The Greek Confection Believed To Have Mystical Powers

Praying, meditating, scrying, and casting an old-fashioned spell. That's just a sampling of the myriad ways cultures around the world seek enlightenment in the pursuit of a lost object. And true believers will swear to the moon and back that, for whatever mystical reason, their method works every time. In Greece, the tradition involves baking a cake

Fanouropita, a simple spiced confection also known as the "lost things cake," is an offering to Agios Fanourios, a Greek Orthodox saint who is said to have died a martyr on the island of Rhodes. Little else is known about St. Fanourios — even his association with finding lost things remains a mystery. According to one popular theory, the connection stems from the similarity of his name to fanerono, the Greek word meaning "to reveal."

Other believers posit the tradition of baking a cake as an interpretation of the final prayer Fanourios uttered – a plea that anyone who bakes a cake and gives it to someone in need will be heard when sorrow comes into their life. Whatever its genesis, steadfast believers have passed the tradition of Fanouropita from generation to generation for centuries. Looking for assistance finding a lost object? Here's what you need to know.

A cake steeped in symbolism

Tradition holds that the first step in recruiting assistance from St. Fanourios is to simply ask for help. The cake comes later, baked to demonstrate gratitude after the lost item is found. The vegan confection — no eggs or butter — usually consists of seven or nine ingredients (the numbers are a nod to sacred mysteries of the Greek Orthodox Church). Although some modern interpretations incorporate added flavors, a traditional nine-ingredient Fanouropita consists of flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, sugar, olive oil, orange juice, raisins, and walnuts.

Skeptical? Anecdotal evidence abounds. Consider this story shared by a blogger who sought help from St. Fanourios when she lost her cell phone. In 2015, Charlotte Riggle recounted her mystical tale of lost and found. In a nutshell, Riggle was standing at a bus stop on a rainy day and had to juggle her umbrella, bag, and phone to send a text. Long story short: the bus arrived, Riggle boarded, and quickly realized her phone was gone. She assumed she had dropped it in the rain at the bus stop never to be seen again, but before giving up entirely, she said a quick prayer to St. Fanourios. A few minutes after she arrived home, her umbrella stand started ringing and she found her lost phone furled deep inside her umbrella. A coincidence? Maybe. But Riggle baked the requisite cake nonetheless.