To most people, birthday is one of the most important days in a year. It’s a good day to get together with family and friends and joy to both ends; the birthday persons and the ones attending their celebrations. Each culture has its own way to mark birthdays, so does Russia. Having been around with a lot of traditions including the ancient ones, Russians have unique things to do on birthdays.
- They say “Grow up – don’t be noodles” instead of “happy birthday”. It means they wish for the birthday boy or girl to stand tall and strong in the future, not weak like a string of noodle.
- The one who’s celebrating birthday will get their ears pulled (affectionately.)
- When attending a birthday party, single women are not allowed to sit at the corner of a table because it is believed to bring them bad luck and keep them from getting married in the next seven years.
- If a person survives a near-death experience, the day will be counted as a second birthday.
They may sound strange, but very memorable altogether. One thing for sure, though, Russians also have birthday cakes and they are special because the recipes have been around for many, many years since the Soviet era. Today, the old recipes are tweaked and modified to blend with the more modern taste. In case you want to give them a try, here are 6 new innovations of Russian cakes for your birthday party.
1. Skazka Cake
During the struggling days under the Soviet Union’s pressure, Skazka cake was the most affordable one to make by the Russians. The original recipe only calls for biscuit, fruit-flavored liquor, and icing. Despite a very simple cake, Skazka has the look that would suit a birthday cake with all the nice creamy decoration on top. The modern version of Skazka soaks biscuit of choice – depends on the flavor one prefers – in rum, with layers and cover of butter cream to make it look like a log, and adds names, wishes, candied fruits and the old fashion flower decorations on top.
2. Bird’s Milk Cake
Russians who have lived through the Soviet time would be familiar with this cake. Once a symbol of the government’s austerity, the bird’s milk cake was created in the 1950’s to go against the indulgent cakes made around that time. It is simply a spongy biscuit with mousse layer made of gelatin and condensed milk, covered with chocolate glaze. They used to be bite-size and eaten as snack, but the grander version Russians use today is a full round cake with marshmallow to replace the mousse and comes in many festive flavors although it means losing the authentic milk taste from the Bird’s Milk cake.
3. Prague Cake
So is it Russian or Czech? Actually, Prague was a name of a restaurant in Moscow back in 1970’s where the cake was invented. It was one of the most craved desserts at that time being so decadent. Russians love their desserts sweet, and this cake suits the taste. Prague cake is dense, chocolatey, and loaded with condensed milk and eggs (seven for a whole recipe.) The Soviet took the cake as a milestone to the glory of the cuisine culture of the nation at that time and it appeared on celebrated events. Sounds perfect for a birthday, don’t you agree? If you want the authentic flavor, then the basic recipe should be maintained. But if you want to tweak it, then you can replace the condensed milk with heavy cream, lessen the egg, add crushed nuts and dried fruits for the topping and adjust the flavor to your liking.
4. Kiev Cake
Originally from Kyiv, Ukraine, this cake became popular across the Soviet Union in the 50’s. The unique thing is, there is no actual flour in it because the base calls for meringue, crushed cashew, and chocolate. But the newer version of the cake uses sponge for the base with five different kinds of nuts for layers, 600 grams of custard, and 400 grams of white egg. You can imagine how dense and indulgent this cake is. When food was scarce and living was hard, using many kinds of nuts was definitely a luxury and so the cake only appeared on special occasions. Today, it is not that difficult to make or buy a whole Kiev cake to celebrate birthdays with.
5. Moscow Cake
Judging by the name, you can tell how truly Russian this cake is. Known as Moskva, the cake was invented in 2015 and won the voting to represent the capital of the Russia beating 80 other cake recipes including a chocolate and cranberry biscuit cake, also a pistachio and cherry mousse cake. Moskva is a moist sponge cake with walnuts and condensed milk layers and always glazed with red icing. It is actually a symbol of encouragement for the Muscovites to take part in the city governance, so it is more of like a nation-spirited cake rather than a birthday cake, but hey…why not?
6. Medovik Cake
The recipe of this traditional cake came way before the Soviet Union time. It was Tsar Alexander I’s personal chef who invented it. Medovik is a layered biscuit cake rich with honey, sweetened sour cream, and condensed milk. The taste of caramel is thick with this one. The lighter and more modern version of the cake uses crème fraîche instead of sour cream and chopped fruits for the topping.
You may now notice that Russians love condensed milk. The ingredient almost always takes part in every cake recipe. They do have sweet tooth, and it is something foreigners should take note of when they prepare cake for the Russians or get served with a slice of their favorite cake for the dessert when invited to a birthday party. The 6 new innovations of Russian cakes we have just discussed may have tickled you to try some. Go ahead, because having fun is always a piece of cake.