When I was a teenager, my family lived in Russia for several years. Around Easter-time (according to the Russian Orthodox calendar), any store around that sold food would be selling traditional Easter cakes called kulich. They taste like something between a bread and a cake; a little bit sweet because they generally have raisins or other dried fruit in them, but not overly so. My sister tells me she remembers the first time we bought one, at a kiosk we passed one Sunday on our way home from church (Christian, but not Orthodox). The cakes are baked in tall cylindrical pans (resembling a coffee can), so as the top rounds as it bakes the shape is reminiscent of the round domes on top of many Russian Orthodox churches. The blog Bluestocking has some great descriptions and photos of the cakes and the process of making one.
I don't think I'd thought about these cakes for years, but last Easter I had lots of memories of them - seeing them in stores in the neighborhood I lived in as a teenager, eating toasted, buttered slices for breakfast - and so I baked a cake that reminded me of them. The one here is a much sweeter cake than the ones I ate in Russia as a kid, but it's round and a little bit tall like the traditional ones, and has the sweetness of spices and raisins in it, just like the ones I remember. While I wasn't successful in doing it with this cake, the traditional cakes have the letters "XB" stamped on the side or top of the cake. It stands for "Christ is Risen" (in Russian: xристос воскрес), in English the equivalent of writing "CR" on the cake. I tried to make the letters with raisins and the frosting, but alas, the glaze wasn't quite thick enough to make the raisins stick (next year!). Anyhow, here's the recipe, adapted from Ina Garten's Sour Cream Coffee Cake:
Ingredients for the cake:
- 12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cups sour cream
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 6 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 3/4 cup golden raisins (optional)
- 3/4 cup confectioners sugar
- 2 Tbsp. maple syrup
- 1 Tbsp. heavy cream
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10-inch springform pan.
- Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer, for 4-5 minutes until light.
- Add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and sour cream.
- In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Finish stirring with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed.
- For the streusel, place the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and butter in a bowl and pinch together with your fingers until it forms a crumble. Mix in the raisins, if desired.
- Spoon half the batter into the pan and spread it out with a knife. Sprinkle with 3/4 of the streusel. See the first small photo on the right for how it looks when it comes out of the oven.
- Spoon the rest of the batter in the pan, spread it out, and scatter the remaining streusel on top. Bake for 30 minutes, or until top of cake is golden brown. Place foil on top of cake to cover it, then bake an additional 50-60 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Note: I adapted this recipe from a recipe for a cake in a tube pan, so it takes quite a lot longer to bake than the original recipe - which I know is kind of a pain. I'm going to try to work this part out next time around. You could try cooking at a slightly higher temperature and just keep checking on the cake to monitor it.
- Let cool on a wire rack for at least 45 minutes, or until the cake is cool to the touch. Carefully transfer the cake, streusel side up, onto a serving plate. With the springform pan, I just remove the side of the pan and keep the cake in the base when I put it on a prettier serving plate.
- Whisk the confectioners' sugar, maple syrup together, and cream together, adding a few drops of extra syrup or cream if necessary, to make the glaze runny. Drizzle as much as you like over the cake with a fork or spoon. The second small photo on the right shows how the cake looks when the glaze has cooled.