, and the remaining staff is relaxed and up for a lazy chat.

Such was the case when I met Areti of Areti's Gyros, a packed stall with lamb turning on a vertical spit and a case of pastries that makes my heart melt. All of Areti's recipes are her own, taken from family members over the years and available at Findlay and through a catering-type service she offers to the area. The menu is chock full of Greek specialties made with old-world love. Her Baklava Cheesecake is a wonder and one of her favorites to share, but her Greek Walnut Cake (Karidopita) ($3.50/slice) is the one we couldn't stop going back to.

Traditionally, Karidopita is made with a hefty amount of ground walnuts, spices, and a high volume of eggs—the result being a nutty but incredibly spongy cake that's then covered repeatedly with a sugar syrup while it cools. Areti's is a hefty portion, one that could have easily fed two or three people as the end to a long meal. But despite it's depth, it packs a lot of cinnamon-infused, nutty flavor without seeming heavy or dense. The syrup keeps it moist throughout but doesn't puddle at the bottom. Many versions don't include an additional glaze on top, but we liked how it continued to keep the cake moist, even when we froze a portion and continued to nibble on it cold days later.

And, somehow, despite the massive amounts of cinnamon and the dousing in sugar syrup, the cake in its entirety is not too sweet. It's the kind of thing you can imagine taking to a dinner party to pair perfectly with strong coffee and even stronger liquor. Or, as we found out, as a cool companion for a cup of tea on an unseasonably warm autumn day.

About the author: Jacqueline Raposo writes about people who make food and cooks a lot of stuff. She so loved Areti's version of this cake that she went home and made her own gluten-free variation: check it out. Read more at www.WordsFoodArt.com or tweet her out at @WordsFoodArt.

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