This is the Greek answer to trifle. Its is composed of a baked zesty syrup soaked pastry base, with custard layer and creamy topping garnished with chopped nuts (usually pistachios).

This dessert is vegetarian, light and elegant, and is an excellent treat served after endulging in a big meal, such as Christmas dinner as it can be served from one large dish. 

The name denotes its ottoman origins; “Katayif” being the Ottoman name of the vermicelli like fine pastry strings, deriving from the Arabic word (katifah), meaning velvet. “Ekmek” is also the Turkish word for bread. If you asked for this in Turkey it would come as a bread like syrup soaked pastry with clotted cream, and is likely where the Greek version has been adapted from.

This recipe is does used a fair few dishes and takes a little time to set but is pretty easy to make. Like always I have adapted the recipe to make it healthier using stevia to replace the sugar in the custard and cream but you can prepare this using sugar in the traditional way. 

*note granulated sweeteners often come with bulking ingredients to give the same volume as you would use sugar. If using bake stable or concentrated stevia make sure to check the label and use the equivalent volume recommended to match 1 cup of sugar.

Most of the ingredients can typically be bought from your supermarket but the Kataifi which is a stringy ripe of phyllo pastry, I usually buy from my local deli, which is sealed in a bag usually in the frozen section as its very delicate. When you want to use this it is best thawed in the fridge over night and once opened needs to be prepared quick as it easily dries out in open air.

45 min’ 2 hours2 hours 45 min’



  • 200g Kataifi Pastry 
  • 80g Unsalted Butter


  • 200g Granulated Sugar
  • 200ml water
  • Peel of 1/2 a lemon
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tbsp orange blossom water (optional)
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick


  • 1 litre of Semi-skimmed Milk
  • 1 cup of stevia based granulated sweetener (see notes) or equivalent sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 80g Cornflour
  • 6 Egg Yolks
  • 50g Unsalted Butter
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Mastic Gum (Optional)


  • 375ml Double Cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup stevia based granulated sweetener (see notes) or equivalent icing sugar.
  • 50g pistachios


Make the syrup

Put the sugar, water, cinnamon stick, orange blossom water, lemon juice and rind into a small pan on a medium heat.

Bring the pan to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid starts to thicken.

After 5 minutes take the pan off the heat and stir in the honey and set aside to cool whilst you prepare the pastry base.

The Base

Preheat the over to 160oC

Melt the butter in a small pan or in the microwave until clarified.

In a large sheet pan or baking dish (~35x25cm) empty the phyllo dough out of the packet and detangle the pastry making sure not to tear. Roughly spread the pastry out in the pan working quickly to make sure it doesn’t dry out.

Pour the melted butter over the pastry and muddle slightly till most of the pastry is coated.

Spread the pastry evenly to cover the bottom of the tray and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

Whilst the pastry base is baking prepare the custard.

The Custard

Add the egg yolks and sugar to a large jug and whisk together until well combined.

Place 75ml of milk and the cornflour into the egg mixture and mix in until the flour has dissolved and set aside.

In a large pan add the rest of the milk, vanilla extract and the ground mastic powder. Heat the pan on a low-medium heat stirring occasionally to prevent the milk forming a skin and sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Once the milk has come to a boil take it off the heat and slowly ladle some of warm milk into the egg mixture, whilst whisking, until the jug is full and the eggs are warmed.

Add the jug contents back to the pan whisking briskly and then place on a low-medium heat to thicken the custard.

The custard has become smooth and thickened remove from the heat and set aside for a minute before covering with some cling film and placing it in the fridge to cool while you attend to the pastry base.

Back to the Base

Once the pastry is cooked and and golden take out of the oven and pour over the cooled syrup, tilting the pan to ensure the pastry is coated.

The Topping

Add the cream, stevia powder and vanilla extract to a mixing bowl and briskly whisk (use the highest setting if using a mixer). The cream will slowly thicken and then suddenly start to combine to form peaks when the whisk is lifted, then the topping is done.


Pour the cooled custard into the large pan over the pastry. Make sure that the custard is level and smooth using a spatula.

Add the topping in dollops evenly with a spoon over the custard and smooth off with a spatula ensuring you don’t mix the cream and custard.

Top the cream with the chopped pistachios and leave to set for 2 hours in the fridge before serving chilled.

This can be made ahead, so you can relax if entertaining, and kept in the fridge covered with come cling film for 2-3 days. It can also be served in served in slices like below or assembled in individual glass dishes for a special occasion.

If you like this recipe you might like our twisted version of Kataifi Ekmek version, flavoured with caramel and coffee: Twisted Kataifi Ekmek.

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