The holy, glorious and right-victorious Great-Martyr Demetrios of Thessaloniki, whose memory we commemorate on October 26, is one of the most popular Orthodox saints, and a myrrh-streamer. He is special to me because I venerated his relics in Agios Demetrios Church in Thessaloniki, and later was gifted with some of the sweet-smelling myrrh that streams from those relics. I keep the myrrh in a little pouch in my purse – which, by the way, makes everything in my purse smell wonderful – in case an emergency anointing is ever necessary. You just never know.
Well, since we have Phanouropita for St. Phanourios, I thought it would be nice to have a special cake for St. Demetrios. I’m not sure if it’s proper to call it a Demetriopita, so we’ll just call it St. Demetrius Cake 🙂 I created this recipe for the Feast Day of St. Demetrios, but like Phanouropita, I think it would be nice to make any time of year when you’re asking for special intercessions from St. Demetrios, or when there’s been a miracle through his prayers or through anointing with his myrrh oil.
I’ve adapted a recipe for olive oil cake since St. Demetrios is a myrrh streamer. The blueberries I like because, besides tasting wonderful, St. Demetrios is a Great Martyr and the purple color reminds me of the line from the apolytikion for All Saints, “Adorned with the blood of Thy Martyrs throughout all the world as in purple and fine linen. . .” The cinnamon is very faint, just enough to give this simple Lenten cake a little warmth and depth. Feel free to double the amount if you really love cinnamon.
A couple notes about the St. Demetrios cake:
-Since blueberries are out of season here this time of year (and also because…purple swirls), I’ve been using frozen. I let them thaw first, which means there is a lot of extra liquid. Because of this, I cut down by 1/4 C the amount of liquid in the original recipe. If you’re using fresh blueberries, you may need to add a bit more liquid; however, excess liquid will result in a weirdly dense cake with an unpleasant texture.
-It matters what kind of olive oil you use. In the end, I went with an extra light olive oil that is specifically for baking (just check the label) because not everyone wants to taste olives in their dessert. I originally started out using my finest unfiltered organic olive oil. I actually liked the unusual flavor, but my taste-tester thought it was too overwhelming. Feel free to experiment.
St. Demetrios Cake
2 C flour
3/4 C sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
3/4 C unsweetened almond milk
1/2 C light olive oil, for baking
juice of one lemon
2 Tbsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
1 C blueberries*
Preheat oven to 350. Grease an 8″ square pan and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine first six ingredients. Make a well in the center, and add wet ingredients. Mix just until combined, then gently fold in blueberries with a spoon or rubber spatula.
Pour batter into greased pan and bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
*Tossing blueberries in flour helps to keep them from falling to the bottom of the cake. You may wish to set aside 1/4 C of the combined dry ingredients to toss the blueberries in before folding them into the batter.
Also, you can double the blueberries but will probably end up with a stickier cake.
Just like with Phanouropita, you can certainly adapt this recipe to suit your taste – after all, it is your own special offering to St. Demetrios! For example, although the cake is delicious on its own, you may want to dress it up by dusting it with confectioners sugar, or drizzling it with vanilla icing.
Apolytikion of St. Demetrios, Third Mode
A great champion hath the whole world
Found thee to be when in grave perils
For thou dost put to flight the heathen, O victorious one
As thou didst humble Lyaeus’s arrogance
And gavest boldness to Nestor in the stadium
Thus, O Holy Great-Martyr Demetrios,
Do thou entreat Christ God that we be granted great mercy.