Monday, November 26, 2012
Winnie the Pooh Cake
Yes, I am aware that this is a pretty goofy name for the cake that is not even shaped as the character it is named after. But what can I do - this is exactly the name it has been known under, recipe passed around from home baker to home baker in Russia. It is obvious that the name is a nod to the honey that is used in the cake layers.
In fact, "honey cakes" were all the rage in the 1990s in the former Soviet Union. Again, honey is one of those ingredients that is easily available and relatively cheap, but when used in the cake dough that is cooked over double boiler before being baked, it gives the cake a distinct, strong but pleasant flavor.
I have tested this recipe on various Americans in my life and, unlike some Russian recipes (ahem, pickled herring with boiled beets, anyone?) it translates well to American tastes. There are countless variations of the "honey cake" recipe. This particular version uses only a small amount of honey, unlike some, and has more filling (whipped cream + sour cream) than most.
The resulting cake is moist, soft and creamy. It is important to let it sit in the refrigerator at least overnight to allow the cake layers, which become dry and brittle once they cool, to absorb the moisture from the filling and become tender.
I have added cream cheese frosting to the recipe because it is firm enough to give the cake an attractive outside layer but it is really optional. If you do not care too much about the appearances, you can simply reserve some of the cream filling and use that to frost the sides and top of the cake.
Winnie the Pooh Cake
For cake layers
4 tablespoons (50 gram) butter
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons vodka (optional)
1/2 teaspoons salt
3 cups flour
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cups sugar
3 cups sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 8-oz (226 gram) package cream cheese, softened but cool
2 tablespoons butter, softened but cool
1 cup powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Line three large baking sheets with parchment paper. Prepare a 9-inch bottom from a tart pan or spring form pan to use as a template.
I do not have a proper double boiler so I use an improvised one: I find a large pot and a metal bowl that matches in diameter to be placed on top of the pot. I bring water to boil in the pot and cook the cake dough in the bowl on top.
Melt butter in the double boiler. Add sugar, eggs, honey, soda, vodka and salt. Whisking constantly to avoid cooking the eggs (I use an electric hand mixer) heat the mixture 5 minutes. Add 2 cups flour, heat 4 more minutes, stirring. The dough will become elastic and "stretchy." Remove from heat, mix in the remaining 1 cup flour (be careful as the dough will be hot). Knead a few times until dough is smooth, then shape into 8 balls.
Roll each ball into a circle that is a little larger in diameter than the 9-in template. Fold into quarters or drape over rolling pin to transfer to baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Watch closely as the cake layers burn quickly.
While the first layer is baking, roll out the second and transfer to baking sheet.
Remove the baked cake layer from the oven and, while it is still warm, use the template and a sharp knife to cut a circle. Be careful with the hot baking sheet. Transfer the cut layer to rack and cool completely. Repeat with remaining layers, reserving the cut off pieces. After all the layers are baked, bake the cut off pieces on baking sheet about 5 minutes, cool completely and crush. Use the crumbs for decorating the cake if desired.
Make filling: whip cream with sugar to stiff peaks, mix in vanilla and sour cream until combined. Use filling to layer between the cake layers. Refrigerate at least 12 hours or overnight.
Make cream cheese frosting: whip cream cheese, butter and powdered sugar until fluffy. Frost the sides and top of the cake. Decorate with reserved crumbs if desired.