Imagine tender airy soufflé with rich creamy flavor, complemented with soft biscuit and a thin layer of fine quality dark chocolate. This is the cake of your dreams, and which all Russians know as ptichye moloko.
The name is no less unique than the cake itself, and it literally means “the milk of birds.” According to ancient legend, ‘bird’s milk’ is a sacred ingredient that birds in paradise fed their chicks. Slavic folk tales recall that beautiful maidens, who wanted to test their manly admirers, asked to fetch them ‘bird's milk,’ the finding of which was considered nearly impossible.
The Soviet-era ptichye moloko cake in fact has Polish roots. In 1930s Warsaw confectioner Jan Wedel came up with soufflé candies that he called ptasie mleczko. The sweets were so popular that after a while they spread to Russia. In 1978 the recipe was finally transformed into the legendary ptichye moloko cake. Moscow confectioner Vladimir Guralnik recalls that it took him six months to perfect the complicated recipe.
When I asked my granny about her favorite Soviet cake she answered without hesitation:“ptichye moloko for sure! It was hard to find, and so we had to pay triple the price to get our hands on it.”
She ate authentic ptichye moloko only once in her lifetime, when my grandpa brought it home from Moscow in a beautiful signature box. In the USSR there were genuine ‘hunger games’ for ‘bird’s milk’ cake, which was sold only in the capital.
The recipe was kept secret for a long time. The original cake recipe contains key ingredients such as agar-agar and condensed milk, but at that time Soviet housewives didn’t know this, and they tried to recreate ptichye moloko on their own. Today, there are numerous recipes of the legendary cake, but this one I love the most, even better than the real one.
Ingredients for the sponge:
Ingredients for the soufflé:
Ingredients for the glaze:
First, make your basic sponge: beat the eggs with sugar until grains dissolve, add sifted flour with salt and baking powder, and mix everything together carefully. Bake for about 30 minutes at 180°C and cool completely.
Then, cut your sponge in two layers and set aside.
Before starting with the cream cover the gelatin with 100ml water and leave for about 20 minutes to swell.
The soufflé for ptichye moloko consists of custard cream and meringue, so begin with the custard. Separate the yolks from the whites and leave the whites in the fridge. In a clear bowl stir the yolks with sugar.
Pour in milk, add some flour and mix properly. Put the bowl on a bain-marie and bring the mixture to a boil – constantly stir the cream with a whisk to prevent lumps from forming.
When the cream is thick enough, remove it from the heat and let cool a bit. Meanwhile, in a clear bowl beat the butter for a couple of minutes.
While the custard cream is still slightly warm, start adding it tablespoon by tablespoon into the soft butter and whisk with a mixer on low speed.
Leave the cream in the fridge for 20-30 minutes so that it thickens.
Next, back to gelatin: warm it on low heat until fully dissolved.
Beat egg whites with sugar until it acquires stiff peaks and glossy texture.
Next is very important: carefully drip liquid gelatin into the meringue and whisk the mixture.
Now you have to work fast: prepare your sponge layers and cooking ring in advance. Carefully add gelatin meringue to the custard cream and stir with a spatula – here is your airy soufflé base for ptichye moloko.
The soufflé thickens very quickly so do not miss the moment. Place one sponge on the bottom of the ring, layer with ½ of the soufflé, then place another sponge and cover it with the remaining soufflé.
To prepare the glaze bring cream almost to a boil, remove from heat and add chopped dark chocolate. Wait for a couple of minutes, and stir the mixture until the chocolate dissolves and the glaze is nice and smooth. Add butter and give the glaze a final stir.
Pour the glaze on top of the cake, and leave in the refrigerator. Chill the cake for at least 5 hours, better overnight.
Carefully remove ptichye moloko from the cooking ring and enjoy your masterpiece. Priyatnogo appetita!
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