OK, so there are a few dubious categorisations here to make the images line up. But I’ve done my best.
Think of it as the child of a love triangle of brioche, cinnamon bun and baklava, only with a lot less sugar. For Slovenian celebrations – Easter, Christmas, weddings, whatever – the Potica (the “c” is pronounced “ts”) is a favourite baked item. (I’m not really sure whether to call it a bread or a cake). There is even a special mould for it called a Potičnik, which is a relative of the bundt tin more commonly found in the UK or US, but with a different pattern around the top. However, if you don’t own a bundt tin, you can make a perfectly good Potica in a normal loaf tin, as I’ve done here: it just won’t be quite as striking.
The critical part here is to make a beautifully stretchy dough enriched with eggs, butter and some sugar, although really a lot less than you might expect from similar breads around the world. I’ve started with this recipe from Jernej Kitchen and I’m really impressed: it’s resulted in a truly lovely dough: smooth, elastic, non-greasy and deeply satisfying to work with.
Next, it’s the filling. Staying with Jernej, I’ve gone for walnuts and honey, which is probably the most popular version of Potica: apparently, you can choose any of the usual things that Eastern Europeans like in pastries: poppyseeds are a favourite of mine.
Finally, rolling and baking. Let’s be honest here: looking at the photos, it’s obvious that there aren’t nearly enough turns on my spiral of dough and filling. Partly, that’s the fault of the recipe suggesting that I roll it to 40cm long – I think doubling that would have been good – and partly, I wimped out of how thin the dough was. Next time, I’ll roll out the dough to as close as I can get to the full length of my board and then make strenous efforts to roll the whole thing as tightly as I can.
By the way, proving times are pretty flexible. Jernej gives a couple of options, both of which involve long proves in the fridge; I didn’t have time so I just proved at slightly above room temperature and watched carefully until the dough was risen how I wanted it, which I think worked fine.
- 5g dried yeast
- 25g sugar
- 270ml milk
- 500g strong white bread flour
- 2 eggs
- 65 g butter
- 8g salt
- Put the milk into a bowl and warm until lukewarm (45s in my 900W microwave got the milk to 34℃).
- Put the yeast, sugar and milk into a bowl and leave until frothy (10 minutes or so)
- Put the flour into the bowl of your stand mixer
- Separate the eggs: place the yolks in the bowl with the flour, setting aside the whites, which you’ll use for the filling.
- Add the yeast mix to the bowl and mix with the standard paddle until well combined
- Melt the butter and add it to the bowl with the salt.
- Switch to the dough hook and knead at low speed until smooth and elastic – around 8-10 minutes.
- Form the dough into a ball and place in a bowl and cover.
- Leave until risen to around doubled in size – around 1-2 hours depending on the temperature of your kitchen.
- 300g walnuts
- 60g honey
- 30g granulated sugar (or caster)
- 100g single cream (Jernej went for 75 g heavy cream – single was what I had)
- 20g butter
- 20ml rum
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- Zest of half a lemon
- 2 egg whites reserved from above
- 25g caster sugar
- Put the walnuts into a food processor and grind until fine – but don’t overdo it: you don’t want oil coming out of the walnuts.
- Put the honey, granulated sugar, cream, butter and rum into a saucepan and bring to the boil; simmer for a minute or so.
- Add the mixture into your bowl with the walnuts, add the cinnamon and lemon zest and stir thoroughly.
- Wait until around 10 minutes before your dough is sufficiently risen before the next step, which is to make a meringue.
- Beat the egg whites at high speed. Once they are soft and beginning to fluff, add the sugar gradually as you beat.
- Continue beating at high speed until you have a stiff meringue.
- Fold the meringue into the walnut mixture until smoothly combined.
Putting it together
- A little milk for brushing
- Preheat oven to 165℃ fan.
- Grease your baking tin – a bundt tin if you have one, or a loaf pan if you don’t.
- Flour your board.
- Roll out the dough into a rectangle. The width should be the length of your loaf tin, or around twice the width of your bundt tin. The length should be as long as you can reasonably make it without tearing the dough.
- Spread the filling over the dough, leaving around 3-5cm around the edge.
- Roll the dough up into a spiral, as tightly as possible: the more turns the better. Pinch the ends to stop the filling leaking out.
- Transfer the dough to your tin, seam side up.
- Cover and leave to rise until most of the way to the top of the tin. This took me 2 hours: it will take you more or less, depending mainly on the ambient temperature. Jernej suggests overnight in the fridge.
- Poke holes in the dough with a skewer to allow moisture from the filling to escape with lower risk of the layers separating; I probably poked a dozen holes in total.
- Brush with milk.
- Bake for 45 min; then reduce the heat to 140℃ and bake until a deep gold colour – around 20 minutes more.
- Remove from the oven, cool for a couple of minutes, then remove the loaf from the pan and leave to cool.
Several multi-layer cakes have featured in this series. But there’s one multi-layer cake to rule them all, which is distinguished by the thinness of the layers and the deliciousness of the caramelisation of each. It’s from the unlikely provenance of Indonesia, where it was originally baked by Dutch colonists, and it goes under several names. In Indonesian, it’s Kue Lapis Legit (Lapis Legit for short); in Dutch, its Spekkoek, named because the stripy layers that you see in cross-section reminded the Dutch of the layers in pork belly (“spek”).
What makes Lapis Legit unique is the cooking method: you spread a thin layer of fairly liquid batter over the cake and cook it under the grill (Americans: broiler) until brown and caramelised, repeating this many times to form the characteristic brown and yellow stripes of the cake’s cross section.
In neighbouring Sarawak (the half of Borneo that is in Malaysia rather than Indonesia), they have elevated Kek Lapis (as they call it there) to a fine art, using multiple colours for the layers and cutting the blocks to form intricate patterns. I’m sticking to the basic yellow-and-brown version, starting from this recipe in “Daily Cooking Quest” by Minnesota-based Indonesian cook Anita.
Although the cake looks complex, it’s not excessively time-consuming, certainly not so by comparison with some of the bread and patisserie items in this blog: it took me around two hours end-to-end plus half an hour’s cooling time. However, unlike normal cakes, that’s two hours of constant attention – there are virtually no periods of down time in which you can do something else while the cake is in the oven.
And the results, even on a first attempt, were absolutely worth it – one of the best and most interestingly different cakes I’ve made.
- Preheat your oven to 200℃ fan.
- Use a cake tin with a removable base. If possible, use a square tin, because the cake cuts into rectangles really nicely: mine is 22cm square and worked OK, but 18-20cm would work better, giving you the opportunity for more layers. Line the bottom with baking paper, grease the sides with butter.
- You will need three bowls for your stand mixer. I only have two, so I improvised by making the sabayon mix in a separate copper bowl and using a hand mixer to whisk it, thus avoiding scraping and washing up in mid process.
The butter base
- 300g butter
- 120g sweetened condensed milk
- 1 tbs rum
- 90g plain flour
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp ground mace (if you have it – I didn’t)
- If your butter isn’t yet at room temperature, chop it into small pieces and leave it for a few minutes to soften.
- In your first mixing bowl, combine the butter, condensed milk and rum. With the standard beater, mix at medium speed until fluffy (Anita says 8 minutes – mine took half that).
- Mix flour salt and spices and add to the bowl, mix for another minute or so until smoothly combined.
The sabayon mix
- 12 eggs
- 85g caster sugar
- Separate the eggs: put 12 yolks in one bowl and 6 whites into another, which ou’ll be using for the meringue part of the cake mix (discard the other 6 whites, or keep them for making other stuff).
- Add the sugar to the egg yolks and whisk at high speed until the reach the consistency of thick cream. They’ll never quite achieve the stiffness of whipped cream, but you can get close.
The meringue mix
- 6 egg whites from above
- 55g caster sugar
- ¼ tsp cream of tartar
- Using the whisk of your stand mixer, beat the eggs at high speed until soft and frothy
- Add the sugar and cream of tartar, and beat at high speed until you have a stiff meringue
Putting it together
- If the sabayon mix has gone a bit liquid while you were making the meringue, whisk it for another minute or so.
- Add the sabayon mix into your butter base and mix using the standard beater until smoothly combined.
- Fold the meringue into your mixture until smoothly combined, with no bits of unmixed egg white left.
- Pour a couple of ladelfuls of mix into your cake tin and spread it so that you have a thin, even layer. Ideally, you want around 3-4mm thickness (on the photos here, I was somewhat over that).
- Put in the middle shelf of the oven and bake until the top is golden. You’ll need something like 8 minutes, but check it after 5-6, because it really depends on your oven and on the thickness of your mixture.
- Take the cake out of the oven and switch it to its top grill setting at maximum temperature (or set up your separate grill if that’s what you have). Move the oven shelf to its highest position.
- Pour another ladelful or so of mixture into the tin. It will go more liquid as it contacts the hot surface. Your objective now is to get the thinnest possible layer of mixture that completely covers the whole cake: I achieved this by the combination of using an offset spatula and by tilting the tin in different directions until the coverage was smooth.
- Put the cake under the grill, and cook until golden brown. This will take between one and two minutes: you need to watch it like a hawk because the difference between uncaramelised yellow and burnt can be as little as 20 seconds.
- Take the cake out and repeat until you have run out of mixture. You’re trying to get as many layers as you can – I managed around 8.
- Once you’ve grilled the last layer, take the cake out and cool it in the tin for around half an hour.
- Finally, put a knife around the sides to make sure the cake has come away from all four sides, and take the cake out of the tin (if the tin has a removable base, this should be very easy).
Many countries have their own versions of a cake made of a large number of very thin layers: the Hungarian Dobos torte is probably the most famous, the Czechs have Marlenka (originally from Armenia), the Croatians have Mađarica, there are various Asian versions like the Indonesian kek lapis. The Ukranians go for a multilayered honey cake called Medovik (which is originally Russian and popular in much of Eastern Europe).
Medovik consists of alternating layers of cake and a cream filling. Recipes for the cake are fairly consistent: they come out closer to a biscuit or pastry than to a normal sponge cake. Recipes for the filling vary more: the base ingredient can be sour cream or whipped ordinary cream or an egg custard.
There are two keys to Medovik, one of which is easy and one of which is decidedly not so. The easy part is to remember, when you’ve made your layers, to give the cake a long time in the refrigerator during which each wet cream layer soaks into the relatively hard biscuit layer below it, which is what results in a delightfully spongy feel to the whole assembly. The hard part is rolling the cake dough out as thinly and evenly as possible. You need to keep your rolling pin constantly floured to stop it lifting the dough, you need a careful touch to maintain evenness and you need to do your best to create a circle rather than the heart shape that I always end up with when I’m not concentrating. Picking up a finished circle is an impossibility, so I rolled my dough directly onto a silicone sheet: I suspect that it might be easier if I put a layer of cling film on top before rolling, but I didn’t try this.
I used the batter and the basic technique from a recipe on Ukrainian website ukrainefood.info, and used a simple sour cream and condensed milk filling as recommended by Smitten Kitchen (which may or may not change the cake’s name to smetannik – “sour cream cake” rather than “honey cake”).
Most of the recipes I’ve seen expect you to frost the sides of the cake in order to produce a beautiful round cylinder. I can’t see the point of doing this, so I made less filling and just put it between layers and on the top of the whole cake. I still had plenty to spare.
The cake layers
- 60g honey
- 50g butter
- 200g sugar
- 2 eggs
- 350g flour, plus plenty more for rolling
- 1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
- Vanilla essence to taste
- Improvise a double boiler by using a metal bowl over a pan of boiling water.
- Put the honey, butter and sugar into the double boiler. Cook it until smooth, stirring continuously.
- Add the bicarbonate of soda and vanilla, and cook for another minute.
- Remove from the heat and leave to cool for around 4 minutes. You are about to add eggs and you don’t want them to be scrambled.
- Beat two eggs in a jug with a spout. Add the beaten egg very slowly to the mixture, continuing to beat as you go.
- Add the flour and stir until mixed thoroughly.
- Preheat oven to 200℃ fan.
- Form the dough into a ball, wrap with cling film, and place in a freezer for around 15 minutes.
- Remove the dough from the freezer, cut into 8 equal pieces (make the weights as even as you can, they should be around 90g each). Form each piece into a ball, cover with cling film and replace in the freezer for another 5-10 minutes.
- Have a pile of flour ready to flour your rolling pin.
- Remove the dough from the freezer. Place a ball of dough out on a silicone baking sheet and roll it out until it is larger than a 20cm circle. The dough will be very thin, so you really need to take care that the rolling process doesn’t cause it to tear – although you can patch it and re-roll if you have to.
- Cut out the circle and set aside the offcuts from around the edge (the best way of doing this is to use the base of a springform tin as a template).
- If you have two silicone sheets, do another one.
- Place the sheet(s) in your oven and bake for around 5 minutes until golden.
- Cool on a rack. When sufficiently cool, place in a pile.
- Repeat until all 8 sheets are done. Roll out the offcuts of pastry and bake them alongside your last cake layer (or couple of cake layers, if you have a lot). You may want to put the unused balls of dough back in the freezer occasionally to keep them cool during the process.
- 600ml sour cream
- 400g condensed milk
- Whisk the sour cream and condensed milk together until smooth.
- Cut a circle of baking paper somewhat larger than your cake – perhaps 24cm in diameter. Place it on your cake plate, and dab a small amount of filling in the middle.
- Place a cake layer in the middle, then spread it thoroughly with frosting. This will dribble down the sides – that’s why you made the paper larger than the cake.
- Repeat until all the layers are done.
- Blitz the offcut pastry to crumbs (I didn’t have enough, so I supplemented mine with ordinary biscuits). Scatter crumbs over the top of the cake.
- Cover (I have a plastic cake plate with a matching cylindrical cover, which was ideal) and leave in the refrigerator overnight.
- Around 30 minutes before serving, take the cake out of the refrigerator and tidy up the edges, cutting the baking paper to the size of the cake and removing the surplus frosting which has dribbled down.
- Serve with coffee. OK, the coffee isn’t technically essential, just highly desirable.
Tunisia grows a lot of oranges. Over 550,000 tonnes, according to The Guardian, in what was admittedly a freak year – apparently, 200-400,000 is more normal. Anyway, you have to do something with all that fruit, and one of things the Tunisians do is to make orange cake – or “Khobzet borgden”, as it’s called in Arabic.
If you look up English language recipes for Tunisian Orange Cake, you tend to get something different, often involving stale breadcrumbs and a lot of ground almonds. These are also very good – my wife has been making her mother’s orange almond cake recipe for years and it’s a winner – but I can’t find any evidence that they’re authentically Tunisian: the closest I got was a recipe where the cake was decorated with flaked almonds.
So I’ve gone for one of the many recipes for Khobzet borgden on Tunisian websites, generally in French. Variations include choice of fat (butter / olive oil / vegetable oil) and how to treat your oranges: the most extreme one I’ve seen involved blitzing whole oranges – skin, pips and all – and adding the resulting purée to your cake mix. Just about all the recipes involve drizzling your finished cake with an orange syrup. I’ve started with one from tunisienumerique.com (translation: digital Tunisia), which uses oil (I chose olive – it doesn’t specify) and lots of orange zest as well as decorating the top of the cake with slices of orange.
A couple of notes on my adaptation: (1) the suggested baking time of 20-25 minutes wasn’t even close. Either their oven or their baking tin is very different from mine. (2) my cake domed hugely in the middle. The original recipe specifies one sachet of baking powder, and I have no idea how much you get in a Tunisian baking powder sachet. So I went with around 12g, which may have been a bit excessive.
- 300g plain flour
- 12g baking powder
- 3 oranges
- 3 eggs
- 150g granulated sugar
- 100g olive oil
- Preheat oven to 180℃ fan.
- Grease with butter a 20cm springform tin (or other cake tin of similar size).
- Sift your flour and baking powder into a bowl.
- Zest at least two of the oranges (all three if you really want a bitter orange flavour).
- Slice one of the zested oranges into rounds (I needed five rounds to fit onto my 20cm springform tin). Squeeze the juice out of the rest of this orange and the other two: you should get around 200ml. If the yield is substantially less, you might want to add some orange juice from elsewhere (or from a fourth orange if you have one).
- Put the eggs and 100g of granulated sugar into the bowl of your stand mixer and mix at high speed until well blended.
- Add the orange zest and 100g of the orange juice and mix until well blended.
- Add the oil and mix until well blended.
- Add the flour and baking powder and mix until you have a smooth batter.
- Pour the batter into your tin. Arrange the orange slices over the top, pressing each slightly in so that it’s level with the batter.
- Put your tin into the oven and bake for around 30-35 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
- Meanwhile, make a syrup: put your remaining 50g of sugar and 100ml (approximately) of orange juice into a saucepan, bring to the boil, stirring frequently.
- Cook until the syrup is thick (if you’re using a sugar thermometer, aim for around 105℃).
- When the cake is done, leave it to cool for a couple of minutes, then drizzle the syrup you should try to get the rest absorbed into the cake.
- Take off the outside of the springform tin and then cool the cake on a rack.
Tunisians would accompany this with black coffee. Personally, I’d go for both black coffee and a scoop of pistachio ice cream. But the choice is yours…
The German (or, in this case, Swiss-German) habit of running nouns together does sometimes lead you to a recipe that does exactly what it says on the tin: Basler Kirschenbrottorte (cherry-bread-cake from Basel) is, er, a cake whose two main ingredients are bread and cherries. And which comes from the city on the triple border between Switzerland, France and Germany. It’s surprisingly light for something which is not so far from a bread pudding, it’s fruity, cinnamon infused and bursts with flavour. This recipe comes from the food blog Helvetic Kitchen, where it’s accompanied by a nice family story to go with. I’ve halved the quantities.
To state the bleeding obvious, it isn’t cherry season in London right now, so I’ve gone for a 500g pack of frozen black cherries. This seemed to do the job OK, with the advantage that the cherries arrive already stoned, albeit with care needed to ensure that they were properly defrosted and with most of the surplus water dried off. However, I’m going to suggest that if you have fresh cherries growing anywhere near you, the way to go is definitely going to be to make this in season.
Warning: this recipe uses a lot of bowls. I can’t see an obvious way around this.
- 500g cherries
- 250 g leftover bread (in my case, this was the last of my Antiguan Sunday Bread)
- 200 ml milk
- vanilla paste or extract to taste
- 100 g biscuit crumbs – I used Digestive biscuits; in the US, one would probably go for Graham Crackers.
- 60 g butter
- 100 g sugar
- 3 large eggs (around 200g total)
- pinch of salt
- 50 g ground almonds
- 10 g flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- kirsch or fruit schnapps to taste
- If using frozen cherries, defrost them.
- Preheat oven to 180℃.
- Cut the bread into 1 cm cubes and put in a bowl.
- Put the milk and vanilla into a saucepan and scald until very warm (80-90℃). Take off the heat and pour into a bowl to cool.
- Remove the stones from the cherries, if this hasn’t been done for you already
- Prepare a 20cm springform tin: line the bottom with baking paper, grease the sides generously with butter.
- Once the milk is at room temperature, pour it over the bread and squeeze it down so that all the bread has soaked up some milk.
- Blitz your biscuits to a powder. Take about half the crumbs and spread them evenly over the base of the tin.
- Cream the butter and sugar together.
- Separate the eggs, pouring the whites into a bowl of your stand mixer, and the yolks into the butter-sugar mixture.
- In yet another bowl, mix the remaining biscuit crumbs, ground almonds, flour, cinnamon and salt; stir until blended evenly.
- Add the bread mixture into the butter-sugar mixture and mix.
- Add in the flour mixture and mix until everything is very even.
- Add the cherries and kirsch and mix.
- Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold in.
- Pour the cake mix into your tin and bake for 40-45 minutes. If the cake looks like browning too far before the middle is cooked, cover it with foil for the last 5-10 minutes.
- Remove and cool on a rack.
Time for a different kind of bake altogether: a yeasted fruit cake, which is a lovely afternoon snack somewhere between a cake and a bread. This one is from Lithuania and comes to us all via food writer Barbara Rolek: the same recipe seems to surface in lots of different US websites. I first spotted it on The Spruce Eats; I’ve halved and metricised the quantities, as well as tweaking a few things.
The result is a bit like a giant, fruit studded cinnamon bun. It’s great for slicing and storing in the freezer for a ready supply of snacks. The recipe doesn’t need excessive amounts of work, but it needs a lot of elapsed time – there are multiple rises which can each take a couple of hours, depending on the temperature of your kitchen. Start early.
A couple of caveats, especially if you’re looking at the photos:
- You can use pretty much any dried fruit you like. I couldn’t get glacé cherries, which looked nice in the original recipe.
- The dough on mine came out very stiff indeed, so you may find you want to increase the amount of milk.
- I used bread flour, which was probably a mistake. I’d stick with plain flour next time.
- Also next time, I’d probably start by activating the yeast in some warm water (or milk) and sugar. The recipe doesn’t suggest this, but not doing it meant that my dough took an eternity to rise.
- 8g yeast
- 120g sugar
- 180 ml milk
- 550g plain flour
- 4g salt
- 60g butter
- 1.5 large eggs
- 180g mixed fruit
- 120g raisins
- 40g walnuts
- 30 ml rum
- In your stand mixer, combine 300g of the flour, 60g of the sugar, the yeast and milk and mix until reasonably smooth. Cover and leave to rest for an hour.
- Melt the butter. Add it to the mix with the eggs, the salt and the rest of the sugar and the flour. With the dough hook, knead for 5-7 minutes.
- Add the fruit, raisins, walnuts and rum. Mix thoroughly.
- Leave to rise until doubled in size. Expect this to take an hour or two.
- 30g butter
- 60g sugar
- 6g cinnamon
- Melt the butter.
- Mix with the sugar and cinnamon. Leave to cool somewhat.
Putting it together
- Grease a loaf tin.
- Flour a surface and roll out your dough into a rectangle. The width of your rectangle should be somewhat under the length of your loaf tin; the length around 1½ times the width.
- Spread your rectangle of dough with the filling. Don’t go too close to the edges – you won’t want filling leaking out.
- Roll up the dough into a thick sausage, ensuring the filling is sealed inside. Transfer the sausage into your loaf tin.
- Leave to rise until doubled in size. Again, this could easily take 1-2 hours. If this hasn’t happened after a couple of hours, give up and bake it anyway.
- Preheat oven to 200℃ fan
- Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 175℃, then bake for around another 40 minutes.
- Leave to cool on a rack. If you want, sprinkle with icing sugar (I didn’t).
The weather in London today has been unremittingly grey with continuous drizzle, reminding me of a trip to Savonlinna in Finland, which is also the country which provided us with the biggest northern hemisphere rainstorm of our lives. So here, in homage to Finland and in honour of the poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg’s birthday next week, are Runebergintorttu or Runeberg Cakes.
To be fair on my many Finnish friends and on Savonlinna, which is a truly fabulous festival set in an impossible atmospheric mediaeval castle, it’s drop-dead gorgeous when the sun comes out (which it did the following day). And the Finns have a lot going for them, not least the best rainproof gear I’ve ever bought and also the best loudspeakers on the planet (with all those forests, the Finns really know their wood) and a surprisingly dry sense of humour (opera lovers need to check out Covid fan tutte).
One note on the photos: I don’t have the tall cylindrical moulds that you need to make Runebergintorttu properly, so mine are baked in a standard muffin tin. But they taste the same… If that level of authenticity bothers you, this is the kind of thing that should work.
I started with a recipe from scandikitchen.co.uk and only changed a few things: I couldn’t get hold of Leksands crispbread, but I did find some dark Ryvita which I believe to be pretty similar. I used blackberry jam rather than raspberry. Vanilla essence is easier to find than vanilla sugar in these parts. I didn’t have any amaretto either, so I grated the zest of the orange that made the orange juice and added that. Personally, I think the combination of orange, cardamom and rye turned out to be an absolute winner.
- 125g butter, plus some for greasing
- 50g ground almonds
- 100g plain flour
- 6g (1 tsp) baking powder
- 2g salt
- 50g crispbread (Leksands, Ryvita or whatever), or just use breadcrumbs
- 80g caster sugar
- 1 whole egg plus 1 egg yolk
- 100ml cream
- 50ml orange juice, plus zest of the orange
- Vanilla essence to taste
- 80g icing sugar
- Raspberry jam (or, in my case, blackberry jelly) to finish
- Preheat oven to 180℃ fan.
- If your butter isn’t soft, cut it into small cubes and leave to soften.
- Grease your muffin tin (or other cake mould) with some more butter.
- Mix your flour, baking powder, ground almonds and salt.
- Grind your crispbread into breadcrumbs
- Cream the butter and sugar together
- Add the eggs and mix
- Add the flour mixture and combine
- Add the breadcrumbs and cream and combine
- Add the orange juice, zest and vanilla essence and mix thoroughly. You should now have a fairly thick, sticky batter.
- Divide the batter into the moulds in your cake tin.
- Bake for around 15 minutes.
- Leave to cool in the tin for a short while, then turn them out.
- You will serve the cakes upside down. Since they have probably domed somewhat, cut them reasonably flat so that they stand upright.
- Mix the icing sugar with about 10ml warm water until you have a thick paste. Transfer this to a piping bag.
- Pipe a circle of icing around the top of each cake. Put a dollop of jam into the middle of the circle. I found this easier than the original recipe, which suggests doing the jam first (as per the photos).
- Leave the icing to dry (or don’t bother) and enjoy!
Continuing with the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s coffee-and-cake tradition, here’s a cake from Croatia that deserves to be close to the top of the best-seller list, particularly with a coffee after a brisk morning winter walk (I speak from immediate experience).
In point of fact, Mađarica (or Madjarica, if you prefer to avoid the “d with stroke”) is the Croatian word for “Hungarian girl”, and the cake bears a distinct resemblance to the Hungarian Dobos torte, created in 1885 for the National General Exhibition of Budapest. Who knows (or, for that matter, who cares) which came first?
Croatians seem to bake this cake for the thousands: all the recipes I came across were for seriously large quantities. I went for this recipe from Tamara Novacoviç and halved it, which still made for a generous cake.
Mađarica is one of those multi-layer cakes where you’re trying to get the layers as thin as you possibly can. Croatian recipes tend to assume that you’re using a standard cake tin and baking the layers one at a time. Since you’re trying to make a rectangular cake, I figure it’s easier to use large flat tins (Swiss roll tins or similar) and then cut the layers to size after baking. Obviously, how you tackle this is going to depend on what tins you have available.
- 25g plain flour
- 25g cocoa powder
- 500ml milk
- 100g sugar
- vanilla extract or paste to taste
- 25g dark chocolate
- 90g butter
- ½ tbsp rum
- Mix the flour and cocoa powder in a bowl and set aside. Have a balloon whisk ready.
- Put the milk, sugar and vanilla into a saucepan and bring to the boil. When just boiling, take it off the heat, pour about a quarter of it into the bowl with the flour and cocoa powder, and whisk until thoroughly dissolved.
- Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and return the saucepan to the heat. Add the chocolate, reduce the heat and keep whisking until the mixture thickens.
- Take the mixture off the heat, give it a minute or so to cool slightly, then add the butter and whisk until thoroughly melted.
- Stir in the rum.
- Cover (to avoid too much skin forming – you can’t avoid having a bit) and leave to cool while you make the rest of the cake.
- 300g plain flour
- ½ tsp (2g) baking powder
- 1 egg white
- 90g sour cream
- 90 g sugar
- 90g butter, at room temperature
I’m going to confess at this point (in case it isn’t obvious from the photos) that I wimped out: I had two 33x22cm Swiss roll tins ready but I didn’t dare roll the dough thin enough to use more than one of them. I should have had the courage to use both – my layers are definitely twice the thickness they should be – so that’s what I recommend that you do.
- Preheat oven to 180℃.
- Prepare two 33cm x 22cm Swiss roll tins (or whatever other baking trays you have) by greasing them and lining them with baking paper.
- Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl.
- Cut the butter into cubes and put it with the sugar, sour cream and egg white into the bowl of your mixer; beat until smooth.
- Add the flour mixture and knead to a smooth dough. Add a bit more sour cream or water if your dough is too crumbly.
- Now the tricky part: divide the dough into two, and roll each half thinly enough to spread out evenly over its baking tin. It’s probably easiest to do this by rolling the dough between two sheets of baking paper. Transfer your rolled dough to the tin.
- Bake for around 8-10 minutes.
- Leave to cool on a wire rack.
Assembly and glaze
- 50g dark chocolate
- 25g butter
- 20g sunflower oil (or other neutral oil)
- Cut each cake/biscuit layer into three, using a ruler or measuring tape to make pieces that are as close to identical in size as you possibly can.
- Place the first layer on your serving plate.
- Spread around one fifth of the filling evenly over the layer, then add the next layer. Repeat this four more times to build up your cake.
- Melt the chocolate and butter together (30s in a microwave should do this fine, if you can’t be bothered to wash up a double boiler).
- Add the oil and mix thoroughly.
- Pour the glaze over the top of the cake, making sure that you cover the whole cake with an even layer of glaze. Some of the glaze will have dripped over the sides: if you want, even this off with a palette knife.
- Refrigerate for several hours (or overnight) until the glaze hardens.
- Cut the cake into rectangles to serve.
Let’s start 2021 and the second half of this trip around the world with an easy, cheerful bake from the Czech Republic. Like every country in the former Austro-Hungarian empire, Czech has a strong coffee-and-cake culture, and the bake that you see everywhere is a light cake made with fresh fruit called Bublanina – a close relative of the French clafoutis.
The idea of a Bublanina is that the cake batter bubbles up around the fresh fruit. The trick is to use enough fruit that’s fresh enough that the cake is moist and fruity, but not so much that it’s damp and soggy. There’s no prescription about what fruit to use: it’s really a case of whatever’s in season. In the middle of a London winter, I went for blueberries (which are presumably in season somewhere across the globe), but strawberries, cherries, peaches and plums are all possible.
You have various options on the batter. At one of the end, you can just shove everything into a bowl and mix it; at the other, you can separate the eggs and pack air into the whites as a raising agent, soufflé-style. You can make the batter more traditional by using some semolina flour, can emulate the clafoutis by adding ground almonds, you can use various flavourings (vanilla, orange or lemon zest, Grand Marnier, etc). I’ve kept it simple and gone with a recipe from czechcookbook.com by Kristýna Koutná, a native of Brno, one of my favourite places in Czech; I’ve added lemon zest and changed the amount of flour slightly (my batter was definitely coming out runnier than Kristýna’s video).
A couple of notes on the photos: (1) I used 250g of blueberries, which was all I had. 400-500g would have been better. (2) The ingredients shot is missing the vanilla and lemon.
- Butter for greasing cake tin
- 320g plain flour (plus 20g or so for sprinkling)
- 200g sugar (plus 30g or so for sprinkling)
- 8g baking powder
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- 240 ml milk
- 2 eggs
- 40 ml oil
- Vanilla extract to taste
- 400g fresh fruit in season
- Icing sugar for dusting
- Preheat oven to 180℃ fan
- Grease a cake tin or baking dish (I used a rectangular Pyrex dish or around 30cm x 20cm, but you can use any shape you like). Dust it with flour and shake out the excess.
- If you’re using fruit like peaches or large strawberries that need to be cut up, do so now: make sure the fruit isn’t too wet.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix flour, sugar and baking powder and blend.
- Add lemon zest, eggs, milk and oil
- With the standard beater, mix until smooth – do not overbeat.
- Pour the batter into your cake tin or dish
- Lay out the fruit on the batter. If it sinks, it doesn’t matter.
- Sprinkle a bit of sugar over the top.
- Bake for around 40 minutes until golden brown on top
- Leave to cool
- Dust with icing sugar before serving
You can eat bublanina warm or cool it to room temperature. If you find it a bit dry on its own (particularly if, like me, you were a bit short of fruit), add a fruit coulis.