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The Sweet Side of Sochi: Russian Easter Cake

The Sweet Side of Sochi: Russian Easter Bread
The Sweet Side of Sochi: Russian Easter BreadChef Larry Edwards/Casa de Cuisine

When one now thinks of Sochi, Russia, one thinks of the current games of the 2014 Winter Olympics. This would be rather logical. Sochi, however, will also be the home to the XI Paralympics, the Russian Formula Grand Prix and then in 2018, one of the host cities for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Yes, Sochi is really starting to make a name for itself in the world of sports.

Sochi is a rather interesting city. Parts of the city hugs the Black Sea, which makes it a European sea port and quite known for its fresh seafood. Sochi also stretches into the Caucasus Mountains, and this area you will see when the Winter Olympics ventures into its Alpine and Nordic events. Interesting to note is the fact certain geography experts have an on-going debate of whether Sochi is a part of Eastern Europe or Southwestern Asia and the reason for this debate is the boundaries of the Caucasus Mountains. Regardless, it is in fact a part of Russia.

One dish many of the international athletes participating in the 2014 Winter Olympics will see during their time in Sochi is the classic Russian dessert known as Easter Cake. The name of this dessert is a little mis-leading. It is available throughout the year in bakeries but popular to home cooks during the Easter holiday.

There are many variations of Russian Easter Cake. Some can be quite fancy, yet the most authentic rely on taste and texture instead of frills. Real Russian Easter Cake was always made in an earthenware or metallic container (quite obviously heat-proof). In latter days a coffee can is used. In keeping up with tradition, here at Casa de Cuisine we used a 2-pound coffee can. Since this is a yeast-infused cake, you will want something big enough for the cake to grow in.

One look at the recipe and you might say "nope, not for me." It is a rather daunting recipe. There are quite a few ingredients and steps. I think once you read through the recipe, you will find it is not nearly as hard as you might think. It's not a quick recipe and it will take some time but then again, when something is as special and historic as this dish, time should not really enter into the picture.

Ingredients needed to make Russian Easter Cake (makes 1 cake):

  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 ½ Tbs. honey
  • 2 Tbs. corn oil
  • 4 ½ cups flour
  • 2 ½ tsp. yeast
  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • 9 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. ground cardamom
  • 2 Tbs. vanilla
  • 2 Tbs. Contreau liqueur
  • 2 Tbs. brandy
  • 1 orange, juice and zest removed and grated
  • ¾ cup butter, melted
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • ½ tsp. almond extract
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 empty coffee can (2-pound size) with one end removed

Steps:

  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat add the milk and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the honey and the oil. Stir in ½ cup flour until smooth. Set the bowl aside.
  2. In a large bowl whisk the yeast into the warm water. Set the bowl as to proof (foam).
  3. Into the proofed yeast stir the milk mixture and the remaining flour. Cover the bowl and let rise 1 hour.
  4. Ina medium bowl whisk the egg yolks and sugar until pale and light. Whisk in the spices, vanilla, Contreau, brandy, zest, orange juice, butter, raisins, walnuts and almond extract.
  5. In a small bowl whisk the egg white until hard peaks form. Fold the egg white into the yolk mixture.
  6. Stir the egg yolk mixture into the dough. Cover the bowl and let rise 2 hours.
  7. Oil the interior of an empty 2-pound coffee can and lightly dust with flour.
  8. Punch the dough down and place within the prepared coffee can. Let the dough rise 45 minutes.
  9. Pre-heat oven to 325.
  10. Place the coffee can on a baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake 75 minutes or until done.
  11. Remove from the oven and let cool in the can 15 minutes.
  12. Open the other end of the can and carefully push the bread out if the can and let cool on a rack.

The internationally bestselling cookbook from Chef Larry Edwards, "Edwardian Cooking: 80 Recipes Inspired by Downton Abbey's Elegant Meals," is now in it's third printing and available worldwide in both hard cover and e-book versions. The paperback version will be released March 4, 2014.