Today we commemorate St. Phanourios, and people all over the world will be baking Phanouropita in his honor.
A feast of gladness hath shone with splendour today, the new festival of Phanourios, the much-contending and noble of spirit. For he contested in unknown times and was of no reputation, and all men were ignorant of his name and of his temple. But when godless tyrants held sway over illustrious Rhodes, and were digging up the suburbs which lay in ruins, his temple and icon were revealed, shining brighter than the light. And when by the ruler’s permission, the Saint’s church was built again, it was shown to be a fountain of miracles by Christ God, Who is truly wondrous in His Saints.
-Doxa of the Praises for the Feast Day of St. Phanourios, Plagal of First Tone
On August 27 in the Holy Orthodox Church, we commemorate St. Phanourios the Newly-Revealed Wonder-Worker of Rhodes.
The icon of St. Phanourios was discovered by a group of nomadic pagans as they pillaged the island of Rhodes in Greece in about the year 1500. Although the icon was found amid the ruins of an ancient church with a group of rotted icons and other artifacts, this icon of St. Phanourios was found to be in perfect condition, and as if newly painted. The icon was left behind by the pagans, who saw no value in it, and finally reclaimed by a group of monks that had been waiting off at a distance.
No more was ever learned about St. Phanourios than what is depicted on the original icon – the scenes of his contest and martyrdom. Because of the way the saint was discovered, and due to his name (which literally means “revealed”), it became a custom for the people to seek the intercessions of St. Phanourios when looking for a lost item. If the lost item is found, a Phanouropita (Phanourios cake) is baked as a thanks-offering, blessed by the priest, and shared with friends and family.
In some areas it is also the custom for women to bake a Phanouropita when they want St. Phanourios to help them find a husband, or for a mother to find a husband for her daughter.
The Phanouropita is usually blessed at Vespers the evening before the Feast Day, or at the end of the Liturgy. We didn’t have Vespers or Liturgy, but my parish does have Orthros Tuesday – Friday. St. Pimen has rank in the HTM menaion, but I found St. Phanourios in the additional services in the back of the book, and that is what we used.
Rather than frosting the cake, it is dusted (or in this case, loaded) with powdered sugar. There are a few variations on this recipe, but most are very simple, Lenten recipes. The one I used is below. It was my first time making Phanouropita, and it turned out beautifully.
1 C light olive oil, or other mild vegetable oil
1 C sugar
1 C orange juice
1 Tbsp orange zest
3 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1/2 C raisins
1/2 C coarsely chopped walnuts
Optional: sesame seeds for garnish
Preheat oven to 350, and grease a 9″ baking dish or bundt pan*. (*If garnishing with sesame seeds, use parchment paper instead of greasing)
In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon & cloves). Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat oil, sugar, orange juice and zest until they are emulsified (well combined, it should look sort of creamy). Now slowly begin stirring the flour mixture into the liquid mixture. Once all the flour is incorporated, gently stir in the walnuts and raisins.
Pour batter into greased pan and bake at 350 for 45 – 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
*To garnish with sesame seeds, line baking dish with parchment paper. Sprinkle with 1 Tbsp sesame seeds. Pour batter over seeds, then sprinkle with another tablespoon of sesame seeds.
I used an 8″ glass baking dish for my cake, and it took about an hour to bake.
Blessed Feast to you all!