March 16, 2022

A Recipe for Peace

A Recipe for Peace
Ukrainian Honey Cake.

In these difficult times, with such relentlessly bad news, celebrating culture can help ease the spirit. Two Londoners — Olia Hercules, the Ukrainian author of the cookbook Mamushka, and Alissa Timoshkina, author of the Russian cookbook Salt & Time — have teamed up in friendship and solidarity to raise money for UNICEF here.

It feels like an appropriate time to #CookForUkraine by sharing an excerpt from Nikolai Gogol's work. Though Gogol wrote in Russian and became a classic of Russian literature, he was born and raised in Ukraine, and many of his writings evince a deep love for his homeland. Here is how Ukraine's exuberant hospitality is expressed by Rudi Panko, the narrator of Gogol's short story collection Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka. And to give you a taste of the honey Rudi describes, here is a recipe for Ukrainian Honey Cake that will fill your kitchen with its sweet scent.

“When you come for a visit, we’ll give you melons the likes of which you’ve never tasted! And you’ll find no better honey in any other village. Why, when we bring in the honeycomb, the scent fills the room! You can’t imagine it, our honey is pure as the Tsarina’s tears, or the clear crystal of her earrings. And the pies, what pies my old lady will feed you! If you only knew, they’re sugar, pure sugar! and the butter brims on your lips when you bite into them! Wizards these old ladies are! Did you ever drink kvass made from pears and blackthorn berries? or vodka infused with raisins and plums? Have you eaten frumenty with milk? My friends, what glorious flavors there are in the world! Once you start eating, you can hardly stop ... ah, sweet nectar of life! Why, only last year ... But what am I prattling on about? You’ll just have to come see us, come soon! We’ll feed you such treats you’ll tell all the world.”


8 tablespoons butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup dark honey
4 eggs, separated
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
Grated rind of 1 orange
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ cup currants
1 cup chopped walnuts
½ cup chopped pitted dates

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then beat in the honey. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix well. Add the orange rind and sour cream, beating until the batter is smooth. Then stir in the cinnamon, nutmeg, currants, walnuts and dates. Whip the 4 egg whites until stiff but not dry and fold them into the batter.

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Prepare a 10-inch tube pan by greasing it and then lining the bottom and sides with brown paper. Grease the paper. Pour the batter into the pan, spreading it evenly.

Bake the cake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove the outer part of the pan and let the cake cool (upright) in the tube section. When completely cool, remove the cake from the pan.

Wrap the cake in aluminum foil and let age at room temperature for 2 days before serving. (It may be eaten sooner, but the flavor won’t be as rich.)

Yield: 1 large cake.

NOTE: Buckwheat honey, if available, is the best choice for this cake. Clover honey will not give it as distinctive a taste.

Excerpted from A Taste of Russia

Tags: cakeukraine

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