Friday, 20 September 2013

'Sour' Cake for Childhood Friends

Babushka's Sour Cake
My oldest friend and her family are coming to visit today and I am pulling out all the stops.

I've known Iris since secondary school and we spent many an afternoon exploring our home town. She had this incredible knowledge of local history and architecture, showing me all the hidden treasures of our otherwise architecturally unremarkable city.

Our expeditions often ended up at my house, and my babushka gave us tea with her famous 'Sour' cake. This is the cake I made today.

It's taken me a while to get used to British cakes, which are all essentially a sponge with lots of icing.

One of the few older buildings in Mariupol.
Ukrainian cakes are probably better described as tortes. They pretty much always have layers. And lots of them. They are always very moist and very sweet. We love things sweet.

Iris immigrated to Israel 18 years ago and hasn't been in our old town for many years. I hope my cake will remind her of the good old times.

Babushka's Sour Cake

This reminds me of Linzertorte, but with layers and we use plum preserve instead. Babushka's recipe was a bit vague and the measurement instructions included: "2 glasses of sugar" (a glass is a 200ml glass and is used as a measuring tool just like an American cup) and "enough flour to make a pastry". I have adapted it and measured it all out for you.

You will need plum preserve for this. Having tried a few, the best one to use is the Bonne Maman one. It's called Confiture Bonne Maman Quetsches in French. (I found mine in my local French shop)

'House with Lions' - Iris's favourite

2 eggs
400g caster sugar
1 teaspoon of baking powder
300g soft butter or margarine
300g flour
1 jar (370g) of Bonne Maman Plum Preserve
Crushed walnuts and sour cream for decoration


Heat the oven to 200C (180C Fan)

Using a mixer, mix the eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add the baking powder and butter and mix until smooth. If using unsalted butter - add a bit of salt. Gradually add the flour. You will end up with a soft pastry.

It's similar to short pastry, but much less dense. Put it in the fridge for at least 20 minutes, as otherwise you will not be able to roll it.

While the dough is cooling, prepare a baking tray and two sheets of baking paper, big enough to cover the tray.

After 20 minutes, take the dough out and divide it into 5 equal portions. Take one and put the other four back in the fridge.

Roll the 1st part of the pastry onto the baking paper. You may need some flour to sprinkle it with, so the rolling pin does not stick.

I used a rectangular baking sheet, so my pastry ended up being an oval shape. It needs to be relatively thin - about 5mm. Prick it with a fork all over and place in the hot oven.

It bakes very fast - 5-7 min tops and burns easily, so watch out for it. It looks lighter in the oven than when you take it out, so once you can see that the ends are starting to look dark golden - take it out.

Our old school 'Number 66'
It will still be soft and you can even roll it, but we want flat layers, so place it on a kitchen surface and let it cool a bit. Take it off the baking sheet and place on a serving plate/board.

Repeat with all other layers. I used two pieces of baking paper, as it makes it easier to roll one piece of pastry, while the other one is being baked.

While the layers are baking, smear plum jam over the first baked layer, place another baked layer on top, ending with a layer with no jam on it.

Babushka often covered the top of the cake with unsweetened sour cream (the layers are very sweet, so you don't want too much sugary stuff) and decorated it with crushed walnuts.

She served it as one big cake, but I like to cut mine into pieces. Like on the photo. It keeps for a few days in an airtight container.

P.S. It turned out that plum jams and plums in general were not that popular in the UK, though there may be a bit of a renaissance on the horizon. Listen to this BBC Radio 4 programme: Celebrating the Plum (aired last week and still available online).


  1. Sweet memories indeed! The "tea time" with your babushka was always a heavenly adventure (which rarely was limited to tea and biscuits, no matter how hard we tried to resist)
    Can't wait to try the cake today....

  2. Babushka always liked you, and liked treating you! She would have loved seeing (and feeding) you and your family today! Cannot wait to see you all!