This is the first of many Soviet desserts I recreated at home. When I first moved to the U.K I was baffled by the dessert choices. Victoria Sponge did nothing for me and I didn’t understand the sponge to cream ratio. Growing up in Latvia, every cake had 50/50 split of sponge to cream. Each and every cake is indulgent, heavy and moist.
I missed the cakes but soon enough I forgot about the cakes and met a bunch of delights like Shortbread, Soft Cookies, Cadbury’s Milk and many more.
But now I am going back to what I remember and recreating a bunch of recipes from the past. Some with help of friends and family, passed down tips and tricks and some will need to rely on extensive research and sometimes common sense.
Prague is a Soviet classic, served for birthdays and special occasions. The cake is named after a restaurant it was developed at, by a talented Russian confectioner Vladimir Guralnik. He got inspired during one of his trips. He had an Austrian cake Zaher but the ingredients and the time consumption to prepare it was too much for the Soviet times. When he returned home, he created this recipe that used accessible and simple ingredients to make sure that every household could create this delicacy at home.
The cake has a beautiful chocolate sponge, dense cacao cream, the top layer is soaked in apricot jam and the whole construction is covered in chocolate fudge. The sponge can be either left as it is or it can be soaked in sugar syrup (I did do that, but many recipes skip this step). Decoration normally involves chocolate shavings and Prague written across the top of the cake. I opted for roasted hazelnuts instead.
Below are the ingredients and the recipe to make this beautiful indulgence. For the sponge:
- 6 eggs, yolks and whites separated
- 150g Caster Sugar
- 25g Cacao Powder
- 115g Plain Flour
- 40g Butter
- 1/2 TSP Baking Powder
For the cream:
- 1 Egg Yolk
- 200g Butter, at room temperature, softened
- 120g Condensed Milk
- 1TBSP water
- 10G Cacao Powder
For the sugar syrup:
- 80g Sugar
- 80ml Water
- 20ml Liquor (Classic recipe dictates Cognac but I opted for Salted Caramel Liquor)
For the top layer:
- 100g Apricot Jam
For the fudge:
- 40G Butter
- 80G Dark Chocolate
For the decoration:
- Handful of hazelnuts
Part I, The Batter
- Start by making the sponge. In a very large bowl mix yolks with 100g sugar with an electric mixer until they are fluffy (5-7 minutes, start on medium speed build to high). All of the ingredients will end up in this bowl, so the bigger, the better.
- Clean the mixer. Now use it to mix the egg whites and sugar, use a large bowl as the volume will quadriple. Start off on slow/medium speed and beat the eggs whites for a minute or so. Then start adding sugar bit by bit and continue beating until they form hard peaks. Should take you 5-7 minutes.
- Now, in a smaller bowl sieve through the flour, cacao and baking powder.
- Melt the butter, either using a microwave or a hot water bath. If you are using the microwave keep an eye on it, don’t let it explode. Once melted, leave it on the side to cool.
- Fold the beaten eggs white into yolks, do it gently to keep the volume.
- Start heating up the oven to 180C.
- Now fold in the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa, baking powder) into the same bowl. Mix it gently, you want to keep as much of the volume as possible.
- Now slowly pour the melted butter down the sides of the bowl. Mix in gently. You should end up with a mousse-like batter.
- Layer the bottom of a 20CM Spring Form with some baking parchment. Do not grease the sides. Pour in the batter and bake in the pre-heated oven for 35-40 minutes. Don’t open the oven door for the first 20-25 minutes, or it will drop.
- Once ready, take it out of the oven and leave it to stand for 5 minutes. Once it’s cooled down a little, take it out of the tin. Turn the sponge upside down and leave to cool on a cooling rack. I left it for 3 hours to make sure it’s completely cooled down.
Part II, The Sponge
- Now that the sponge is cooled down, prepare a large flat plate for assembly of the cake. Cut the sponge into 3 slices, it might seem like it’s too thin but trust me, it’ll be worth it.
- Prepare the sugar syrup. Mix the sugar and the water in a small pan and bring it to the boil. Boil for a few minutes and then add the liquor of your choice. Now use a pastry brush to soak the sponges. Ideally on both sides of the sponge
Part III, The Cream
- Start making the cream. Make sure that the butter is softened and can be mixed with a hand mixer.
- In a small pan, mix the egg yolk, water and condensed milk. Slowly stir on a low heat until it starts thickening up and turns into a syrup like liquid. Make sure it doesn’t boil. Once it’s thickened up, take it off the heat and leave to cool.
- Beat the butter until smooth and add the condensed milk syrup. Mix really well. Follow by the cacao, mix again.
- Leave to rest
Part IV, The Jam
- In a small pan heat up the apricot jam. Once warm, put out it through a sieve to make it smooth and spreadable.
Part V, The Assembly
- Put the first layer of the sponge on a large plate and use half the cream. Cover thoroughly, all the way to the edges.
- Put the second layer of the sponge on top. Use the rest of the cream to top the sponge.
- Finally, put the third sponge on top and cover it in prepared apricot jam.
- Cover with a lid and put it in the fridge for 20 or so minutes.
Part VI, The Nuts
- Put the oven on 180C and lay out the nuts on a large tray.
- Roast for 10-15 minutes to release the smell and the flavour.
- Take out of the oven and leave to cool.
Part VII, The Fudge
- Melt the chocolate and the butter and mix well.
- Get the cake out of the fridge and spread the mixture all over. There should be enough fudge to cover the top and the sides of the cake. Use a spoon or a knife to spread it evenly.
- Chop the cooled nuts and decorate the top of the cake.
- Ideally, leave it overnight to soak up the syrup and the flavour. All recipes suggest leaving the cake overnight as it improves the flavour.
So there you go, that’s how you make Prague. This is not a 100% classic recipe but it keeps the fundamental parts of the dessert. If you decide to make this cake, please share online and use #beersmeatsandtreats so that I can find it.
If you have a childhood favourite that you want me to create then give me a shout.
I hope you enjoy this Soviet delight with a cup of coffee. I am bringing what’s left of it to the office tomorrow and will test amongst a mixed crowd. Let’s hope that sponge to cream ratio satisfies everyone.