Oh my! Poor (very strange looking) kitty just wanted some cake.
Last year I was lucky to have my daughter home for her birthday. Being that she was a Russian major who has spent quite a lot of time studying and working in Russia, I wanted to make a Russian cake. Specifically Russian Honey Cake.
I looked around the internet for a recipe. When I saw that Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen had a recipe for Russian Honey Cake on her blog, the search was over. Everything I make from her cookbooks and blog is always fantastic. There was also the bonus that Deb’s husband is Russian and she spent hours researching to come up with the perfect recipe.
Now I am sharing the recipe with you. Russian Honey Cake is as beautiful to look at as it is to eat. The cookie/cake layers have a hint of honey flavor amidst the buttery caramel notes. Sandwiched between the layers is a simple, sweetened sour cream filling.
Before you make the cake, be sure to remember that you must start it one day in advance as it must set up in the refrigerator overnight before it is decorated.
Also, there is a point in the recipe where all of the sour cream filling will seep out of the cookie layers in a series of wtf moments. It eventually thickens…I promise. (I saw a bunch of recipes that used a thickened filling with more ingredients and didn’t appear to make such a mess…but I trusted Deb Perelman, and I am glad I did.)
Russian Honey Cake
Ingredients for the Cookie/Cake Layers:
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups flour, divided
Ingredients for the Icing and Filling:
32 ounces sour cream
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1. Preheat oven to 350℉. Get 2 baking sheets (or even better, round pizza pans) down, more if you have them. Tear off 6 sheets of parchment paper large enough to have a 9-inch circle on it.
2. In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the sugar, honey and butter over medium heat. Once simmering, cook for about 3 minutes until it is a faint shade darker and fragrant. Whisk in baking soda.
3. Remove saucepan from heat and set aside for 3 minutes. Transfer the honey mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer.
4. Lightly beat eggs in a measuring cup (so that it is easy to pour them). With mixer on low, drizzle in the eggs as slowly as possible in a thin stream (about 1/2 teaspoon at a time). Do not stop mixing. Continue until all of the eggs are thoroughly incorporated.
5. Stir in the salt, vanilla and 3 cups of the flour. The dough will be very thick. Stir in the last 1/2 cup of flour, 1/4 cup at a time.
6. Lightly flour work surface and divide the still-warm dough into 8 even pieces. Roll the first dough piece between two sheets of parchment paper (no flouring needed) to a round slightly larger than 9 inches. Remove top sheet of parchment paper. Lightly dust the top with flour and place a 9-inch cake pan on top, then trim the dough to make an even 9-inch circle. Save the trimmings and put them aside on a sheet of parchment paper.
7. Prick the circle of dough all over with a fork then slide it onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.
8. Bake for 6 to 7 minutes. The cookie/cake circle should feel firm and be slightly darker at the edges. Slide the cookie/cake onto a cooling rack.
9. Meanwhile, while the first layer is baking, roll out the second dough piece so it’s ready to go into the oven as soon as the first comes out. Repeat this process as you bake each round until all 8 rounds are baked. Keep adding the unbaked cookie trimmings to the parchment-lined baking sheet you started in step 6.
10. Bake the sheet of cookie trimmings for 5 minutes until pale golden, checking at 3 minutes to be sure the thinnest scraps are not getting too browned. Let cool completely and set aside until it’s time to decorate the cake.
11. Whisk sour cream and sweetened condensed milk together in a large bowl. Place a dab of the sour cream mixture on a cake plate (I recommend using a plate with a raised lip around the edge) and place the first cooled cookie on top of it to help keep it in place.
12. Cut one of the used pieces of parchment paper into strips and tuck them all around the underside of the cake to protect your cake plate. If you do not do this, you will have a messy plate to clean later.
13. Scoop 3/4 cup sour cream mixture onto the center of the first cookie layer. Spread it just a little bit from the center, leaving a 2-inch margin of unfrosted cookie. Top with the second cookie and 3/4 cup sour cream mixture. Repeat process until you have 8 layers.
The next step is a mess. Be prepared for a feeling of discouragement. Take a deep breath and rest assured that everything is going to be alright.
14. The cake is going to have sour cream spilling out and down the sides. The cake may also slide around and not stay neatly stacked. Remember that the filling will thicken as it absorbs into the cookies and the mess will eventually resolve. Just keep putting the cake in the refrigerator for an hour or two and carefully nudge the stack back into place. Use a spoon to scoop up the spilled filling and put it back up the sides and onto the top of the cake. Let the cake chill overnight.
15. The next day, finish the cake. Place the reserved baked cookie scraps in a food processor and pulse into crumbs.
16. Remove cake from refrigerator. Spread any sour cream that has seeped out overnight back onto the top and sides of the cake. To make a decoration on top of the cake, take a piece of parchment paper and cut it into a shape (such as the heart I used). Place this stencil gently on top of the cake.
17. Use a small spoon to sprinkle the top and sides of the cake with the crumbs. Use a pastry brush to gently brush the crumbs off the stencil. Remove the stencil and parchment paper strips.
18. The cake can be served right away or it will keep, refrigerated, for up to 5 days. Use a knife dipped in hot water to make clean slices.
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen
Russian rock band Apache Rose is going to provide the classic rock meets Brit-pop tune to accompany our cake. “Some Kind Of Love” is wildly addictive. I’m waving my lighter. (Yeah…I’m that old).