I don’t make that many cakes these days, the last one I made was a fig cake but somehow it was a little dry, and a carrot cake which was a little soggy. The both tasted fine, enhanced by custard or ice-cream for the dry one and semi-successful cream cheese frosting for the soggy one. I hope I haven’t lost my touch! Even though I might not often make them, I’m always interested in new cake recipes – new cakes which I’ve never heard of as well as different recipes for cakes I do know.
The other day I came across a cake I had never heard of on one of those ‘Who remembers this’ posts. The cake which many people remembered and spoke fondly of was Russian sandwich cake. I’d never heard of it even though I lived in Oldham for many years, the area where most of those loving it came from. In fact there was a bakers shop near where I lived which was famous for them. People remembered their mothers and grandmothers making it, had made it themselves and shared pictures, had bought in shops, had sold it in shops, had worked in factories which made it.
Russian cake, according to one person also known as vanilla sponge, is from the way people described it an ordinary sponge cake sandwiched together with confectioner’s custard, referred to as crème pâtissière on TV cake-making and cookery programmes. It has ordinary icing on top, sprinkled with desiccated coconut. In some of the pictures, the coconut was sprinkled in patterns, or just around the edge. Someone commented that the top looks like a czarist cap white leather surrounded by white ermine, or more simply someone said they were meant to look like a Russians hat. Someone else wondered if maybe the white icing and coconut is for the cold snow of Russia and another person wrote they thought the icing and the coconut is supposed to look like the snow on the Russian Steppes. Sometimes the mixture was also made into buns, which one person said were also called tennis buns.
I wondered if they were just something very local to the town and surrounds, and somebody shared my thoughts, that they only seem to do them in Oldham are, haven’t seen them since I left. However, when I investigated further, the name seems to apply to a Lincolnshire and area ‘cake’, made from left over or stale cake, crumbed, sometimes moistened with sherry or some other alcohol and then pressed together into bars and with icing on the top. The now famous Great British Bake-Off winner, Nadiya Hussein, has a Russian cake recipe which is nine biscuit like layers, piled one on the other with sour cream and honey between them, and another version from an American cook has ten layers!
These fancy nine and ten layer cakes are more something for a very special occasion or a party, if I do venture to make a Russian cake I think I will stick to the Oldham version, but leave coconut of part of it so the fussy eater at home will enjoy it too!
I have no pictures of Russian cakes, and no pictures of Oldham either – which I will remedy next time I visit! My featured image is of snowy Somerset.