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Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Zaharoplasteio (Ζαχαροπλαστείο)

The sight of a full display case of creamy cakes is a common one all over Greece. The ζαχαροπλαστείο (zaharoplasteio) is where you come to buy cakes to take as a present when visiting friends, to treat your guests when celebrating a nameday, or simply because you feel like treating everyone at your workplace. Few people bother these days to make something home-made and bring it with them (like we used to in New Zealand, but this may have changed there too). You'll be surprised to learn that Greek people are bound to eat one of these calorie-laden, cholesterol-busting, artery-choking temptations from a zaharoplasteio on a weekly basis, whether they bought it themselves, or someone else treated them to it.

zaharoplasteo egaleo athens
So much choice makes choosing difficult...
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Even though many of these sweets look completely different from each other, they actually have a very similar taste: they are all creamy, fatty and sweet. Take the second shelf from the top: they are all a form of πάστα (pasta) which in Greek means 'cream cake' (we never use the word 'pasta' to mean 'spaghetti'; the generic word for this in Greek is ζυμαρικά - zimarika). They all look different, but every single one of them - starting from the left, there's sokolatina, black forest, amigdalou and pasta sokolatas - consists of very thin layers of sponge (madeira) cake (either chocolate or vanilla) and thick layers of (chocolate or vanilla) whipped (but not fresh) cream or custard with a different decoration on the outside: chocolate coating, chocolate snow (and cherries), vanilla cream and almonds, or chocolate cream. The ones on the last shelf - kourambiedakia, kornedakia and trigonakia - are all made from puff pastry (in different shapes), filled with whipped cream (once again, not the fresh stuff). Only the shape is different; the taste is exactly the same.

kok
Koks - these were so fresh, they were sticking together...

The different appearance of each one gives each type of 'pasta' their individual name. This particular one - what appears to be an individual round portion of an XL victoria sponge cake, with custard cream in the middle of the cakes, topped with chocolate icing - is called a 'kok'.

kok
XL κωκ (kok); the ingredients list does not mention the cream...

It sits in its own paper case. Nancy insists that these cakes are pronounced something like 'coke. I've never even once heard 'kok' pronounced 'coke'; I've only heard it pronounced as in 'cock-a-doodle-do'. Maybe an American will pronounce 'kok' as 'coke', just like s/he would say 'spanacoa-pira' instead of 'spanakopita' (-coa- as in 'coat') - but I doubt it...

kokakia sweets zaharoplasteio
Kokkakia - little koks; how would you ask for these? "A dozen little koks, please". This reminds me of the way I usually buy malaka (by the kilo). Last Christmas I had to buy reindeer horns for a Christmas pageant costume: "Have you got any kerata? I'd like to buy some, please."

Kocks are also made in a smaller size, which is sold by the kilo, each one sitting in a paper case. They're called 'kokkakia', which translates to 'little kocks'. So why are they called cocks? Is there anything cocky about their appearance in the first place, with their round shape and soft cream filling in between the two spongy cakes? Must be something to do with French...

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