Vareniki, pies and jams – there are literally dozens of authentic Russian recipes with cherries, and I was absolutely sure that I knew and had tried every possible traditional cherry dish. That was until I came across the ‘Monastery Hut’ recipe – this turned out to be one of the most original cakes ever made with cherry.
The history of the cake’s origin is quite vague but the one thing I am completely sure of is that it came from anywhere but a monastery kitchen. There are so many ‘rich’ ingredients in the cake, such as butter, sour cream, sugar and chocolate, all of which run counter to monastic asceticism. However, many people call this cake Monastery Hut for several reasons. Its unusual pyramid shape truly resembles a traditional log house. Moreover, some believe that initially, instead of cherry filling, they used prunes that symbolize monks and their monastery.
Anyway, the cake became very popular and beloved on Russian family tables, not only because of the delicious taste, but also due to its shape and appearance. Monastery Hut looks impressive because it’s not made from the traditional layers, but rather with so-called pastry “tubes” that have cherry filling. The shortcrust pastry is also original: one of the main ingredients is sour cream, which makes your basic crusty pastry more tender. Another star of the show is the traditional sweet-and-sour Russian cream made with sour cream, which you can also find in iconic Soviet and Russian sweet dishes such as Medovik (honey cake) and Smetannik (sour cream cake). The only drawback to Monastery Hut is the amount of time required to make it, which can be several hours, but the result is totally worthy it.
1. For the shortcrust pastry, stir softened butter with sour cream in a large bowl until smooth. Add sugar and again work the mixture with a whisk.
2. Add sifted flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt, and knead the pastry with a spatula and then with your hands.
3. You should get a quite thick but still smooth piece that does not stick to your hands. Round the pastry into a ball and let it chill in the fridge for around an hour.
4. Meanwhile, prepare the filling: remove the pits from fresh cherries and set aside. If you use defrosted cherries make sure to slightly drain them in the strainer to get rid of excess juice.
5. Now, let’s return to the pastry, and divide it into 15 equal round pieces.
6. Take one piece at a time and roll each so that you get a kind of rectangle about 20 cm in length and 8 cm in width. Put 8-10 cherries in a single line right in the middle of the strip.
7. Carefully pinch the sides of the pastry to enclose the filling. Repeat with the rest of the pastry balls, and make sure that all the tubes are of equal size and length.
8. Now, lay out the tubes seam side up on a baking pan covered with a sheet of parchment.
9. Bake at 180°C for 20-25 minutes until slightly golden brown on top. It is completely Ok if the cherry filling slightly bleeds while baking. The tubes should cool down completely.
10. To make the cream, whisk sour cream and heavy cream, and as much powdered sugar as you prefer.
11. Now, the most intriguing part – assembling the cake. On a large plate place the first 5 tubes and generously cover with the cream. Place next 4 tubes on top, and again cover with cream. Then, 3 tubes, cream; 2 tubes, cream; and finally place the last tube on top and finish by covering all the cake with cream.
12. Gently wrap all sides of your sweet ‘hut’ with plastic wrap, and leave in the fridge for at least 5 hours, or better overnight.
13. Next morning, carefully remove the plastic wrap from the cake and decorate it with chopped or ground dark chocolate. Make a cup of strong Americano coffee and enjoy a generous piece of your sweet cherry masterpiece. Priyatnogo appetita!
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