This multi-layered confection was invented 200 years ago. The wife of Alexander I, Elizabeth, could not bear the taste of honey, so naturally it was strictly prohibited in desserts on the royal table. One day, however, there appeared a new court chef who was unaware of the rule. He made some honey cakes, smeared them with cream, and served them to the imperial family. Elizabeth liked them so much that she immediately abandoned her previous anti-honey prejudice. The cake duly became a fashionable dessert. Two centuries later, the recipe is not just for royal pastry chefs, but all cake-bakers out there. Don’t let the layers frighten you, they are quick and easy to make.
How to prepare: Place eggs (3 pcs), baking soda (1 tsp), honey (3 tbsp), and 1 glass of sugar in a non-stick pan on high heat. Stir constantly until the mix triples in volume and resembles golden foam. Remove from the heat and immediately add flour in small portions (3 cups) while continuing to stir. Cut the pastry into 8–9 parts. Grease a baking sheet. Roll each piece of pastry into a thin layer. Bake until golden brown at 170C (about 5 minutes). While the sponge is soft, remove from the oven and allow to cool. For cream, whip smetana (800 g) and sugar (3/4 cup). Add to the cakes, as desired. Let them sit for 12 hours in a warm place until firm.
Smetannik differs from other sponge puddings or cakes in that smetana (sour cream) is added not only to the cream spread on the cake, but to the pastry as well. Due to the high availability of the ingredients, it was just about the most popular homemade cake in the USSR. Plus there are lots of variations — some decorate it with cocoa powder, chocolate icing, breadcrumbs, or berries. Nuts, candied fruit, or even rum can be added to the cream. The main thing is to give the cake 12 hours to plump up after preparation.
This cake’s USP is the alternation of light (vanilla) and dark (chocolate) pastry. In the simpler version, more like a pie, the stripes inside the pastry create a zebra or marble effect. The more complex one involves alternating colored cakes.
How to prepare: Mix 1.5 cups of sugar with eggs (3 pcs), and add 1.5 cups of flour, 1 tsp of baking soda, and 200 g of sour cream. Knead the pastry well and divide into three parts. Mix one with 2 tbsp of cocoa powder. Bake 3 cakes for 20 minutes at 180C (2 white and 1 brown). Use smetana for the cream filling: beat 1 cup of chilled smetana with 1/2 cup of icing sugar until it doubles in size, add vanillin (1 tsp) and pour in 10 g of dissolved gelatin (in 1/2 cup of water). Beat the mix well. Smear the cakes with cream and put in the refrigerator for 6 hours. Add chocolate icing on top, as desired.
We are not going to teach you how to make tiramisu, but rather share a cake recipe from The Tasty and Healthy Food Book, published in the Soviet Union in 1939. Back then, this popular cookbook contained just two cake recipes, and this cookie cake was one of them. Note that raw eggs are used in the recipe, and the cake is not baked.
How to prepare: Place a ring-shaped cake mold on a round dish, and make a layer of cookies in the mold (smooth side down, textured side up). Next, cover the cookies with cream (see below), and add another row of cookies and another layer of cream. Smooth out the last layer of cream, and decorate with more cookies or fresh/frozen berries and chopped nuts. Leave the assembled cake in a cold place for 2 hours. Remove the mold when serving. To prepare the cream, beat egg yolks (4 pcs) in a pan, and add sugar (1/2 cup) and cocoa (2 tbsp); stir everything, dilute with milk (3/4 cup), and heat, stirring continuously with a spatula until it boils. Then cool the cream, and add vanillin (1 tsp), well-beaten egg whites, and gelatin (5 g) dissolved in a 1/4 cup of milk. In all, around 300-400 g of cookies will be needed for the cake.
“Russian cheesecake” made with raw eggs and unbaked dried crusts was the second recipe in the above-mentioned 1939 Soviet cookbook, but is rarely “enjoyed” these days, superseded by a far more popular recipe. The updated version is baked in the oven for the standard 40 minutes and can be made even by inexperienced cooks. The main ingredients are cottage cheese, flour, butter, eggs, sugar, and smetana — things that are always to hand. A twist of lemon peel makes it even more interesting.
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