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I found a recipe in a 1971 Russian booklet on holiday recipes, (see it below). I translated it to English. My questions about the recipe will be these:

  • are there any advancements known to culinary science that will bring this recipe to 21st century? (I am thinking of things like mixing egg yolks and egg whites separately, mixing liquid and dry ingredients separately, use of baking soda vs baking powder, when to put ingredients together in what order, baking it at what temperature and so on, or is it fine as-is?)

  • there is no temperature listed at which it is to be baked, but I am guessing 180C

  • it mentions crushing star anise and cloves. Do I use the old methods and crush them in a mortar and pestle? Or do I use ... a blender? I do have the spices in whole uncrushed form.

  • in a word, can I make improvements to this cake, to make it better, without changing its authenticity?

The Recipe

  • 3 eggs

  • 200 grams of butter or margarine (1 cup or vegetable oil, better corn)

  • 2 cups sugar

  • 1 cup of thick (candied) jam

  • 2 cups of buttermilk or yogurt

  • 1 teaspoon each of cinnamon, cloves, star anise (crushed)

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • about 4 cups flour

Mix eggs with sugar, add the butter, jam, crushed spices, sour milk.

Pour baking soda and flour (flour pour as much as necessary to achieve consistency similar to a thick porridge).

Prepare the form (line bottom with oiled parchment, well-lubricate the entire form and sprinkle it with flour), put it in the mix, filling in the form only as much as 3/4 since the cake will rises.

Bake the cake on low heat in the oven.

Note. You can add chopped and sugared lemon and orange peel, raisins, nuts. If you do not have all of these spices, you can restrict it to 1 1/2 teaspoon of crushed cloves. Instead of jam you can try putting in the same amount honey or preserves. This cake should be kept in cool place, wrapped in a wet cloth and a plastic bag. Thus it can be stored even 2 weeks, but when it is necessary to change the cloth.

UPDATE

I tried baking it today with brown sugar, butter, plum jam and I put just a tad much flour (just under 4 cups which I put in right away), which I compensates with half a cup more buttermilk since the dough was too dense. Then I had it in the oven for about an hour at 180F, but it turned out heavy soggy and a little bit tasteless, despite me pulling it out after a toothpic stuck in the center of cake came out dry.

Next time I will try less flour and white sugar, or maybe even splenda, and olive oil instead of butter. And I will bake it for longer and I might just bake it at something closer to 350F.

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    It sounds like soft brown sugar would be better in this dark, spicy cake! Also, oil instead of butter would, I think, give a moister texture, especially since you are not aerating the butter and so it is not needed to help leaven the cake. Also, cook it in two halves instead of one large cake and fill and coat it with cream cheese icing (because why not). The whole thing actually reminds me of the Hummingbird Bakery carrot cake recipe but with jam instead of carrots to provide the extra liquid content. – Shai Dec 31 '14 at 2:25
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    I have to laugh at the idea of a recipe from 1971 being "old". – Jolenealaska Dec 31 '14 at 2:25
  • that recipe is older than me! – dennismv Dec 31 '14 at 2:28
  • This refers to a truly old recipe: How can I make this antique ginger wine recipe using ingredients available today? – Aaronut Dec 31 '14 at 3:22
  • @Shai: do you think instead of two halves I can use a single bundt? – dennismv Dec 31 '14 at 14:42
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You do not need to update the recipe ;-)

Please remember that the way the ingredients are mixed / prepared might significantly influence the outcome: It does make a difference whether eggs are separated or not or whether eggs are beaten with butter first, butter with sugar or eggs with sugar or even everything dumped in the bowl at once (yes, there are examples for all these types!).

An anecdote: My mom - a proficient baker - had major trouble with a recipe she'd gotten from my dad's family. Should have been light and tall, was always only half the height as the ones the other family members served. It took her years to figure that it did not require separating the eggs and incorporating the stiff whites at the end. Well, it didn't say so in the recipe, but as she always did it that way, she'd just assumed...

Have you tried the recipe yet? If you did and have hings you'd like different, we might come up with more ideas.

As for the spices:
If you are grinding up whole spices (method doesn't matter much), be aware that the flavour might be much more intense than with pre-ground ones. And a teaspoon of cloves and star anise sounds a bit much - IMHO. I'd probaply aim for 1tsp cinnamon, 1/4-1/2 tsp of anise and not more than 1/4 tsp of cloves.

Regarding temperature:
In baking lingo, a "cool" oven is usually around 150-160 °C - that would be about 300-320 °F

  • thanks. I have tried it, it is actually a family recipe made before by my mom. One trouble I usually have is not knowing what kind of jam/preserve to use. I have used apricot and peach I think, and they do not seem to affect the flavor, or maybe they do but I don't know it – dennismv Dec 31 '14 at 14:45
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    Indeed, tweaks like those suggested aren't 21st century advancements, they're cooking techniques with real purposes that have been around quite a while. It could be there are things you can improve (if there's anything you don't like) but I doubt any of it is really new ideas. – Cascabel Dec 31 '14 at 15:01
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    Taking the spices into consideration - how about something with a bit more "character", like plum jam? What did your mom use? – Stephie Dec 31 '14 at 15:07
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    Oh, and regarding the date and origin of the recipe, I'd guess the jam would have been "whatever could be bought or grew in the garden". – Stephie Dec 31 '14 at 15:13

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