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A trip to Parnonas and Olive Oil Beetroot and Chocolate Karydopita

The summer is here for good and we’ve been having high temperatures.  The financial situation, the politics and the corruption of all Greek Governments in the last decades were catastrophic and we had no idea about it.  Suddenly those imbeciles, who have been stealing the people and who have been eating with golden spoons have decided for us “without us” that they should start from the low and middle class, cutting down salaries and pensions while the 300 members of parliament enjoy huge salaries and fringe benefits and the employees working in the House of Parliament are paid 16  salaries a year!!!

The economic crisis is affecting us day by day and thousands of indignants gather every day at Syntagma Square (Constitution Square) to protest about this defacto situation we can do nothing about.

As I was saying the summer is here for good and I don’t think that this year or in the years to come, we will have any money left for vacations.

We will, however, try and do the best we can to cope with what we have and still enjoy the beauties of Greece on a low budget.

Last summer, even before the crisis we did not go on vacation but we did get away a couple of weekends and visited our relatives in Sparta for a few days.

There we had the chance to visit my brother-in-law’s village, Vamvakou, which is on Mount Parnon or Parnonas,  the other mountain range of Peloponese, just opposite of Taygettus, which separates Laconia from Arcadia.

Vamvakou, is approximately 38 km from Sparta,  at an altitude of 950 meters, situated on the west side of the highest peak of Parnonas, which was mentioned by Hesiod as the Kronio.  A beautiful village retaining its old style with most of its houses restored and with endless forest surrounding it.  The area is full of trees, mostlly walnuts and  chestnuts, flowers, beautiful fountains and a large variety of birds.   A place, where you can enjoy the magic colours in spring or autumn, cool weather during summer, due to its altitude and the charm of the snowy landscape during winter.

The village keeps its traditional line in all its houses and has lost none of its old charm. The traditional architectural style built or restored in recent years, several houses from locals and Greek immigrants.

There is a guest house at the village and for those who love trekking there are several routes starting from Vamvakou as well as several shelters on the mountain.

From Vamvakou you can visit Karyes, also called Arahova.  The word Karyes means “walnut trees” and Arahova takes its name from slavic word orechova which means the same thing.

(The sign is a quote from Pausanias:  “The village Karyae, is the village of Artemis and the Nymphs…”)

The village of Karyes (ancient Greek Karyae)  is just a few kilometres from Vamvakou, near the borders of Arcadia and is known from antiquity.  The famous Karyatides on the Erechtheum of the Acropolis were named after this village.

In ancient Greece, Karyae (Καρυαί) modern Greek Karyes, was a polis (city state) where “Karyateia” were celebrated in honour of Artemis.  During these celebrations young virgin girls would dance around the statue of the goddess.  The girls were beautiful, danced with grace and became famous for their artistic and harmonious dance.  Other girls from other city states who joined them, were also called Karyatides.    These celebrations continued after the destruction of the city of Karyae by Sparta.   This is mentioned by Pausanias, who was a Greek traveler and geographer, who passed from the city during the 2nd century A.D.  The statues of these young girls, wearing peplos (a garment worn by the Doric women), were made to support the roof of the south porch of the Erechtheum.

The originals which you see above are in the Museum of the Acropolis and one stolen Caryatis is in the British Museum.

A replica of the Caryatides is also found in the village of Karyes.

When we went to Sparta during Easter my sister-in-law gave us some walnuts, from their walnuts trees in Vamvakou.  I must say they were the most delicious walnuts I have ever eaten.   Walnuts in Greek are called karydia (καρύδια) and a traditional cake made with karydia is called karydopita.  This cake has lots of walnuts in it and when it is baked, it is then moistened with a simple sugar syrup.  I have posted most of the Greek traditional recipes (including Karydopita) during the early stages of blogging and since then I have never made the recipe again to add a better picture, so forgive me for this.

I have been seeing cakes with beetroots and wanted to make one.  However, each time I was reluctant as I know that if I mentioned the name beetroots  my family would never eat it.  I had the vacum packed beetroots in the refrigerator for a couple of months until the idea struck me.  I decided to make something familiar which they loved and camouflage the beets with Lakonian products:  walnuts, oranges and olive oil.

The cake was amazing. It didn’t taste of beetroot but had a great earthiness to it. The cake was extra moist and fragrant with orange and punctuated by the crunch of walnuts with a dense yet airy crumb, this cake is definitely a surprise which everybody loved.

This cake goes to my event Creative Concoctions #5:   Cakes with Olive Oil, created and hosted by me here in Kopiaste to Greek Hospitality.  If you wish to win some Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil, you still have until the 12th June to send your entries, so hope to see some of your creations.


Olive Oil Beetroot and Chocolate Karydopita, recipe by Ivy
Preparation time: 1 hour
Cooking time: about 55 minutes
Serves: 1 baking tin 28 cm


6 eggs
1 cup sugar
½ cup orange juice
1 cup olive oil
2 tbsp grated orange rind
2 vanillas
230 grams cooked beetroot
440 grams all purpose flour
A pinch of salt
2 tbsp baking powder
65 grams cocoa
250 grams walnuts

For the Syrup
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp cloves
1 lemon peel
2 tbsp lemon juice

Chocolate ganache
125 grams couverture chocolate
1 tbsp butter or margarine
2 tsp honey
70 ml heavy cream



Grease a 28 cm spring form pan with olive oil and sprinkle some flour.

In a saucepan put all the syrup ingredients.  Bring to boil and simmer for 5 – 6 minutes.  Remove and set aside to cool, until the cake is ready.

In a food processor add the beetroots and some of the olive oil and puree.
Sieve the flour, baking powder and cocoa.

Beat the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy, add the olive oil, orange juice, the puréed beetroots, orange zest, vanillas and beat well.
Gently fold in the dry ingredients until combined.
Reserve a few walnuts to decorate the cake and cut the remaining into smaller pieces and stir.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180o C / 350o F for 50 – 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake, comes out clean.

Using a spoon wet the cake with the syrup, until it is all absorbed.

In a double boiler add the chocolate and when it melts add the honey and butter.  Mix to combine and then add the cream.  Stir until the chocolate has dissolved and becomes smooth.

Using a spoon again add the ganache on top and let it drop to the sides.

Decorate with the walnuts and wait until it cools before serving.

Serve with a dollop of your favourite ice cream.

Kopiaste and Kali Orexi!

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20 Responses

  1. The situation is bad there! I don't know what people do – I hope the indignants do not give up and that the government gets somehow overthrown. In other news, your cake looks AMAZING! I can't believe your family doesn't like beets – well looks like you might have proved them wrong – did you tell them there were beets in the cake? None the less, I love your ingredients in this cake… and cool about Vambakou! Love the horios in Greece.

  2. Beautiful places.
    As always, Greece can not but fascinate.
    Days ago talking to my husband we decided to take the next trip to Greece a tree noci.Mi know that you gave us an idea about what tree to buy.
    I did not know there was a replica of caryatids in another country.
    It looks like a beautiful montage.
    Excellent your recipe.
    Perhaps one day or another be able to participate in a contest.
    A big hug.

  3. A wonderful trip! That region is beautiful. I love Greece.

    Yopur cake is very original. Surely delicious!



  4. Wow cake looks super spongy and extremely irresistible…seems u guys had a wonderful trip,beautiful clicks..

  5. Beautiful places.
    As always, Greece can not but fascinate.
    Days ago talking to my husband we decided to take the next trip to Greece a tree noci.Mi know that you gave us an idea about what tree to buy.
    I did not know there was a replica of caryatids in another country.
    It looks like a beautiful montage.
    Excellent your recipe.
    Perhaps one day or another be able to participate in a contest.
    A big hug.
    My recent post Bistecche al barbecue al profumo della lavanda di Argos

  6. Peter G

    Oh Ivy! It's terrible reading about the government and the financial woes of Greece. So sorry! I do however love the history lesson about the surrounding horia in Sparti and Parnona. And what a beautiful cake. It has all my favourite ingredients too! The beetroot sounds great in this as well!
    My recent post Spetsofai

  7. Very interesting post, as usual and very nice cake. I keep meaning to use red beets in a sweet dish, but I am not finding the time to plan properly. I like the addition of walnuts to the cake. Italy is also in a difficult situation: I hope better times for both countries are ahead.
    My recent post un weekend a Shelburne Falls

  8. I'm sorry to hear about the troubles your country is having. I pray it will be easy on the people and resolve soon. As always I enjpy your unique recipes and all the travel pictures and stories you share. I think even locally and on a tight budget I would enjoy every minute of Greece! Have a happy summer Ivy!
    My recent post Healthy indulgence chocolate chip cookies

  9. After visiting Greece last year and seeing what a beautiful country you have, it pains me to know that the crisis has not been alleviated at all. I do hope you have a wonderful summer and get to enjoy your gorgeous country!

  10. What a beautiful pictures,Ivy!That recipe sounds interesting!
    My recent post Roasted Vegetables Quesadilla

  11. pierre

    i am really sad of what is going on in Greece as i love this country and have been there many times . hope all of you will recover very soon ! and thanks for the report in your relatives village reminds me of all good souvenirs and I keep in mind to come bacl soon in greece !!
    and love the beetroot and choco together !!!

  12. Parnonas looks so beautiful!
    Beetroot and olive oil in a sweet chocolate treat…that's something I need to try!
    My recent post Lemon Thyme Amaretti aka Italian Macaroons

  13. Olive oil and chocolate sweets are really great combination for healthy reason.. 🙂 I love using olive oil in my cooking ingredients because it is healthy for our health.
    My recent post RIP PitchMen! Facebook Account

  14. What a beautiful cake! I am impressed, I have yet to make my own cake recipe.
    My recent post Beef and Mushroom Sloppy Joe's

  15. It looks like yummy!I am culinary graduate and i am very much impress with what you got!

  16. That’s chocolate cake really looks yummy! I love chocolate cakes.

  17. It would be nice visiting Greece. The country is beautiful and the Greeks have a rich culture.

  18. Joy

    I love chocolate ganache! I can hardly wait to try your recipe.

  19. Greece is one of the historical country that we’ve known.Goddess and Goddesses belongs to their area.

  20. Nice post. The desert looks amazing, it makes you eat the picture. Thank your for this lovely information of the places that we can visit.