Strawberry Ekmek Kataifi


Made from crispy shredded phyllo that's soaked in syrup and traditionally topped with custard, ekmek kataifi is a Greek dessert that perfectly balances crispy and creamy. Instead of the traditional custard, Velez's version features a vibrant strawberry pudding and a cloud of honey-flavored whipped cream. You can find kataifi in the freezer section of Greek markets and many Middle Eastern shops, too. Powdered gelatin is a great substitute for the gelatin sheets Velez uses, and it's much easier to find in your local supermarket.

Active Time:
50 mins
Total Time:
5 hrs 30 mins


For the Baked Kataifi

  • 8 ounces frozen kataifi (shredded phyllo dough), thawed per package instructions

  • ¾ cup (1 1⁄2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the cake pan

For the Lemon Syrup

  • 1 cup granulated sugar

  • 1 cup water

  • 3 cinnamon sticks

  • 4 strips of lemon zest, plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice (from 1 lemon)

For the Strawberry Pudding

  • 1 ½ cups whole milk, divided

  • 2 ½ teaspoons unsweetened gelatin powder

  • 1 quart ripe strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped

  • cup cornstarch

  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar

  • Pinch of salt

  • ½ cup heavy cream

  • 4 large egg yolks

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or vanilla extract

  • 3-4 drops pink food coloring (optional)

For the Whipped Cream Topping

  • 1 cup heavy cream, chilled

  • ¼ cup powdered sugar

  • ½ tablespoon honey


  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Make the Baked Kataifi: Layer the shredded phyllo dough into the pan, arranging it in a single layer. Drizzle the melted butter evenly over the top and, using your hands, lightly toss to coat the kataifi in butter. Spread the kataifi back into an even layer, packing it down lightly. Bake until golden brown and cooked all the way through, 20 to 30 minutes.

  2. While the kataifi is baking, make the Lemon Syrup: In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, water, cinnamon sticks, and lemon zest and juice over medium-high heat; simmer until the syrup becomes aromatic, about 5 minutes. Cover and set aside in a warm spot.

  3. As soon as the kataifi is removed from the oven, place the pan on a wire rack and check to see if it has pulled back a bit from the edges of the pan. If it has, gently push the kataifi back to the edges of the pan. Pour the Lemon Syrup evenly over the top of the kataifi. Let cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes.

  4. While Baked Kataifi cools, make the Strawberry Custard: Pour 1/4 cup of the milk into a small bowl; sprinkle gelatin over milk and set aside. Place the strawberries in a blender and process until a smooth puree forms. Add cornstarch, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and a pinch of salt to the blender; process briefly to combine and set aside.

  5. In a medium saucepan, combine the remaining 1 1/4 cups milk and the cream; bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Meanwhile, beat egg yolks with remaining 1 cup sugar in a medium bowl until blended. When the milk mixture comes to a simmer, whisk a ladleful into the egg-yolk mixture to temper it, then pour the egg-yolk mixture into the milk mixture in the saucepan, whisking constantly. Immediately whisk in the strawberry mixture, and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes back to a gentle simmer and thickens to a pudding-like consistency, about 5 minutes.

  6. Turn off the heat and whisk in the vanilla. Add the food coloring and whisk until combined; add the gelatin mixture and whisk until smooth. Pour strawberry pudding over the kataifi, smoothing the surface. Immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate overnight until completely chilled and firmed up.

  7. When ready to serve, make the Whipped Cream Topping: Combine cream, powdered sugar, and honey in a large bowl. Using an immersion blender or electric mixer, beat until stiff peaks form. Cut the ekmek into slices and place a dollop of whipped cream on top of each serving. Enjoy!

    Strawberry Ekmek
    Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Emily Nabors Hall / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell
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