It took me over a week to write down this recipe, but finally here it is. Some general information to start: paska (the name of this cake in Ukrainian) probably is the most difficult cake I’ve ever baked. You have to be calm and patient to perform all steps of its making in a right way. As a result you will get absolutely stunning cake which can be fresh for some months after being baked. A popular question is “what is the taste of paska?” Well, if you know what Italian panettone is, you know the taste of paska. These cakes are not twins, but they are very close relatives. Paska is one of the staples of Easter celebration for Orthodox Christians. Every family bakes paski to share them with friends and family members.
Some tips before you start to bake.
– relax and enjoy the process. Seriously, each year I meet fears and doubts about paski baking. You shouldn’t be nervous, because if you just follow directions, know some baking basics and have good ingredients, you will make it just right.
– paski are made from yeast dough and this type of dough is actually alive and very tender creature. Be kind with this dough: always cover it with a kitchen towel, keep it in a warm place, don’t leave it in the draft. It’s even said that dough doesn’t like loud noises as it can get scared and will not grow. I didn’t try to scare my paski dough, but I always turn on Mozart music when it’s growing 🙂 Also remember that yeasts will grow faster in a warmer atmosphere and if dough doesn’t have too much fat in it (we will be back to this note in the directions).
– remember about basics of baking: everything you are going to use in baking must have the same temperature, so take milk and eggs from a fridge before you start the process. Use a warm (but not too hot) pot for growing the dough. Put ready dough into a pre heated oven.
– be sure that you have up to 6 hours of time. Yes, it’s a slow cooking how it is. That’s why I do it once a year (well, I have made it twice this week)
Now let’s come to the recipe.
Compressed fresh yeast 50 gr
Sifted flour 1,2 kg
Milk 0,5 l
Butter 700 g
Yolk 6 pcs (don’t waste whites as you will need them for topping. Put them into the fridge until baking is done)
Eggs(60 g) 3 pieces
Sugar 350 gr
Salt 1 tsp
Vanilla extract 2-3 tsp
Powdered saffron 3/4 tsp
Powdered nutmeg 1 pc
Lemon peel 25 gr
Powdered cardamom 15-20 grains
Pre-soaked raisins and cranberries 300 gr
Candied fruit 300 gr (I use papaya and splash it in the water to remove sugar).
You will need white eggs mentioned above and an equal amount of powdered sugar. I will describe the whole process at the end of the recipe, but notice, that if your icing is too heavy, you can add some lemon juice to make it more liquid.
Make a bread starter. Dissolve yeast in 1,5 cup of warm (but not hot, around 40C) milk. Add 2 teaspoons of sugar. Slowly add 1 glass of flour and mix to smoothness. You should obtain a texture of a liquid sour cream. Leave a pot with the starter covered with a towel in a warm place. It should increase in size twice. As soon as it reaches the maximum point and it begins to fall off, the starter is ready to be used.
While your starter is growing and listening to Mozart, you can start to prepare the dough. Rub yolks and eggs with 2/3 of sugar. Add 0,5 kg of flour and knead all together well.
Add the starter to the dough and knead properly until the dough has no flour lumps. Close the dough with a towel, put it to a warm place and wait until it rises twice.
Mix butter with remaining sugar and grind properly.
Add the remaining warm milk, salt, all spices, lemon peel and another 0,5 kg of flour and knead well.
Combine the risen dough with the dough you have just made and knead well. You should get a texture of a very thick sour cream. Close the dough with a towel. Wait until it rises twice in a warm place.
Add the remaining flour, raisins, cranberries and candied fruit in small portions. (life hack: dry raisins and cranberries with a paper towel, so they will not stick to each other). And now comes the time of a hard physical work. Knead the dough for a long time (at least for 20 minutes, but I always make it for 25) with hands. The final dough should not be too dense and must peel off from the pot or wooden desk and from hands. Close the dough with a towel. Put it to a warm place and let it rise twice.
Put the dough into baking forms. There are special forms for paski which are quite narrow and high, I had just 2 of them, so rest of the dough was baked in usual forms I’ve bought in Tesco.
Notice: you can also add chocolate crumbles at this final step. Don’t knead dough with chocolate too intensive as chocolate will start to melt, the dough will get more fat and yeast will rise slower as this dough will be heavier.
Forms should be filled with the dough for less than a half. Before putting the dough into forms don’t forget to grease them with butter and sprinkle with flour. Cover it with a towel again, put it to a warm place and let it rise almost to the top. Be patient, it’s the last rising 😉
In the meantime, pre heat an oven to 180 degrees.
Put your grown paski into a heated oven and immediately lower the temperature to 175 g. Bake for about 40-45 minutes. It’s actually an art, because if you keep paski in the oven too long, they will be too dry and if you take them out too early, they will be raw. You can check if baking is ready with a toothpick. Life hack: if paski tops are getting brown too quickly, put a small cup with water into the oven.
Take a deep breath, the main process is over.
But decorations are important too, so while your paski are getting cool (please, don’t take them from forms until they are cold) you can make a topping.
I’ve made two types of toppings this year, icing and chocolate. I will not describe how to make chocolate topping as it was bought in a store, but here is a simple recipe for a perfect icing.
Take whites from the fridge, prepare equal amount of powdered sugar. Mix whites with a half of the sugar in a bowl, put it into a hot water (you can use cooking pot for it) until sugar is totally dissolved. Be sure that water is not too hot, because whites can boil. Mix this texture with a mixer at the first speed for 5 minutes and then at turbo speed for 3 more minutes. Add the rest of the powder, mix it slowly with a spoon and then use turbo mode for 5 minutes. Add some lemon juice if your icing is too thick.
Cover cold paski with icing, give icing a short rest for 10 minutes and then add anything you want to the top.
Woo hoo, you have done all! 🙂
It’s not the easiest cake to bake but the result is worthy of time spent in the kitchen.
And once again: don’t be nervous during the process, just take your time, enjoy work with dough and be patient.
Thanks to Apropos for beautiful Wooden candlestick by Nostalgie.