Kyiv cake, a Ukrainian classic

Slava Ukraini!

Feeling gutted about the butchery going on in the Ukraine these days, I wanted to do something to honor the people there under siege by the Russians. Googling Ukrainian desserts, I came across a delicious-looking cake that is a favorite in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.

In case you don’t know, Kyiv (promounced Keev) is the Ukrainian spelling of the city many of us only knew before as as Kiev (Key-ev), which is Russian for the same place. Seeing as Putin has launched an unprovoked attack on its neighbor, the world has now adopted the Ukrainian spelling of the capital there, as it tries to deter the Russians from further aggression.

Making this cake involves three easy steps, which I hoped would take my mind off the bombing of hospitals, apartments, buses, and random neighborhoods causing millions to flee for their lives. Concentrating on the recipe, at least, took me away from the horrors of the hourly news.

Easy but takes time

The result was a delicious and quite unique cake for my family and friends to enjoy. I used instructions from as my starting point. The cake is layered, using two six-inch sponge cakes cut horizontally in half and two 6-inch meringue disks, all held together with jam and a fluffy butter-cream kind of icing that I had never made before. Hazelnuts and chocolate chips enhanced the flavors.

I made the sponge cakes and the meringues a day ahead and saved the frosting for the next day, when I assembled the masterpiece LOL. Don’t be deterred by the many steps. The sponges and the meringues take only three ingredients each. The only time-consuming part is the final assembly and the washing up between steps! Note that the meringues take four hours or so to dry off in the oven. None of it is hard.

Kyiv Cake

Make the sponge cakes

  • 5 large eggs
  • 3/4 cups granulated white sugar (150 grams)
  • 1 cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 six-inch cake pans
  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Prepare the pans by oiling the surfaces with a piece of paper toweling. Cut a circle from parchment paper to fit the bottom of each pan. Oil the paper.
  3. Beat the eggs on high with the sugar until fluffy and three times the volume (at least 5 minutes)
  4. Using a spatula, fold the flour into the eggs by thirds. Try to sprinkle it evenly over the surface and be gentle in folding it in. Don’t whip. Work it just until no more white flour is evident. Don’t overmix or you may lose the fluffiness.
  5. Divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans.
  6. Turn the oven to the Bake setting and bake the cakes there for 30 minutes. Check using a wooden toothpick or skewer. When the cake is ready, the stick comes out dry from the cake’s center.
  7. Allow the cakes to cool for 10 minutes on a rack, then slide a knife around the edge, invert the pan carefully to remove the cake, and let it cool completely on a rack. Wrap the cooled cakes and store them in the fridge until you are ready to assemble the dessert.
Makes four six-inch meringues, but you need only two of them. Store the rest.

Make the meringues

  • 6 eggs at room temperature (put cold eggs in lukewarm water for 10 minutes if time is an issue)
  • 1 1/3 cup (230 grams) sugar
  • 1 cup hazelnuts, chopped
  1. Prepare a cookie sheet by lining it with parchment paper. Use your cake pan to draw four circles on the paper. If there is not enough room for four, find another sheet.
  2. Separate the eggs. I use three small, dry bowls to ensure that the whites are not contaminated by yolks or water. I crack the shell, then separate the whites, allowing them to drain into the first bowl. The yolks go into the second bowl. then I transfer the whites into the third bowl. I repeat with the second egg, cracking it over the first bowl. if the yolk breaks and contaminates the whites in the first bowl, I can move the whole works aside to a forth bowl for omlets in the morning. Wash and dry the first bowl and continue until you have 6 yolks in the second bowl and 6 clean egg whites in the third. Cover the yolks and put them in the fridge to make the icing the next day.
  3. Whip the egg whites with a handmixer on medium speed until they make soft peaks and are double in volume. Then mix at high speed until they form stiff peaks and are glossy.
  4. Add the sugar gradually, mixing at high speed until well combined. I usually add two or three heaping spoonfuls at a time.
  5. Using a spatula, stir in the chopped hazelnuts gently, with a circular motion.
  6. Spoon the stiff meringue into the circles to make four circular disks about a half inch thick. I had extra left over, so I made a small batch of meringue cookies.
  7. Bake the disks at 250F (no higher!) for 4 hours. The small cookies will be done much sooner. They are done when they feel dry, when they don’t depress when you touch them, and when they release easily from the paper. Larger disks may take up to two hours longer. Meringues need long, slow cooking times so as to dry out completely. Under-done meringues are chewy.
  8. When done, release the disks from the paper and cool on a rack. Then store them in a large, covered cookie tin with parchment paper between the disks.
Chocolate butter-cream icing

Make the butter-cream icing

  • 6 egg yolks, reserved from making the meringues
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup whipped cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 115 grams chocolate chips (about 3/4 cup)
  • 400 grams butter, at room temperature
  1. In the top of a double boiler (or other small pot), beat the egg yolks until the color dulls.
  2. Add the water, cream and sugar and stir until smooth.
  3. Cook over another pot of gently boiling water, stirring continuously, about 10 minutes, until the mixture thickens. Do not let it boil. Don’t get impatient. It should look like a thick custard.
  4. Remove the custard from the heat and add the chocolate chips. Let them sit there for a couple of minutes to melt, then stir them into the custard. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
  5. In a medium mixing bowl, beat the butter with a hand mixer until it is fluffy.
  6. Add the chocolate custard to the butter a few spoonfuls at a time, beating it in. Now you are ready to build your cake!
Three layers (sponge, jam, chocolate cream, meringue, sponge). Half way there!

Assemble the cake

  • 2 sponge cakes, previously prepared as above
  • 2 meringue disks, previously prepared as above
  • 1 batch butter cream icing, previously prepared as above
  • a jar of fruit jam (strawberry, peach or apricot)
  • 1/3 cup hazelnuts, chopped, for decoration
  1. Cut the two sponge cakes in half horizontally, using a serrated knife, to get four layers. Put the first layer on your serving platter in the center.
  2. Spread two or three heaping spoonfuls of jam over the top surface of the cake layer.
  3. Then spread two or three heaping spoonfuls of butter cream icing over the jam, coming right to the edges.
  4. Place one of the meringues on top of the sponge cake layer.
  5. Add the second cake layer, then jam, then butter cream icing.
  6. Add the third cake layer, then jam, then icing.
  7. Add a second meringue disk
  8. Add the final cake layer.
  9. Ice the sides of your cake tower, but make sure you save enough to do the top. Using a wide flat knife, smooth the icing in circles on the top and around the sides.
  10. Finally, decorate the cake with a circle of chopped nuts around the rim.
  11. Keep in the fridge and remove about a half hour before you want to serve your cake. Cut in wedges and enjoy.

Slava Ukraini!

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