Russians might be known for their love of vodka, caviar and kraut, but it's their collective sweet tooth that scores from outside the box, every single time. What is hidden during the dessert course is a selection of butter cakes, pancakes, doughnuts as well as an overdose of sweetened condensed milk, honey and poppy seed. Here are the desserts that are keeping us on our toes here at Food HQ.
This is a Russian butter cake with a decadent swirl of sugar, walnut and cinnamon, which gives the cake a sweet crunchy texture. When adding the brown-sugar mixture to the middle of the cake, be sure to scatter it evenly so that it can be sliced with ease when it's cooked.
Also known as bird's milk cake, this thick slice of marshmallow and sponge is covered in chocolate. It is said to be the first cake that was patented during the Soviet times and remains as one of Russia's most popular cakes.
In Russia, these light and fluffy cheese pancakes are traditionally made from quark, a fresh cow’s milk cheese, but cottage cheese is a close substitute and much more readily available in Australia. They are usually eaten with sour cream and jam or caramelised apple sauce.
Pryaniki are Russian spiced biscuits that are similar in texture to a honey jumble and are commonly made for festive occasions. Made from eggs, butter, honey and a tonne of spices, these small biscuits are a wonderful accompaniment to dunking into a warm cup of tea or coffee.
The Soviet funnel cake, also translated to "anthill", is a go-to dessert of the Soviet era because it could be made from inexpensive pantry staples, with minimal skill and fuss. It simply consists of crushed cookies mixed with cream - while you'll find a variety of playful tweaks and additions such as caramel, chopped nuts, poppy seed and chocolate - piled into a hill shape.
Layered milk biscuits with thick and sweet sour cream, this home-style layered cake has more variations than you can probably imagine - with condensed milk, custard and dried fruit, or buttercream and walnuts – no matter how you decide to stack it, it will instantly show you just how much love it deserves.
A medieval Russian sweet pastila also called zefir or zephyr, are fruit confections that resemble a homemade marshmallow. They're typically made from a cooked fruit puree, egg white and an agar-agar syrup before being piped onto baking paper and set aside for 6-12 hours, or until they've set. The pastilla mixture is spread out and left to dry then glued back before being cut into logs. On the other side, the zefir mixture is piped into moulds and dried - and then two moulds come together to form a ball or one whole piece.
Meaning ‘king’s cake’ in Russian, korolevsky cake was traditionally made in the imperial cities of Russia, and eaten by the aristocracy. Its impressive stature featuring three layers of walnut, chocolate and poppy seed cake - aren't overwhelmingly rich and have just a subtle sweetness, balancing the creamy caramel layers and sweet chocolate ganache on top.
The simple things. A small open pie filled with cheese, vatrushka looks like a danish but is actually a circular bun made from leavened, short or unleavened dough. Cheese-filled vatrushkas can be sweet and used as desserts or unsweetened and served alongside a soup. When the cheese filling is sweetened, raisins or pieces of other dried or fresh fruits such red berries can be added to create a colour pop and another level of flavour and texture.
Light, fluffy and slightly on the sour side, these mini pancakes are a popular snack. Typically served sweet with jam or honey, or savoury with a selection of salmon, herring, caviar and sour cream, these are a fantastic Russian-style breakfast stack.
Similar to a layered vanilla custard slice or the French millefeuille, the Napoleon cake is decorated with cake crumbs and is another Russian classic. During the 19th century, custard-filled cakes were very popular across Europe and this particular spectacle marked the centennial celebrations of the Russian victory over the French in the Great Patriotic War of 1812, as bakers across the country made the cake in the shape of Napoleon’s hat.
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These little layered cakes are the sweetest hats you'll find. Made up of custard cream and a chocolate topping they are covered in shredded coconut for a little texture but you can also use nuts as well, if you have them handy. They are best served chilled and if you aren't much for a dessert fork, then eating these with your hands like a cupcake is absolutely acceptable!
Crispy pierogi are not a common dumpling, but they are a great alternative to uszka with clear red borscht and also work well with zurek. You should eat these on the side of soups, so that they retain their crunchy consistency. Baked pierogi require a slightly different dough, similar to that of the famous Russian kulebiak, which is just one massive ornately decorated dumpling.
Meaning ‘king’s cake’ in Russian, korolevsky cake was traditionally made in the imperial cities of Russia, and eaten by the aristocracy. Its impressive stature featuring three layers of walnut, chocolate and poppy seed cake aren't overwhelmingly rich, and have just a subtle sweetness, balancing the creamy caramel layers and sweet chocolate ganache on top.