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Milk Roses Cake

What's better than getting a bouquet of fresh, sweet-smelling roses? Why, fragrant, edible roses, of course! I had been salivating over Smitten Kitchen's Ruffled Milk Pie for quite some time, and like her, was initially hesitant to use filo pastry because they are so flimsy and I knew I would tear the sheets with my clumsy hands. Fact: my first attempt at unfurling filo sheets was a disaster -- they were reduced to crumbly shards, so there you go. Thankfully, I took a leap of faith with this recipe, a variant of a galatopita or Greek baked custard pudding.

True enough, even before I brushed the filo sheets with melted butter, there were already a few tears and cracks in the sheets, but I trusted the process, and continued to brush, fold and roll, until the cake pan was filled with filo rosettes. There are no hard and fast rules to rolling the filo sheets. I tended to roll tightly, so I used up about 12 filo sheets from the package.

One way to keep filo pastry from tearing or drying up is to put unused sheets under a clean, slightly damp tea towel, until ready to use. Also, thaw out the sheets at least four hours before using, at room temperature. Of course, I didn't do any of the above because I was too lazy. :-p I thawed out the filo about two hours before preparing the cake, also because I was emboldened by Deb Perelman's assurance that it's okay for the filo sheets to tear, crack and break, because the filo provides texture and volume anyway.

I made my own spin by replacing granulated sugar in the original recipe with condensed milk, which is already sweetened on its own, and reducing the measurement for the milk slightly by a fraction. I also used stoneware casserole to bake this milk roses cake, although a springform cake pan with a latch works just as fine.

Recipe adapted from Deb Perelman.


Baking time: 20 minutes

Serves: 6-8


20-22 store-bought filo sheets, measuring 12" x 8"

6 tablespoons or 85 grams unsalted butter, melted

3 large eggs

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1/2 cup condensed milk

1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract or essence

1 1/4 cups or 300 ml milk (whole or low-fat is fine)

Confectioners'/powdered sugar for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celsius. Lightly brush a 9-inch round baking pan with butter, including the sides. It's optional to fit in a large sheet of parchment paper, for easier pull, although it's fine to serve the cake directly from the pan too.

2. Place thawed filo sheets on counter. Cover with a slightly damp towel. Remove first filo sheet and place it on unused part of counter. Brush first filo sheet with butter and use both hands to scrunch it the long way into a loose fan-like strip, alternating folds. It's okay if there are tears; these will be hidden once filo is rolled up. Wind it up into a loose or tight spiral like a paper rose (I rolled tightly). Place in middle of prepared pan. Repeat this with remaining filo sheets, until the cake pan fills up.

3. Bake for 20 minutes, until filo is light golden brown and crisp. Remove from oven, leaving oven on, and let rest on a cooling rack for 10 minutes while you prepare the custard.

Whisk eggs, condensed milk, salt, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Pour in milk, while continuing to whisk. Once 10 minutes' rest is up, pour custard all over baked filo and return cake to oven.

Bake for another 20 minutes, until custard is set. Let cool slightly before serving, and dust generously with powdered sugar.

Milk roses for breakfast, just because. :)


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