Russian Traditional Cakes

Traditional Russian cakes are homely and satisfying. When you’ve been out on a cold day, what better to come home to than a scrumptious apple cake? Or, on a more celebratory note, the sugar-coated nutty balls known as Russian tea cakes are very simple to make and moreish to eat. Celebrate Easter in style with a kulich, a fruit- and rum-laden bread, that has been part of traditional Russian celebrations for many years.

We have two versions of Russian apple cake, both of which use cup measurements. A cup is equivalent to 8 fl oz. Most standard mugs are half a pint (10 fl oz).

Apple Cake I

  • 425g (15oz 3 cups) plain flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 110g (4oz ½ cup) margarine
  • 225g (8oz 1 cup) caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 12 large eating apples
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 175g (6oz 1 cup) soft brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 180°C, gas mark 4. Grease and base-line a 9” cake tin, preferably a loose-bottomed.

Sieve together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Cream together the margarine and caster sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add the beaten eggs, stirring well. Add the sifted flour and mix well. You should now have a soft dough. Wrap it in clingfilm and place it in the fridge for 2 hours.

Divide the dough into half and roll out each half to fit the tin. Place one piece of dough in the tin. Peel, core and slice the apples and mix with the cinnamon and soft brown sugar. Spread over the dough in the tin and cover with the remaining dough. Make 2 small slits to allow the steam to escape and brush with milk or beaten egg. Bake for about 50 minutes or until the crust is golden.

Apple Cake II

  • 150g (5oz 1 cup plain) flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 225g (8oz 1 cup) caster sugar
  • 4 sharp eating apples, peeled, cored and sliced

Preheat the oven to 180°C, gas mark 4. Grease a deep round cake tin.

Sieve the flour and baking powder together. Set aside. Beat together the eggs and caster sugar. Add the flour and mix well. Place the apple slices in the bottom of the cake tin and cover with the cake mixture. Bake for about 30 minutes or until well-risen and golden.

Allow to cool before turning out of the tin and serving apple-side up.

Tea Cakes

These little cakes have been made in Russia for over two hundred years and were originally served at tea ceremonies.

  • 6 tablespoons icing sugar
  • 250g (9oz) plain flour
  • 225g (8oz) butter
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) vanilla essence
  • 110g (4 oz) walnuts, roughly chopped
  • extra icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 175ºC, gas mark 3.

Sieve together the flour and 6 tablespoons of icing sugar. Set aside. Cream the butter and vanilla essence together. Mix in the sifted flour and sugar, and finally the walnuts. Roll the dough into 1” balls and place on a baking sheet. Cook for about 12 minutes or until done. Roll while still warm in extra icing sugar, and roll again when cooled.


Rather like Christmas cake, Kulich is a celebration bread that is made traditionally at Easter. It will sometimes have on top, spelled out in pieces of preserved fruit, the letters, XB, representing the words ‘Risen Christ’.

  • 100g (4oz ½ cup) raisins
  • 55ml (2fl oz ¼ cup) dark rum
  • ½ teaspoon saffron
  • 10 eggs
  • 3 packets of yeast
  • 340ml (13fl oz) milk heated to hand-hot
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 450g (1lb or 5½ cups) strong white flour
  • 450g (1lb 2 cups) icing sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 225g (8oz 1 cup) butter (if you soften it first, it’s easier to measure)
  • 50g (2oz ½ cup) blanched almonds
  • 100g (4oz ½ cup) mixed peel and glace cherries
  • extra flour
  • ½ teaspoon icing sugar

A few hours ahead of baking, put the raisins to soak in the rum. When you’re ready to start preparing the kulich drain the raisins and set aside. Use the rum again to soak the saffron threads for about 15 minutes. Remove the saffron, keeping the rum.

Separate the eggs. You only need the yolks for this recipe so you could make meringues as well see our Perfect Meringues recipe.

If you’re using fast-active yeast, mix it with ½ cup milk, vanilla, egg yolks and rum. If it’s not fast-active, first mix the yeast with ½ cup milk and 1 tablespoon sugar and leave to stand for about 10 minutes before combining with the vanilla, egg yolks and rum.

In a large bowl sieve together the flour, icing sugar and salt. Make a well in the centre and gradually add the yeast mixture. Add more milk until you have a pliable dough.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, combining knobs of butter into the dough as you knead. When the dough is smooth cover with a cloth and leave in a warm place until doubled in size.

In a bowl mix together the raisins, almonds, peel and cherries along with a spoonful of flour to coat.

Grease and line a large loaf tin.

When the dough has doubled in size, place it on a floured board and knead again, working in the fruit and nuts. Shape and place in the tin and cover. Leave in a warm place until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 110°C, gas mark ¼.

When the loaf is well-risen, put in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Turn up the heat to 180°C, gas mark 4 and continue to cook for another hour. Allow to cool and remove from tin. Glaze with icing made with 2 cups of sieved icing sugar, 4 tablespoons water and 2 teaspoons lemon juice.

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