What is medovik? Well, for starters, medovik is a challenge.
As I mentioned in my post about my award-losing chocolate chip cookies, I hate competition. But what I love is a good personal challenge. That’s why I started following the 52 Weeks of Cooking subreddit. The moderators choose a theme for each week of the year, and the goal is to cook something that fits the theme. This is a fun challenge to give myself anyways, but I love when it also helps me with inspiration for my #GentGoesGlobal series.
Recently, the theme was “Russian.” Now, I’m not one who is overly fond of Northern food. The harsh winters of Scandinavia and Russia result in a lot of preserved food, and dishes will often have a quality of sparseness that just isn’t visually appealing. When I set about researching Russian food, I also came across a lot of meat. Being that we eat primarily plant-based at home, I started to wonder what I could possibly make. So I turned to my old standby: sweets.
You may have noticed, but most of the recipes on this blog are desserts. It’s by far the category of food that I am most interested in and comfortable with. No matter how many aspics, organs, or rare spices are in any given cuisine’s entrees, I trust that I can almost always find a sweet from that area that I’ll enjoy. Russia is no exception.
Enter: Medovik. Medovik is a multi-layered Russian honey cake, that ends up somewhat resembling a much thicker crepe cake. Legend has it that this cake was first accidentally made for the honey-hating Empress Elizabeth in the early 19th century; finding that she loved it despite all of the honey that it contained, it became her torte of choice at imperial functions. Fast-forward to Soviet times, and the cake remained popular due to the ease of finding the ingredients in times where precious little could be bought at the store.
The process of making this cake is much different to that of any other cake that I’ve ever made. Rather than using a batter, you create a dough that is thick enough to roll out and work with. The layers bake up thin and crisp, and are softened by the filling you sandwich them with. In true Russian style, this filling contains sour cream – though in the dozens of variations of this recipe, there are many that omit it in favor of a simple buttercream.
Much like my chocolate chip cookies, this recipe is best made ahead; the cake needs to sit in the fridge overnight for the filling to seep into the layers and make them soft and delightful. It may be a challenge to wait, but the sweet results are well worth the wait!
I hope you enjoy learning to make something that takes some time, patience, and uses techniques that are new to you! What country would you like to see me tackle next in the Gent Goes Global series? Leave a comment below and let me know!
Until next time, here’s to good eating, great drinking, and even better living.
Russian Medovik (Honey Cake)
- Parchment paper
- Rolling pin
- Pizza cutter
- 9 in. pie plate, cake pan, etc to use as a guide cut around
- Stand mixer
- Hand mixer
For the cake layers
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3 eggs (beaten, room temperature)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
For the frosting
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 16 oz sour cream (full fat)
- 4 oz cream cheese (softened)
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 1 tsp vanilla
- First get everything prepped. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Flour a work surface and get your rolling pin, pizza cutter, and 9-in plate, bowl, etc ready to roll.
- Begin with the cake dough. Melt the butter, honey, and sugar together in a medium saucepan over a medium-low heat, stirring every so often to avoid the sugar burning. You're looking for the sugar to melt and not be grainy, about 7-10 minutes. When the sugar has melted, remove from the heat and add the eggs in a slow stream, whisking constantly to avoid the heat of the sugar mixture turning them into scrambled eggs.
- Whisk in the vanilla and the baking soda. Fold in the flour with a spatula until you have a dough that no longer sticks to your hand (it will be a little sticky, but we don't want it to be glue. Then it's just a nightmare to work with). Quickly turn the dough out onto a floured surface and cut into 8 pieces that are roughly the same size.
- Working one piece at a time, roll them out until they can be cut with the pizza cutter, using the pie plate (or other 9 in. vessel) as a guide. Save the scraps off to the side. Make sure your work surface and rolling pin stay well-floured to avoid the dough sticking and tearing. Place as many as will fit onto your prepared baking sheet (I got 3 at a time, you may be able to do 1 or 2 depending on the size of your sheet), and bake until golden brown on top (5-7 minutes).
- Put the discs on wire racks to cool. They will be flexible, but will harden up as they cool. Proceed with the other discs until all are baked. Bake the scraps until golden – these will be processed into crumbs for decoration later, so it doesn't matter if you make them look pretty or not!
- While the discs cool, make the frosting by whipping the heavy cream in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on high for 3 minutes, or until soft peaks form. While it's whisking, gradually add 2 Tbsp of sugar to sweeten it. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl with a hand mixer, beat together the sour cream, cream cheese, honey, and vanilla. When combined, gently fold in the whipped cream with a spatula until everything is mixed together.
- To assemble the cake, place 1 disc on your serving platter and top with a generous slather of frosting. Make sure it goes right to the edges – this is what soaks in and makes the cracker-like layers nice and moist like any other cake. Layer the discs and frosting until all of the discs have been used. Use the remaining frosting to cover the top and sides. Chill in the fridge overnight.
- To finish decorating, put the scraps in a bag and crush with a rolling pin, or pulse in a food processor to produce fine crumbs. Sprinkle over the top and pat into the sides for full coverage. Serve with berries or a nice cup of hot tea depending on the season, and enjoy!
- The recipe for the cake comes mainly from Natasha’s Kitchen with small edits, while the frosting is created by me and is inspired by a combination of many other recipes that I found during my research. Particularly helpful websites included Russia Beyond and Smitten Kitchen.