Fanouropita: Recipe & Tradition

Fanouropita – literally ‘Fanourios Bread’ – is a traditional cake baked in the Greek & Cypriot Orthodox community in honour of Saint Fanourios, the saint who ‘brings things to light’ whether that is a lost key, a job, a new home, whatever. He is not very well known beyond this role and there is little literary evidence for him beyond the means of his martyrdom shown on the icon in his little church in Rhodes (Rhodos).

A fortuitous discovery by nomadic pagans, not Christians, brought to light this unheralded saint when a roving band of Arabs, who had pillaged the island of Rhodes uncovered amid the ruins of an ancient church a group of icons, among other artifacts. All of the icons were in a state of decay or near ruin with the exception of one, which appeared as new and as fresh as though it had been painted the day before. This icon was discarded by the Arabs, who failed to attach any importance to it. At a safe distance a group of monks hiding in the rubble observed this phenomenon and waited patiently until the Arabs had left the scene, whereupon they rushed to reclaim this fantastic image in its remarkable state of preservation.
They beheld a clearly outlined face of a saint with the name inscribed in what appeared to be fresh lettering that spelled out “Fanourios” and on closer examination fell on their knees at what they saw. Drawn about the saint were twelve distinct frames in each of which Fanourios was shown enduring a cruel form of torture in a realism that suggested the artist must have been witness to the atrocity. They rushed back to see if any of the other icons were in as perfect a state, but although they were all of the same basic design, size, and shape, all of them were quite ancient and quite indistinct. After careful scrutiny it was finally concluded that this icon of fanourios had, indeed , been one of a group that had been exhumed after untold centuries and that its freshness was a divine manifestation of the complete saintliness of this man about whom they were now determined to learn more.
But years of research, scanning the archives of centuries and questioning the leading authorities of the day, yielded nothing, and no more was known about Fanourios than the day on which his icon was snatched from the ruins of that ancient Greek church. The torture scenes of the icon provided no clues, and examination of which showed Fanourios being stoned, on the rack, being slashed, behind bars, standing before a judge, tied to a frame, being =burned with candles, tied to a post, thrown to wild animals, crushed by a boulder, holding hot coals, and a demon hovering against a background of flames. All of these horrors conveyed that Fanourios was an apparently indestructible instrument of God and that in itself was sufficient evidenced of his sainthood.
Archbishop Milos of Rhodes concluded that the unblemished icon itself was testimony enough to prove that Fanourios was a man of divine grace, and he petitioned the Patriarch to convene a synod which would officially proclaim Fanourios a saint, after which there was erected in the saint’s memory a cathedral which enshrined the holy icon. Fanourios, lost for centuries in the ruins of a church, became the patron saint of things lost. To this day his name is invoked when prayers are asked for the recovery of things lost items.” [1]

 

Hymns

Apolytikion (Fourth Tone) [2]

A heavenly song of praise is brightly sung on the earth;
the hosts of the Angels keep an earthly festival now in splendour and radiant joy;
from on high, they praise with hymns thy suff’rings and struggles;
and below, the Church doth laud the heavenly glory
thou foundest by thy contests and pains, O glorious Phanurius.

Kontakion (Third Tone) [3]

From a vile captivity,
thou didst deliver the Lord’s priests,
and, O godly-minded one,
didst break their bonds by divine might;
thou didst bravely shame the tyrants’
audacious madness,
giving joy unto the Angels, O thou Great Martyr.
O Phanurius most glorious,
we all revere thee
as a true warrior of God.

RECIPE

Each week for many years, I saw a cake being brought in at the end of Liturgy and the Apolytikion above (in Greek) sung before the priest blessed and marked it with a Cross – it was then cut up into small squares and shared with tea or coffee among the congregation. I’ve no idea why it took me so long to find out who St Phanourios was but now that I know, you can be sure he is often called up on in our house! The most amazing example of his assistance occurred many years ago now – I was then cycling to and from a part-time job across the city from our home. One day, I lost the key to my bicycle lock, somewhere between my home and shop. I looked and looked but it was gone. I prayed to St Fanourios for many days – it was tedious to have this thing stuck on my luggage rack and I was, after almost 3 months, about to have it cut off with some industrial thing – when I got home one evening to find the shiny, inch long bike lock key sitting in the middle of my doorstep, on the street entrance. There were 16 flats in our stairway and many, many blocks in the street, which was next to one of the main roads through our part of Edinburgh. That was when I learned how to make Fanouropita.

When you are led to the thing that was lost, you are (by custom) to make the following cake and have it blessed by the priest and shared. It is best baked that morning and will torment/promise bliss with the scent of orange and cinnamon throughout your home before the Liturgy.

The following uses a half cup measure but can be converted – with care and practice as you’ll have to alter the amount of baking powder and time required – into a full cup size for larger cakes and bigger congregations.

This is a good cake for beginner bakers as the baking powder and orange juice do most of the work.
  • 3 measures sugar
  • 2 measures corn oil
  • 2 measures orange juice
  • 8 measures plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1 teaspoon orange essence
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (I often add a bit more)
  • icing sugar to decorate when cooler at the church.
Glass bowl with mixed cake in it, uncooked.
the batter is smooth and runnier than usual sponge mix but not sloppy.

METHOD

  • Add oil, sugar, baking powder, vanilla and orange essence and cinnamon to the bowl. Mix gently then leave for 10-15 minutes so sugar is thoroughly soaked with spices.
  • Add 2 measures of orange juice then 8 of flour (gradually, mixing after each one). The mixture will be smooth and silky but not sloppy.
  • Pour into a square or round baking tin, lined with greaseproof parchment. Bake at roughly 180C for 45 minutes to one hour, depending on the size of the cake. It looks like this next photo when done.
  • Take carefully to church, sprinkle with icing sugar and after the blessing, share with your friends and family in coffee hour.
The baked Fanouropita – golden brown with a slight dome.

Notes: A 1/2 cup measure fills a square tin roughly 8×8 inches. A 1 cup measure fills a large round tin (church size) but needs baking longer and more baking powder. If using self-raising flour, omit baking powder. Using half wholewheat flour adds texture and isn’t too ‘healthy cake’ tasting.

This recipe is from Dr Nick Evgenikos, for many years chairman of our Community here in Edinburgh and a real blessing to all who know him and his wife, Dr Maria.

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