Saints, Cakes, and Redemption

Saveur 2011 Best Food Blog
Essay Category

I’m hardly what you’d call devout. Baptized Presbyterian, despite being Greek on my mother’s side, I know next to nothing about saints. I do, however, know a thing or two about cakes—including the fleeting, unhealthy way they can fill an empty ache in your life, something I admit I felt as I sat in my parents’ house last summer, listlessly paging through a Greek cookbook while my kindergartener slept down the hall.

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The problem wasn’t just that August night. This time last year, things weren’t going well. Work was scarce, household finances unstable. But even money woes seemed preferable when set against my emotional state. Drained and depressed, I’d sunk into a lingering malaise. Maybe it was the realization that I was turning 40. Maybe the role of Restaurant Widow was taking its toll: I almost never saw my husband, a sommelier. Come Sundays, we were too exhausted to connect or even care that we didn’t. Plowing through the weeks with something akin to single-parent status, I sat alone most nights feeling irrelevant and irritable, full of too many thoughts and too much hunger.

Searching for comfort, I immersed myself in the desserts section of the book. A simple spice cake caught my eye. The ingredient list was nothing much—it included the walnuts, cinnamon, and cloves typical of Greek pastry—but the name of the recipe intrigued me, as did its legend.

Called a phanouropita (pronounced “fan-oo-RO-pee-ta”), the cake honors the Greek Orthodox Saint Phanourios, a martyred soldier whose icon, lost for centuries, was found in perfect condition under the rubble of a ransacked church in Rhodes in the early 1500s. Since then, worshippers, mostly women, have followed a tradition of baking and giving away this cake when they want to locate something missing. Phanourios, whose name relates to the Greek verb “I reveal,” apparently will find things for you, but you have to ask him. Sweetly.

Phanourios appealed to me. In his icon, he holds a lit candle, the promise of revelation, and I was sick of sitting in the dark. In truth, I felt lost. Maybe this saint and his cake could help.

The phanouropita should have been easy to make. It’s a dump-and-mix recipe, and traditionally there are only nine ingredients. Chopping nuts looked like the biggest challenge. I was okay with that. I carefully measured oil and orange juice, added sugar. I splashed in the right dose of Metaxa, its deep, dried-fruit aroma reminding me of the gravelly voices of rural yiayias, women with hard-knock lives who needed the shot of brandy more than I did. I watched tawny streaks of spice disperse through the flour as I cranked my sifter. And then I started mixing, by hand.

According to the recipe I used that day, custom required beating the batter with a wooden spoon for nine full minutes. (Nine, I found out later, are the levels of holy angels in the Church.) After two or three minutes, I was losing enthusiasm. At six minutes I started equating the task with penance. By the nine-minute mark, I figured I’d atoned for a lifetime of sin but found myself in hell anyway. My arm was on fire.

The batter had a strange consistency, gummy and dense. I coaxed it to the corners of a loaf pan. I figured it was a flop but couldn’t know unless I baked it. First, however, some ceremony was in order. I placed a printout of Phanourios’s icon on the counter and searched my mind for something the saint could retrieve for me. My husband wasn’t exactly missing; I hadn’t lost my keys or wallet. I could use another paying job, but that seemed too ambitious to start with.

In the end, I failed to ask for anything. I did, however, crouch in front of the oven to make a timid sign of the cross. When my son wandered into the kitchen and asked what I was doing, I quickly straightened and stuffed my hands in my pockets. “Nothing,” I said. “Baking a cake.”

The cake smelled like something from my grandmother’s kitchen. Cutting the traditional nine slices (those angels again), I ate one to be sure it tasted good, then bagged the others. On Sunday I planned to visit Manhattan’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral, where I’d never been before. I had no idea who I’d give the cake to, but it turned out not to matter—encountering a man begging in front of the church (he almost seemed planted there to test me), I realized I’d forgotten to bring the cake along. I gave him a dollar, sat through three hours of service, and went home. I did venture out with the cake later on, but gave up after the first homeless person turned it down.

Even giving the cake away was harder than I’d imagined.

I’m not sure what compelled me to make a full-blown project out of the phanouropita, why I couldn’t just let it go. Maybe it was stubbornness. More likely, I harbored some masochistic hope that if I kept pressing the sore, hollow spot I felt—if I kept making the cake—eventually I’d discover what was missing. I gave away cake after cake, sometimes leaving them next to sleeping homeless people, other times donating them to the church or giving them to friends. I tried different recipes and meditated on more specific prayers: perhaps the saint could find me a new client after all, or a magazine willing to take a story. I started keeping score: cakes baked, prayers answered. I prepared the same recipe in a purgatorial loop, sifting and mixing week after week, waiting for something to happen.

While I waited, I decided to take classes in food writing and offered my services as a recipe tester. I began developing and sharing my own recipes as well, wading slowly into the blogging community. I got to know the owners of Greek bakeries and specialty shops, and wherever I encountered Greeks, I made sure to ask about the cake, unearthing anecdotes about the mysterious saint. I found women who swore that Phanourios had found them a husband, or health, or a tenant for an empty apartment. Salt cellars appeared, as did wayward legal documents. The secondhand testimonials were inspiring and only intensified my craving for an outcome I could call my own.

During the first weeks of 2010, the scorecard for Phanourios stood at 11–0. I’d baked 11 cakes and none of my prayers had been answered.

Sure, the repeated act of baking and giving away a modest cake had brought me a keener sense of purpose. Yes, its traditions shoved me out into the world again, where I was interacting with people who shared my interests, especially food. And it was true that I wasn’t exactly alone anymore, rattling around inside a disconnected life. I’d found—or had been shown—new ways of engaging with others, ways that went beyond the confines I had assumed were inevitable for a stay-at-home mom, a home-alone wife, and a freelance professional whose desk was the dining table and who worked, next to piles of wrinkled laundry, on assignments for clients I never saw.

Suddenly I was stunned by my lack of insight. I’d been waiting for something that hadn’t arrived. Yet the saint had delivered the one thing I’d been missing most of all: connection. He’d done this even when I didn’t know to ask for it by name.

As for the things I did request, from that moment, they started coming, too, fast and furious through the rest of the year. New clients in the city, lucrative projects, recipe contests, and publication—Phanourios and I went on a tear. I began to think of this mysterious martyr, this solider with a sweet tooth, as my patron saint. I continued to haul his cakes around town, making them for charity events and giving them to strangers down on their luck. But the quid pro quo was over, and I stopped keeping score. There was no need to think about it anymore. Baking the cakes was now just something I did, often on Sundays—something that fed my spirit at the end of a rewarding week’s work.

There’s a deliciousness to my days now that wasn’t there before, a gratitude for the many ways I now connect with others and make a more significant contribution to the world around me. I bake the cakes less frequently, that’s true. Writing, recipe development, family life, and a full client load take up most of my time. Tomorrow, though, August 27, is the feast day of Saint Phanourios. Tonight I will bake the twenty-sixth cake in his honor. I’ll sift powdered sugar gently over the top, slice it, and have some in the morning with coffee. When I do, I’ll say a grace for all the ways my life has changed in the past year. As for giving the cake away, with my recipe for phanouropita—and a sense of what’s possible—I give it to you.



  1. Allison, what a great article. I love Saint Phanourios. He helps me and my family all the time, today even. I loved your description of finding an Orthodox Saint even though that is somewhat new to you. And I loved how you connected with your being a quarter Greek. Your story was so much fun to read. When I got to the part about how you mixed for 9 minutes, I couldn’t stop laughing. And then at the end where you realized after making all those cakes, all along your wonderful Journey you found what you were looking for, and all because of making this phanouropita. That just brought tears to my eyes. What a beautiful thing. I’m so happy for you. God is wonderous in his Saints. God is truly wonderful.

  2. Your story is an inspiration to me. I am happy I went looking for the recipe when I received an email from our church about a Saint I did not know about. His story, your story and the recipe will forever be in my kitchen. ~ Thank you.

  3. Dearest Allison,
    Your mission of St. Phanourios is beautiful. And, if I may be so bold, it sounds to me like you have found your TRUE home. You will see. One day you may see that Orthodoxy is for you. Blessings to you!

  4. Thanks for your story about St. Phanourios. I found it while doing some research on an icon of him, given to my mother while she lived on Crete. I’ll have to try making the cake.

    St. Phanourios Icon

    1. It is indeed a lovely icon. Sorry it’s been so long since you posted, Naomi, and I’m only seeing it now. (Looks like I have to reactivate my notifications, which I’m doing as I post this reply.) I hope your research was productive–looks as though it was–and that you did decide to make the cake. Above all, hope you always find what you’re looking for! ~ Allison

        1. Chrysaetos,
          Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I hope you make the cake some time, but in any event that you always find what you’re looking for.

    2. I came across this page while looking through images of St. Phanourios and it’s your icon that caught my eye. I’m thankful to both you and Allison for finding so much information about St. Phanourios. I live in Varna, Bulgaria, where it seems the saint was greatly revered by the local Greek families. I have a question for you: What is the saint holding in his left hand?

      1. Hello, Temenuga. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I am not sure if you’re responding to the more traditional icon originally accompanying this post, or the icon that another person, Naomi, included a few comments earlier than yours. Most traditionally, St. Phanourios is depicted holding a lit candle (I’ve never seen an icon without the candle, as the saint’s name itself is derived from words meaning “to reveal,” hinting at illumination), and sometimes a sword, other times a cross (as with the image originally posted here at Leite’s Culinaria). The image posted by Naomi… I’m not sure what he’s holding. I assume one hand has a candle or candles (long, slim tapers). The other hand looks like it’s holding a branch — maybe a very elongated rendering of an olive branch or bay laurel? I’d be very interested to know if the Bulgarian Greek families also bake the phanouropita. Regardless, I hope you find whatever it is you’re looking for in the new year.

        1. Hello, Allison :) My question was about Naomi’s icon, namely what the branch was. After writing here I found on the Internet two icons of St. Phanourios where he was holding a palm branch – probably a symbol of his martyrdom. Maybe this is a palm branch too? I would be very thankful if Naomi could help. And now to your quesion :) Yes, I know that the local families also used to make phanouropita. Sadly, I couldn’t find any local lady having the recipe. I found, however, a recipe on a Bulgarian website. There are some additional ingredients in the Bulgarian version: in the dough there are also orange zest and raisins, and the pita is sprinkled with sesame seeds on top. Thank you very much for the wishes :) I’m planning to make the phanouropita myself one of these days :)

    3. Thank you Naomi for sharing this beautiful rare icon of Saint Phanourios. I’ve never seen this icon before. God is truly wondrous in his Saints.

  5. Dear Allison,
    You cannot imagine how much I needed to read this. I’ve been going through struggles of my own and feeling really defeated. Its more of an internal strife than anything or anyone else effecting me. Reading your beautiful writing has uplifted my spirits and given me something I had long given up: hope.
    This is the very first article I’m reading on food writing, weird because I love food and good writing. I used to be a writer myself, but somehow it’s now in the periphery of my life. I wish I did more of it. Experiencing food has kinda taken its place, for now at least.
    I was missing some connection, perhaps more with myself than with any other person. But reading this article makes me feel connected, to you and to everyone else who has responded, and I want to thank you for that. Such an amazing gift you have to be able to make people feel this way…I can’t wait to make this cake.

    1. Hello, Sapna. I’m embarrassed, because it’s been so long since you wrote your comment, and I’m only seeing it now, believe it or not. Life’s been more topsy-turvy again in 2013, but I still love the connections that this cake makes for me, for others. I still bake the cake, actually, though less frequently these days. I hope that you did indeed make the cake and that in any event you have been feeling more comfortable inside yourself, feeling connected, and that maybe you’ve even begun to piece together food and your writing life. Anyway, thank you so much for taking the time to comment here; your words in turn mean a lot to me. ~ Allison

  6. Allison,

    How lucky we are to live in the days of blogs and posts that last longer than expected! Today, while driving back from a client meeting, I noticed my wedding ring was missing! Uggg. I searched everywhere to no avail. Starting to panic, I said a quick prayer to St. Phanourious asking for his help. Lo and behold in less than two minutes, I knew where to look…and there it was. So, I am making your recipe tonight to share with my 8 co-workers who tore through the office trying to help me locate my ring. I googled a recipe and yours came to the top. Now, after reading the post, I am in tears and grateful for the connection you and St. Phan have developed. :)

    Thanks for writing!
    ~erica (eirene) robinson
    convert to Orthodox Christianity (Pentecost ’96)

    1. Erica/Eirene-
      I love those stories! Thanks for sharing yours. Hope your coworkers enjoy the cake. On my side, I’m grateful that my words still resonate for readers. You were kind to let me know. Hope you always find exactly what you’re looking for in life. ~ Allison

  7. Hi Allison,
    I was just looking for a recipe for this cake. I joke that I owe him many cakes because I am always losing things, and I do believe he helps me find them. I was thinking that I should learn the proper way to bake this cake. I’m not Greek nor is my background, but I converted to Orthodoxy in a Greek Orthodox Church. It interested me that you became Presbyterian, I used to be Presbyterian! As I read on I began to see that we have more in common: I’m a stay at home mom and also an artist, working on being creative alongside my house work. My husband is a teacher and working on a doctorate so I also feel disconnected at times. I am realizing that I need to connect with people more, and I’m inspired by your story. I think, since I owe so many cakes, I will find more connection through the sharing of them. This is a beautiful thing.
    thank you,

    1. Dana,
      Thanks for taking the time to comment. It’s great to hear from you, and I’m so glad that you have found meaning in my story. I guarantee that if you make and share this cake (once or many times), you won’t be able to help the connections that follow. I think the act of baking this cake primes a person to be receptive to and grateful for other people, and sharing the cake becomes something personal, even if shared with strangers. I hope you find the connections you’re looking for. Thanks, too, for sharing some interesting ways in which our lives seem to cross.
      All the best to you–

  8. Pat, how on earth did I miss your comment all this time? So sorry! I’m flattered that you found so much in my essay that resonates. Of course, I’m also sorry for the struggles you’re facing. I can only imagine what a deployment means to your family. And, of course I can relate to what happens to writing and to all your own pursuits while doing the work of Mom full time. All I can say is, persist and have faith that things will improve. I hope you find all you’re looking to create or re-create in your life. Thanks for commenting.

  9. Hi Allison,

    This is the third time I’m reading your essay, and as they say, third times a charm as I’m finally writing a comment :). I’m finding myself in the same situation as you were in your story. The similarities are uncanny. My husband has been so busy with language training in preparation for his deployment, and I have been busy with trying to relaunch my writing career and looking after our feisty little toddler. Even when we are together, we are both so mentally and physically exhausted that we are hardly present to each other. After being a stay-at-home mom for 18 months, the picture isn’t so rosy on the workfront. But I find comfort and inspiration in your heartfelt essay, and I’m keeping an open mind and a positive outlook. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful story!

  10. That, I have to say, is one of the best compliments I’ve ever received. Thank you so very much. I really appreciate it, and I’m glad that you liked the story. I try to keep things as “real” as possible–in my writing and in life. Compassion is sometimes harder, but it’s such an essential ingredient for any good recipe—whether that’s for cake or life!

  11. Allison, I am a pretty regular reader of Leite’s Culinaria, but I missed your essay when it was originally published. I just discovered it through Saveur’s Best finalists. (Congratulations on making that list, by the way!) I really love this essay….it speaks to me on many levels. I’m off to vote for you. Phanourios has found you another fan!

    1. Kath, thank you so very much. I am glad that the essay speaks to you, and I really appreciate your taking the time to let me know. I’ve no doubt that this saint is still working on my behalf!

  12. Dear Allison,

    Happy New Year and I hope your holidays were great. I never got your email, but i did get your final comment that you left me on here. Please use the email attached to reach me. I still am insterested in having a conversation with you when you can. I would like to share with you a story, how a couple I know from sharing this experience and recipe has been making this cake once and sometimes twice a month and conitnue this act of prayer and offering since August. I hope to hear from you soon. With prayers and Best Wishes.

    Fr. Ignatios

    1. Thank you, Father Ignatios, and to you as well. I’m sorry my message didn’t reach you. I’ll try again as you suggest. I would love to hear all about the couple who has been continuing to bake the phanouropita regularly!

  13. Allison, I stumbled upon the link to your article quite by chance, reading through some old discussions on “She Writes” forum. And I am so happy that I followed it. You are a wonderful writer and for a moment I was sitting right next to you, depressed and lethargic, throwing all the emptiness away in nine minutes of kneading (I bet it was my Njanja who wrote that recipe!)
    I love the symbolism of your story. (I am traditionally Serbian Orthodox, and even though I do not know this particular saint, I am familiar with many others:) and admire “the character arch” you accomplished in such a short time, with St. Phanourious or without ( I have my own little idiosyncrasies similar to yours).

    I read LC pretty regularly, but finding your voice on the site is going to make me come back daily. Thank you!

    1. Lana, for some reason I can’t fathom, I am only seeing your comment now. So sorry. I wanted to tell you that I really appreciate your taking the time to leave a comment here. Your words mean a lot to me–if I could bring you on a journey with me, it’s the best part about being a writer. I smile to think that you found such recognition in the scene of perpetual mixing that it made you wonder whether your own “njanja” could have written the recipe! Anyway, I hope that you have indeed come back to Leite’s often in the time since you left your comment—and that you’ve found much to delight your senses (especially that of taste!) here. Thanks again.

    1. Rebecca, thanks so much! I really appreciate that you took the time to read my essay and leave a comment.

  14. Hi,

    What a great article, thank you so much! This cake will be my weekend project. I can’t wait! As for donating food, this is going to be difficult. I’ve tried to do this w/ restaurant leftovers, when the homeless gentleman declined my offer he said, “No, thank you. I have my peanut-butter crackers.”

    Those were probably better than my meal.

    Oh well.

    Thanks again!

    1. Yes, I am very surprised at times, how difficult it can be to give things away—even food to the homeless, who we assume to be also hungry.

      I’m thrilled you want to make this cake, though. Even if you don’t give the whole thing away, find someone to share it with, even one slice given to a neighbor or friend. And do let me know how you like it!

      Hopefully, whatever you seek will come to you. Thanks so much for reading the article and taking the time to comment.

  15. Allison, I LOVE this!!! Thank you so much for sharing this incredible story. If everyone in the world would bake a cake and pass it on I believe things would be very different!!! As you know I am a devout Greek-O-Phile and I am very proud to call you my friend!!!! Congratulations on a year of self discovery that has come full circle and brought boundless self fulfillment!!!

    1. Victoria, thanks so much for reading the article and taking the time to comment. I was thinking of you as this article was going to press, knowing you were probably still in Greece at the time. Next time you’re there, you’ll have to ask around to see if you uncover any stories about the phanouropita! You’re sweet to congratulate me, and I do believe you’re absolutely right about the difference it would make in the world if everyone baked and gave away even one cake. Among all the things I’m grateful for, your friendship is right up there at the top of the list. Thanks again for stopping by!

    1. I, too, am happy to take a cake-baking hiatus during this hot and humid weather. But I do hope that you’ll give the phanouropita a whirl when things cool down. And of course I hope it brings you any- and everything you’re looking for! Thanks so much for your comment, Marcela.

  16. AL,

    It is so incredible to see that you have brought your two passions together: writing and baking. What a wonderful, well-written article that I am sure has touched many people in more ways than you could ever imagine. Thank you for sharing! I am so proud of you!

    1. Karen, thank YOU! You’ve always been so supportive, such a great friend. It’s great to see you here in this space. I hope you’ll return to Leite’s for more writing and recipes (not just mine). Meantime, thanks again for reading and for taking the time to leave a comment. You’re the best.

  17. thanks for writing this. it did me a lot of good to read it. I love how at first nothing changed on the outside, but inwardly there began sort of a profound shift. I needed some inspiration, and reading your story has helped me.

    1. Claire, thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment. I’m so glad if any part of my story was helpful to you. I hope you find inspiration everywhere.

  18. Malik, Thank you so much for leaving a comment. You are right, I think, about this story being one that’s not exactly typical of our society today—we’re more accustomed to pairing food with celebrity and competition (think Top Chef) than with anything saintly—so it’s particularly gratifying to know that my story intrigued and inspired you. I do hope there’s a cake in your future, and also whatever you wish to find by baking it.

  19. WOW. Such a great piece. I’ve been inspired on numerous levels. I am intriqued by the intersection of food, faith, and life and this is exactly the type of story I’m drawn to. Our society is so obssessed with food and image and good and bad and here you found something that would be shunned by entire sectors of eaters and yet this “bad” for you item strengthened you in unforseem ways in multiple levels of your life. Thank you for writing this and thank you for sharing this story and this cake. I do believe this cake is in my near future.

    1. Malik, Thank you so much for leaving a comment. You are right, I think, about this story being one that’s not exactly typical of our society today—we’re more accustomed to pairing food with celebrity and competition (think Top Chef) than with anything saintly—so it’s particularly gratifying to know that my story intrigued and inspired you. I do hope there’s a cake in your future, and also whatever you wish to find by baking it.

  20. I loved your essay. It is so true what you said about giving to others, that what you get in return is sometimes greater than what is given. I’m so glad that you have Leite’s Culinaria to be able to share your passion of food and writing with others. Thanks for sharing your story.

  21. Allison, thank you so much for your inspiring words and for bravely sharing them with us. We all seem to know that food and spirituality are closely intertwined. I am drawn to LC, in great part, because of this. I find great recipes, super ideas, yes, but it’s articles like yours that make me so grateful that I found this site. The gift you’ve given is filled with deep meaning and your words the ones I needed to hear. I am sure I’m not the only one who feels that way.

    1. Donna, your words make me extra proud to be part of Leite’s Culinaria as well. Getting to connect with people who appreciate not just great food, but the meaning behind preparing it, sharing it—that’s what it’s all about. Thank you so much for reading and responding; that’s a great gift back!

  22. Allison, thank you so much for sharing this with all of us. Might this be a good recipe for us all to test – both the cake and the legend? I’m certainly intrigued…

    1. Karen, I hope you do test out the recipe—and find your own story in its legend. Thanks for reading and taking the time to leave a comment.

  23. I love your writing, and this story is so powerful. Thank you very much for sharing it.

    But wouldn’t you make two cakes tonight? 27 cakes for August 27, and 2+7 = 9. I’d be happy to take one off your hands! :)

    1. Oh, the numerology is fitting, isn’t it? Thanks so much for pointing that out, and for reading my piece and commenting.

  24. Lovely story, Allison. The part about recognizing that your blessing wasn’t exactly what you’d originally intended really resonated with me — often over the past year, I’ve put out into the universe my wants or desires, and then gotten frustrated when they didn’t happen. Then I stepped back and realized: Oh. I am receiving something powerful here, just not in the exact way I wanted it to manifest. In the end, the universe is smarter than me. :-) There’s something so calming in just letting go and accepting what comes your way!

    1. Lesley, I often think the universe is smarter than all of us put together. And yes, learning to accept what comes is a challenge worth undertaking. Thanks so much for taking the time to read my essay and share how it resonates with you. That’s very much appreciated.

  25. What a terrific piece! My favorite line, because I can picture the scene so vividly: “I did, however, crouch in front of the oven to make a timid sign of the cross.” Followed, of course, by your attempt of a quick cover-up. (Was he fooled?) Thanks for sharing this, and I wish you a wonderful feast day!

    1. Thank you, Bruce. Was my son fooled? I’m not sure. Since that time, though, he’s come to love the phanouropita, and is always the recipient of a slice when I’m not giving away a whole cake. Now, seeing me engaged in this ritual has become commonplace for him.

  26. Allison, this piece reflects so well some of the dimensions of who you are: creativity, sensitivity, searching, finding, searching again, your talent for writing and discovery, and the texture of your heart and soul driven by love. Read and re-read the comments for this piece. Am I biased as your father, yes, but I’m not alone in recognizing the gift you are. Thank you.

    1. Gee, I don’t know what to say. But… I know this: I’d be remiss if I didn’t say thanks back. I’m blessed to have parents who so often steer me toward exactly those valuable insights that help change—well, everything. I couldn’t have written this without you both. Thanks for your support. I love you.

  27. Great story, Allison. I feel like I’ve found something I’ve been looking for—the story behind your interest in phanouropita! I’m always amazed at my own inability to know what to ask for when things are bleak, but more often than not can find comfort in the kitchen. I’m thrilled that you’ve found the magic of connection in the food/culinary/writing world.

    1. Thank you, Molly. Yes, it’s perplexing, I think—how we can so often fail to know what ails us. And yes again to comfort in the kitchen.

  28. Allison,

    What a moving and uplifting story. I am a greek Orthodox priest and celebrate up in the Catskills presently. St. Phanourios has always been a very intriquing and beautiful feast for me to celebrate. This year many different ladies from the church are making this special cake to bring to the church this Sunday to be blessed and distributed. Many of the woman have never made it or don’t know too much about it. I find that one makes this cake and brings it to church with whatever intention; it’s the fact that God’s grace always shows forth and others see and experience that same grace. Your story is very inspirational for those who sometimes feel that God the Church and those longtime people we call saints are meaningless or have no purpose. The means of our daily lives even a simple cake can be an instrument that can change ourselves and others around us. That is loving our neighbors and ourselves. If you have time, or like to get your cake blessed, it would be a blessing to have it up this Sunday in Windham at the Church of the Assumption, where I will be blessing the St. Phanouris Cakes. Thank you for giving me great sermon material.

    Rev. Fr. Ignatios Achlioptas

    1. Father Ignatios, I am honored to have your response to my story. Thank you so much for taking the time to read it and leave a comment. I’m afraid I won’t be able to make it to Windham this weekend, but I would love to visit your church sometime, and if I do, you can believe I will bring you a phanouropita to bless and share. What you say about people sometimes failing to connect to saints—who were, nevertheless, people who lived on this earth, people whose lives show us what is possible not in the next world but in this one—is so true. Before I baked these cakes, saints were so remote and even intimidating to me. Now, however, I see that they can be like friends, gently reminding us to connect with others and to those parts of ourselves that we often neglect. Thanks again for your comment, and I wish you a most blessed feast day of Saint Phanourios.

      1. Allison, What a great Sunday i had yesterday in Windham. I thought i would have only one St. Phanourious cake and I had more than nine cakes, which were brought to the church to be blessed during the Liturgy. During my sermon with the children, I shared the story about the saint and the cake, and most of all shared your incredibly moving story. (I told you it would be great sermon materials!). The children and adults were moved by the fact that a cake can change and transform lives and others. I reminded the children that their lives are important, and they are important to the world around us and never to let anyone tell them otherwise and that the church and faith is something can transform our inner self and give us purpose. The people up in Windham are excited to meet you, and, of course, to have you come up with your Holy Cake. The church closes after the second weekened of October, so I hope you can make time to share. Thank you for making these lost, sometimes forgotten, saints a reality in our broken and hurt world. May the prayers of St. Phanourious keep you always, and may you continue to shine forth to those around you like a candle bringing love, faith and redemption.

        1. Dear Father Ignatios,
          I’m so glad you had so many cakes to bless this year—how wonderful. I’m amazed that you really did use my story in your sermon, and I could not be happier about how you connected something I wrote with a lesson to children, that they are important to the world and that they should not doubt that faith can transform and give a sense of purpose.

          I have noted the date your church closes (I hope this is just a seasonal thing, and not a permanent closing), and I am going to see what I can do about a visit to Windham. I’ll be in touch about this soon.

          Meanwhile, thank you again so much for your words and sharing of my story.
          Blessings to you ~ Allison

          1. Allison, thanks for your response. Yes, the church in Windham is seasonal, and its last Liturgy is on October 11. It would be a great treat to see you and to welcome you to the beautiful shrine dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It would be great to learn more about you and of course get some copies of your books. With many prayers
            and Blessings.

            1. Dear Father Ignatios,
              I tried to contact you independently of this comment thread, but I’m not sure you received my message. I really was hoping to join you early this month for the last Liturgy of the year in Windham. It just wasn’t possible. But please let me know when the church reopens. I will definitely find time for a visit in the new season!

              Thanks again for all your care and support, these have meant a lot to me. I hope you (and your congregation) have a blessed rest of the year, including Christmastime and the slow march toward Easter.

              Best regards,

  29. Thanks for sharing your journey, Alison. Evocative writing, and the cake sounds amazing. I’ll have to fish around for the recipe link.

    1. Thank you, Stephanie, for taking the time to read and to respond. It means a lot to hear from readers. I do hope you will make the cake—and that it will bring you what you seek (even if it’s just a delicious treat with coffee or tea).

  30. What a marvellous story of loss and redemption—i love the spicy ingredients of greek culture, personal angst and heroic aspiration—not to mention devotion! Happy Saint P Day, Allison!

    1. Joshin, thank you so much for taking the time to read my story. Orthodox or not (Zen if you’re a Joshin I know), I hope you also have a wonderful Saint’s day—every day and with awareness of blessings in the moment.

    1. Beverly, thank you. Isn’t that what we always hope food will be? Something that goes straight to the heart as well as the stomach? I’m glad you enjoyed the story.

    1. Thanks, Marcella. I hope you do bake the cake—and that you find everything you’re looking for!

  31. This is a wonderful, beautifully written story of gratitude. Your description of beating the batter and the muscle exhaustion it induced is great. Enjoy your feast day cake.

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