Baklava Cake: How to Use Leftover Phyllo

Phyllo is one of those ingredients that seems to be able to strike fear into the hearts of would-be-bakers.  Some recipes make phyllo sound as fragile as an explosive, and that you must cover up the sheets between additions or all is lost.  Forget all of that.  Phyllo is one of the most forgiving things you can ever work with.  A little butter or olive oil goes a long way and by the time you’ve baked your creation to a golden crisp, any imperfections in execution will only exist in your own mind since your finished beautiful dish won’t show them.

That said, every now and then there can be some phyllo left over that doesn’t make it into the final product, or perhaps a recipe only called for a partial box of phyllo and you didn’t quite get the box well sealed allowing the phyllo to dry out.  Do not despair.  There are a myriad of ways that you can use the sadly dried out and crumbly phyllo.

A bowl of phyllo shards.

A bowl of phyllo shards.

For just a few examples dried out phyllo can be toasted in the oven and used as any sort of crunchy topping on casseroles, in salads, on sundaes, and the list goes on.  Today, however, we are going to transform the brittle bits into a honey-soaked cake version of the famous Mediterranean baklava.

Baklava Cake
Filling Ingredients
:
1 cup combined walnuts and almonds
¼ tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. butter, melted
Cake Ingredients:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup white sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ cup plain yogurt
¾ cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
Topping Ingredients:
1 heaping cup of phyllo dried bits
1 tbsp. butter, melted
Syrup Ingredients:
½ cup white sugar
½ cup honey
½ cup water
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9 x 12 inch pan.
  2. Pulse the nuts in a food processor until finely chopped. You want some texture, so don’t let it get powdery. Put the chopped nuts into a small bowl and toss with the cinnamon and butter. Set aside.
    Pulse the nuts in a food processor to chop them finely, but don't let them get powdery.

    Pulse the nuts in a food processor to chop them finely, but don’t let them get powdery.

    Add the seasoning to the chopped nuts.

    Add the seasoning to the chopped nuts.

    Toss the ingredients together to combine.

    Toss the ingredients together to combine.

  3. Whisk together all dry cake ingredients in a large bowl. In a small bowl whisk the wet cake ingredients together. Add the wet to the dry and gently incorporate. Do not over mix.
    The dry ingredients.

    The dry cake ingredients.

    The dry ingredients whisked together.  I love my flat whisk for this.

    The dry ingredients whisked together. I love my flat whisk for this.

    The wet ingredients.

    The wet cake ingredients.

    The wet ingredients combined.

    The wet ingredients combined.

    The cake batter coming together.

    The cake batter coming together.

  4. Pour half of the cake batter into the prepared pan and smooth to the edges. Sprinkle the nut filling evenly over the batter in the pan. Gently pour the remaining batter over the nut filling and then use a spatula to spread the batter over the nuts and to the edges of the pan.
    Pour half of the cake batter into the pan and spread the batter out to the corners.

    Pour half of the cake batter into the pan and spread the batter out to the corners.

    Sprinkle the nut filling evenly over the batter.

    Sprinkle the nut filling evenly over the batter.

    Carefully pour the remaining batter over the nut filling and gently spread it out to the edges of the pan.

    Carefully pour the remaining batter over the nut filling and gently spread it out to the edges of the pan.

    The final layer of cake batter.

    The final layer of cake batter.

  5. In a medium bowl toss the dried phyllo bits with the butter. Let the phyllo bits break apart into glistening shards of dough. You don’t want them to become powdery, but let them break apart a bit. Evenly sprinkle the phyllo over the cake batter in the pan.
    A bowl of sad, dried out phyllo edges.

    A bowl of sad, dried out phyllo edges.

    A little butter to pull the phyllo shards together.

    A little butter to pull the phyllo shards together.

    A bowl of phyllo shards.

    A bowl of phyllo shards.

    The phyllo shards are sprinkled over the cake and it's ready for the oven.

    The phyllo shards are sprinkled over the cake and it’s ready for the oven.

  6. Carefully place the cake pan in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Loosely place a piece of foil over the cake and bake for another 35-40 minutes. The foil should protect the phyllo from over browning. Remove the foil for the last 10 minutes of baking time.
    Cover the cake with foil for much of the baking time so that the phyllo doesn't over brown (aka burn!).

    Cover the cake with foil for much of the baking time so that the phyllo doesn’t over brown (aka burn!).

    Remove the foil from the cake for the last 10 minutes or so of the baking time.  Watch the cake like a hawk at this stage, and replace the foil if you think the phyllo is getting too dark too quickly.

    Remove the foil from the cake for the last 10 minutes or so of the baking time. Watch the cake like a hawk at this stage, and replace the foil if you think the phyllo is getting too dark too quickly.

    The cake is fully baked, but not done yet...

    The cake is fully baked, but not done yet…

  7. Meanwhile combine the white sugar, honey and water for the glaze in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once the syrup starts to bubble remove it from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and cinnamon.  You can gently reheat the syrup if needed to make it nicely spoonable over the warm cake.
    The syrup ingredients.

    The syrup ingredients.

    Heat the syrup until it just begins to bubble and then remove it from the heat.  If you boil it too long it will turn into candy, and that's not what you are going for here.

    Heat the syrup until it just begins to bubble and then remove it from the heat. If you boil it too long it will turn into candy, and that’s not what you are going for here.

  8. Test the cake to be sure it is cooked through. Once done remove the cake to a rack to cool. Place a piece of aluminum foil under the rack and carefully spoon the syrup over the cake. Some of the syrup will spill off of the cake, so the foil below the rack should keep your counters from becoming a tasty, but sticky mess. Try to get as even a coating as you can, and don’t forget the edges.

    The cake gets a gorgeous sheen from the honey syrup as it sticks to the phyllo, but also soaks into the cake.

    The cake gets a gorgeous sheen from the honey syrup as it sticks to the phyllo, but also soaks into the cake.

  9. Cool the cake for 15 minutes. Cut, serve and enjoy!

Click here for a printable version of the Baklava Cake recipe.

Eat

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