Smetannik: Discover the cake that Russian villagers love most (RECIPE)

This light-as-air, semi-chocolate sour cream cake can arouse nostalgia, as well as get one salivating for something sweet.

This light-as-air, semi-chocolate sour cream cake can arouse nostalgia, as well as get one salivating for something sweet.

Legion Media
Every Soviet kid was on cloud nine from happiness when taking a bite of this splendid cake. Well, today, let’s learn how to bake it.

Villages in Russia could never boast a variety of gourmet foods. The main purpose of a meal was to be nutritious and to fill one’s belly. Still, village housewives always found a way to bring something new to a holiday table. Sour cream cake, called ‘smetannik’, was one of their favorites.

I remember in my childhood, when I lived every summer in the village with my granny, that we practically never went to the one and only shop there, because everything could be found in the garden or taken from our livestock. Milk, for example. There’s always a lot of milk from cows or goats and I don’t know any housewife in my village who doesn’t know how to make tvorog (cottage cheese), smetana (sour cream), kefir (a slightly fermented milk drink), butter or cheese. It’s a vital skill if you want to settle in one of Russian remote villages. 

One of the cakes that struck me as the tastiest in village life was smetannik. The very memory of it takes me back to that hot summer day when I was just 10 and helped my granny bake this gorgeous cake for grandpa’s birthday.

But why smetannik? – you may ask. The answer is simple: everyone in Russia loves smetana (sour cream). It’s impossible here to eat soup or dumplings without it, and everybody enjoys smetana with a large number of dishes, from appetisers to desserts and baked goods. 

Also, it’s worth mentioning that smetana is quite easy to make. All you need is 1 kg of heavy cream and 200 g of kefir or natural yogurt. Carefully mix the cream and kefir (yogurt) in a medium-sized bowl and leave it in a warm place for 24-36 hours. Then mix it again and put it to the refrigerator for the night and smetana is ready to be served.

As you already can guess, today I offer to bake this old-fashioned but delicious cake. Trust me, smetannik is the best of all worlds: easy to make, sweet to eat and guaranteed to impress your guests. 


Ingredients for the dough:

  • Sour cream 250 g
  • Sugar 250 grams
  • Butter 50 grams
  • Baking flour 320 grams (2 cups)
  • Baking powder 10 g
  • Cocoa powder 1 tablespoon
  • Vanilla sugar 10 g


1. Put 50 g of soft butter in a bowl, add vanilla sugar and 100 g of sugar.  Mix well the mass at medium speed.

2. While still mixing, in three steps add 250 g of sour cream and 150 g of sugar. In the process of mixing, clean the sides of the bowl once to make the ingredients evenly distributed to the whole dough. 

3. Reduce the mixer speed to minimum and add two cups of baking flour and a portion of a baking powder. Stir well until you get a homogeneous dough.

4. Divide the dough into two equal parts and add one tablespoon of cocoa to one half. Stir until a homogeneous chocolate dough is obtained.

5. Cover the bottom of a springform pan with a diameter of 20-24 centimetres using baking paper and grease with oil. Put inside the half of the light dough. Using your wet hands, distribute the dough evenly across the bottom of the springform pan. 

6. Bake it at 200 degrees Celsius for about 20 minutes. In the same way, roll out and bake the chocolate half. Put the hot halves out on a wire rack, remove the baking paper and let them cool.  When the crusts have cooled they’ll become dry, but in the cake while being soaked in cream for the night, they’ll become tender and soft.

Ingredients for smetana (sour cream):

  • Sour cream, at least 25-30% of fat 500 g
  • Sugar 150 g
  • Vanilla sugar – 10 g
  • Nuts (optional) - 1 cup


1. Put 500 g of cold fatty sour cream in a bowl, add 150 g of sugar and 10 g of vanilla sugar. Mix at maximum speed until a fluffy cream is obtained.

2. If your sour cream is too thin, then add a couple of tablespoons of cornstarch into the mass and leave it to rest, allowing the cornstarch particles to absorb the unnecessary liquid. 


1. Cut the baked dough halves into yet two more parts. Spread a little bit of cream on the dish, place the chocolate crust, grease it thickly with the sour cream, and sprinkle with chopped roasted nuts. Next, put a light crust on top, grease it thickly with sour cream, sprinkle with chopped roasted nuts, then do the same with the rest of the crusts. Place the top crust with the smooth side up.

2. Cover the whole cake with sour cream. Place an ornament on the cake top using halves of nuts, lightly sprinkle with chopped nuts. Also, sprinkle the sides of the cake with chopped nuts.

3. Leave smetannik in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours, and serve it with tea or coffee! Enjoy!

READ MORE: Smetannik: Make an epic Russian dessert in a glass

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