Wednesday, September 9, 2009

15 Layer Russian Honey Cake

A little back story/recap:

I work in a small office where we celebrate birthdays. In the past year or so things changed from us buying pre-made cakes and other bits and pieces to me making just about everything. I love doing it and am now defensive over the right to do so. Oh, me.

Last week I asked my Russian co-worker what she wanted for her cake (this week). She gave me this "oh no no I'll make it" run-around-line-of-crap that I wasn't taking. No way. I finally got out of her that she wanted something called a Honey Cake, or Napoleon Cake. I figure- EASY, I got this. HA HA. Foolery.

Honey Cake is one thing- Russian Honey Cake is another. I posted the recipe that I decided to work from last week (here), but just reading through it I knew it was going to take more than one try to get it down.

Lucky for me I had all weekend, plus a boyfriend and a roommate who like to eat everything I make. My first shot was an ugly mess (although delicious) but it gave me a good place to work from. I made my second one last night, and although it took nearly 3 hours and my kitchen was coated in flour- it came out beautifully. There were a lot of adaptations that I had to make to both the recipe and my technique, and I feel like I finally got it down pretty well. I'd feel confident in my ability if I were to make another (which I might, just to torture myself further).

So, here is my revised recipe and very, very detailed directions. This cake is 110% worth making if you enjoy tormenting yourself for the sake of insanely delicious food. It is an absolute winner, and if you have the time and want to challenge yourself- do it. You won't regret it, and if you actually love anyone else enough to share it with them- they probably won't regret you making it either.

One major note- I doubled all of the ingredients to make this. The original recipe resulted in a tiny cake that just wasn't worth the effort. This cake is made to be placed on a dinner sized plate or tray.

15 Layer Russian Honey Cake- My Way

Ingredients for Dough:

- 4 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 4 tablespoons warmed honey
- 1 cup butter
- 4 cups flour

Cream Filling and Coating:

- 40oz sour cream (you can also make your own sour cream by combining heavy cream with lemon juice and beating until thick)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup honey
- 6-8oz fruit preserves of your choice (optional)
- 1 cup crushed walnuts- plus cake crumbs (details below)

Directions (for dough):

1. Preheat oven to 350°F (or 180°C).

2. Using a large bowl- Beat eggs well with sugar; add baking soda and warm honey, then beat again until mixture is frothy and thick.

3. Melt butter in a large pot over medium/low heat- paying attention to make sure it doesn't burn or come to a boil- turn heat to low.

4. Add sugar and egg mixture to pot with melted butter, whisking hard until ingredients are well combined (it will sit in layers unless you mix the hell out of it).

5. Add flour to your pot one cup at a time, mixing slightly between each addition. Continue to mix until all ingredients are incorporated and your dough is smooth and thick- it will become very hard to stir. Remove from heat.

6. Coat your mixing bowl (the one you used for the eggs and sugar is fine) with a generous layer of flour. Using a rubber spatula to scrape- pour your mixture into the floured bowl, then allow to sit for about 15 minutes until it is cool and easy to handle. It will be incredibly sticky and hard to handle while still hot- but rest assured it becomes much easier to handle as it cools.

7. While your dough is cooling make your cream filling- mix sour cream with sugar and honey and set aside. Crush walnuts and set aside.

8. When you are ready to start baking your layers- be sure to have 2 (or 3) cookie sheets, a rolling pin, a plate or the bottom of a spring form pan (BSFP), a butter knife, lots of extra flour, whatever you want to build your cake on (this will need to be bigger than the other plate or BSFP that you are using) and plenty of counter space ready. You are going to be working fast, and alternating between steps constantly.

9. Grab a handful of dough and form into a ball (I have small hands and my "handfuls" were very true to that size. They weren't a scant or a large handful- they were just a handful. The thing about this is that you can use however much dough you are comfortable using. You want very thin layers, but they don't HAVE to be paper thin if you don't want. Your cake just won't have as many layers.) Anyway. Give your ball of dough a good fluff with flour, then place on your first cookie sheet. Using a floured rolling pin- roll your dough as thin as you can get it without it tearing, trying to maintain a fairly circular shape and even thickness. Once you have it rolled out- place your floured plate/BSFP on top of the dough, then trim around the edges with a butter knife, and return extra dough to your bowl.

10. Place in the oven, and check at 1-2 minute intervals. You want your dough to be nicely browned without being either too light or too dark. You are actually better off with darker cake than you are lighter, as it will soften before you eat it. Just not burnt. Remove from the oven when it's the color you want, and allow to cool for a minute or two.

11. Using a metal spatula (plastic or wood is okay too as long as they're very sturdy) remove cake from the pan and place on whatever you've decided to serve it off of. You are going to want to use some pretty good pressure in doing this as they tend to want to stick to the pan. Scrape any crumbs off of the pan into a separate container to use for later.

12. Glop a good two tablespoons of cream mixture onto this first layer and spread evenly.

13. Continue this process until you have all layers baked and stacked with cream in between (make sure to save some of your cream to top the cake with at the end). I got into a routine where I was rolling one layer out while another baked. Sometimes I got a bit thrown off, but it's okay to slow things down if you need to. Just don't forget when you have a layer in the oven. I also used apricot preserves between a few of the layers to add a little extra something. This is totally optional, but delicious.

14. Coat your entire cake with cream, and then top with crushed walnuts and your saved crumbs. If towards the end of baking you feel like you might not have enough crumbs- it's okay to sacrifice a layer to crumble up.

15. Place cake in a clean/cool place and allow to sit for at least 6 hours, if not 24 or longer. The longer it sits the more your layers come together and the softer and more delicious it becomes.

16. NOM.

Here it is!  These pictures were taken in my office, so excuse the funny shadows, ugly table, and paper plates.  This went over so, so well.  My co-worker couldn't stop thanking me and told me it was exactly what she had hoped for.  WIN.  That made it so worth it.



Becca said...

You are amazing.

Nicki said...


Sana Hurzuk said...

wow! those layers look amazing, one of my co-workers bought this to work yesterday and i had it for the first time. she had dusted the top with powdered coconut. started looking for a recipe and landed here! am going to try it this weekend!

littlepetel said...

Hi - this cake is truly special. It is one of my favourites, and is something of a legend at my work, always requested.

I was a bit surprised at the doubling of the ingredients - for me, a single batch makes a very impressive cake, if you do manage to roll out 15 thin layers it looks truly impressive.

In the Recipezaar version it calls for crushed plain sweet biscuit crumbs - for the non-British among you, this translates to crushed plain sweet Cookie crumbs

I like the idea of the fruit preserves - will definitely give that a try!

Renai said...

Hi littlepetel-

I decided to use cake crumbs instead of purchased cookies, as I wanted to make everything that went into this cake. I loved the way that it turned out, and if I ever make it again I'll do it the same way! It's coming up on a year now, and my co-workers still talk about this cake.

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