My Yiayia Lola is legendary throughout Greek Chicago for her honey soaked diples. Many have tried, but few (if any) have mastered these meticulously rolled and fried, sweet, flakey treats. If there’s a wedding, baptism, or any special occasion really, you’re sure to find my yiayia’s diples stacked beautifully on a silver tray with a prime location on the dessert buffet.
Although I love my yiayia’s diples, don’t get me wrong, the star dessert for me growing up was my yiayia’s galopita, or “yellow stuff,” as we lovingly called it. After my yiayia spent days preparing and making the diples, as kind of an afterthought, she’d take any extra eggs she had and would make a galopita “for the kids” (the adults were certain to get their fair share as well). Considering the number of weddings and baptisms in our circle of family and friends, it seemed that any time we would go to my yiayia’s house there’d be “yellow stuff” waiting on the counter to be picked up by our little fingers and devoured in an instant—it was as certain as the hug and kiss we’d get at the front door. For some reason, the “yellow stuff” was never hidden in the back room with the other desserts either. She must have known just how much we loved it, because along with all the savory appetizers—spanakopitas and such—my yiayia would place the “yellow stuff.” A dessert before the meal! Clearly, it was special.
Sprinkled lightly with cinnamon, this Greek custard cake is a child’s answer to the finest crème brulée—it’s creamy and sweet, but can be picked up with one’s hands. It’s usually served room temperature or even chilled, which makes it a refreshing bite on a summer day. Even chilled though, it tastes of warm vanilla and cinnamon. The moment you take a bite of this light, spongy cake, the semolina granules dance on your tongue until they melt away. It’s the perfect treat for child and child at heart.
(The recipe has been halved from the original which serves well over 20)
2 c. milk (the fattier the better)
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. semolina (or farina) (plus extra for coating greased pan)
1-2 tbs. butter
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Heat milk until just scalding. Add semolina and 1/4 c. sugar, whisking until medium-thick consistency. Whisk in butter and salt. Set mixture to side. Beat eggs and the rest of sugar on high speed until light and creamy. Add vanilla to egg and sugar mixture. Using wooden spoon, fold egg into semolina mixture until fully incorporated. Grease an 8 by 12 inch cake pan and coat with a layer of semolina. Pour cream in pan. Preheat oven to 375۫ and bake for about 30 minutes until the top is golden brown. Sprinkle cinnamon when still warm. Once cool, cut into squares and enjoy!