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Honey for Your Honey, Sweets for Your Sweet
This Valentine’s Day, show a little love with some Russian honey cake, called medovik. While the first thing that comes to mind when you say the word “Russian” is not usually cake, a trip to any Russian bakery will forever make that association for you. Russians are artisans of the layer cake. Stop by one of our many local Russian grocery stores and ask for a taste of Napoleon cake or smetannik (sour cream cake). They’ll be glad to allow you to sample, and these layered masterpieces will leave you longing for more.
Fortunately, these can be made easily at home. They look complex enough to impress any guest, but are so simple even a novice can make a beautiful creation. Remember, though, they should be made a day in advance, so that the layers can blend.
Medovik (Russian Honey Cake)
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 can sweetened condensed milk
½ cup butter, softened
Preheat your oven to 350°. In a medium saucepan (don’t use a small one — the mixture triples in size as it simmers), cook the honey, one tablespoon of butter, sugar, eggs, salt and soda on low heat, stirring constantly until it simmers and darkens (about five minutes). Don’t let it caramelize.
Next, add the flour bit by bit, stirring constantly until it has all been incorporated. Remove the dough from the heat and divide it into eight pieces, rolling them into balls and covering them with a towel so they don’t dry out.
Roll out one of the dough balls thinly, using a little flour to keep it from sticking. This is a very forgiving cake, so even people whose skills with a rolling pin are not top-notch will be fine. Use a plate or a pot lid as a template and make certain you’ve rolled the dough out enough to cover your template. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and bake the dough layer you’ve just rolled out for three to four minutes, until it’s done. As soon as you remove it from the oven, use a large knife to cut the edges of the still-soft pastry around your template so that you have a perfect shape. Set the trimmings aside and save them for later. Repeat this for all eight pieces of dough. You should have eight uniform shapes with the consistency of crackers. Allow them to cool for a few minutes.
Mix the condensed milk and butter to make the icing. Pick your two best-looking layers and use one for the bottom and one for the top. Ice each layer, and then place the next layer on top of it, sandwiching the icing. After you ice the top layer, crush the leftover edges with a rolling pin or a food processor to make crumbs, and sprinkle the crumbs on top. Pour some crumbs into your hands and press them along the sides to completely cover the cake.
Allow the cake to sit overnight before serving. Then, share with someone you love.