Sour Cream Cake (Smetannik): Russian Recipes Revisited (2024)

Sour Cream Cake (Smetannik): Russian Recipes Revisited (1)

It's almost the end of December, so it's time for the monthly Russian Recipes Revisited post!

Today I bring you a recipe for Sour Cream Cake, aka Smetannik (in Russian, sour cream is smetana).

Growing up in Moscow, Russia, children's birthday celebrations weren't spent at a restaurant and involved way more than two hours, a cake and a clown. Anna and I (since we are twins!) would have our close friends over to our house, eat a ton of food our mom has prepared, play games, go out for ice cream and come back for cake and tea. These birthday parties often lasted at least four to six hours. Good times!

The cake that my mom often made for our birthday was smetannik: Sour Cream Cake. You are shocked I am a fan of the cake, right? After all, I often go for dessert that has dark chocolate in it. But this cake brings such fond memories from my childhood.

My mom has been baking this cake for celebratory occasions ever since we moved to the States, butbecause my entire family is in Seattle, while I'm in DC area, I miss out on many slices of this particular cake. Finally, after many phone calls and pleas, my mom agreed to write down the recipe for the cake and send it to me.

Sour Cream Cake (Smetannik): Russian Recipes Revisited (2)

Yes, that's my mom's handwriting with a few notes from me. You can tell beautiful handwriting is not our strongest suit ;)

I read over the recipe, called my mom with questions about a few steps, nervously listened as she made suggestions and edited some of the directions, and then I started to FLIP OUT! Will I be able to make this recipe? Will it turn out as delicious as my mom's? Will it be good enough to bring to a friend's house for Christmas dinner?

Let me just say that I wasa nervous wreck until I took a bite ofthe cake and realized that I succeeded!!!

This recipe is not a 100% perfect. One of my cakes totally burned on the bottom. I'm not sure if it's because of the unevenness of my oven or because of the cake pan I used. But all in all, I'm happy with the final result.

NOTE/Warning: you want to have two full days to make this cake!

Sour Cream Cake (Smetannik)
Makes 2 cakes


For the cakes

1 1/2 cups sugar
5 eggs
8 ounces unsalted butter
1/4 cup honey
4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda

For the sour cream "frosting"

32 ounces sour cream (full fat!!)
2 cups sugar

For the topping

You can use1 1/2cups of toasted walnuts per cake or 1 bar of dark chocolate, grated, per cake.

1. Preheat the oven to 400F. {If I were to make this again, I would probably do 375F.}
2. In a large bowl, add sugar and beat in one egg at a time with a hand-held mixer.

Sour Cream Cake (Smetannik): Russian Recipes Revisited (3)

3. Melt the butter and let it cool.
4. Meanwhile, whisk together flour and baking soda.
5. Add honey and cooled butter into the sugar/egg mixture and combine.
6. Incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet ones.

Sour Cream Cake (Smetannik): Russian Recipes Revisited (4)

7. Line the bottom of the two 9" round baking pans with parchment paper. {I used one cake pan and one spring form; the cake in the cake pan burned on the bottom, while the one in the spring form didn't.}
8. Divide the cake batter equally between the two pans. Wet your hand with cold water and carefully smooth out the batter until it's even.
9. Bake the cakes for about 30 minutes.

Sour Cream Cake (Smetannik): Russian Recipes Revisited (5)

The cake in the picture below is the one that burned on the bottom. What did I do? I called my mom and started FREAKING out!!! That's my typical response to when things don't go my way. My mom tried to calm me down, but it wasn't working.

I was not happy the cake was burned on the bottom. I was not happy the top of the cake was too rounded instead of flat. I was FREAKING out about cutting this not-so-tall cake into THREE layers.

My mom offered to go on Skype with me so she could actually look at the cakes, but I was not having any of this.

I told her I was not discussing the matter at hand any more.

I never claimed to be calm and collected.

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After hanging up, I turned on Latin music and got to work.

Back to directions...

10. Let the cakes cool and remove them from the baking pans.
11. Level off the top of the cakes and trim the edges (remove the crust). If your cakes burned on the bottom as one of mine, cut off the burned part.
12. Breath!

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13. Using a long serrated knife, divide each cake into three layers. This will not be easy. But I did it, and so can you!

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14. Combine the sour cream with sugar.

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15. For each cake, put the bottom layer on a plate and make holes in each layer with a fork. Spread the sour cream sugar mixture and allow the cake to stand for 30 minutes. Repeat with the remaining layers and top each cake and the sides with sour cream sugar mixture.

Sour Cream Cake (Smetannik): Russian Recipes Revisited (10)

Sour Cream Cake (Smetannik): Russian Recipes Revisited (11)

16. Let the cakes stand for 1-2 hours in your kitchen before movingthem into the refrigerator for at least one day!
17. On the day you will be serving the cake, "dust it" with either dark chocolate or toasted walnuts. My mom also decorates the top of the cake with jarred pitted sour cherries or halved mandarin slices.

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Sour Cream Cake (Smetannik): Russian Recipes Revisited (13)

Isn't it a beauty? I think it was worth all the freaking out and self doubt I went through.

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Sour Cream Cake (Smetannik): Russian Recipes Revisited (15)

The cake is not really tall, but it's pretty filling. The layers are saturated with sour cream mixture and the added crunch of the shredded dark chocolate brings another dimension to the cake.

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This is the second cake with toasted walnuts:

Sour Cream Cake (Smetannik): Russian Recipes Revisited (17)

Phew! I think this took almost as long to write up as it did to make ;)

Please let me know what other Russian Recipes Revisited you may like to see in 2013!

Special thanks to my mom for sending me the recipe and doing her best to be patient with me.

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Sour Cream Cake (Smetannik): Russian Recipes Revisited (2024)


What do Russians call sour cream? ›

Smetana - No list of russian food would be complete without sour cream (smetana in Russian). It's impossible to eat soups or dumplings without sour cream, and it is also used as an ingredient in a large number of dishes, from appetizers to desserts to baked goods.

What is the purpose of sour cream in a cake? ›

Sour cream is one of the fattiest dairy products; the extra fat content (for example, adding sour cream to a cake instead of milk) will make the cake moister and richer, says Wilk. "Fat, in any form (butter, lard, cream, etc.) shortens gluten strands, which essentially leads to the most tender baked goods," she adds.

What do Russians eat with sour cream? ›

Smetana. You can expect to find sour cream or smetana, accompanying almost any Russian traditional food—with crepes, soups, and even sometimes in dessert. This sour cream is fresh and melts into any warm dish, adding to its distinctive flavor. (You will likely often see it in beef stroganoff.)

Why do Ukrainians like sour cream? ›

Why do Ukrainians like it so much? Russians love it, too. As much as Greeks love their yogurt and put it everywhere. Sour dairy is easy to produce, it is a great way to utilize milk and let it last longer; so it became used in the cuisine.

Which country eats the most sour cream? ›

The top tier of sour cream-eating countries are identified as the US, France, Poland, Russia, and Germany.

Why is sour cream so popular in Russia? ›

The use of sour cream can be linked to the availability of milk and cream before the age of widespread use of refrigeration. Rather than discard unused fresh milk and cream, the Eastern European and Russian cuisines developed recipes to use fermented dairy products from small farms.

What is Coca-Cola in Russian? ›

кока-кола (Translation of Coca-Cola from the Cambridge English–Russian Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

Should you refrigerate sour cream cake? ›

Sour Cream Pound Cake can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. You may also wrap the cake in plastic wrap and store it in the fridge for up to 1 week. Bring to room temperature before serving.

How do you thicken sour cream for a cake? ›

Dissolve one leaf of gelatine ( for vegetarians agar agar can be used) in hot water per pint of cream and lightly whip into the cream and chill. Another way is to take a tablespoon of milk and mix with a teaspoon of cornflower. Mix with the cream and then heat stiring until the cream thickens.

Can I use sour cream instead of milk in a cake recipe? ›

Baking with Sour Cream: The creamy texture of sour cream makes baked goods more moist than if you used milk. This makes sour cream an excellent choice for recipes that are known to have drier results, like sponge cakes.

What is the difference between American and European sour cream? ›

American versus European sour cream

There are also low and reduced-fat varieties of sour cream available, which often use thickeners, gelling agents, and stabilizers to keep the product thick and scoopable. On the other hand, European varieties are typically higher in fat, around 30% or higher.

What is the European version of sour cream? ›

An elegant but slightly less-tangy swap for sour cream is crème fraîche. It has a thick texture similar to sour cream, but the flavor is a bit milder. Crème fraîche works well in sauces, casseroles, and cakes, but may require an added squeeze of lemon to work as a substitute in dips.

What is sour cream called in Europe? ›

Crème fraîche (English pronunciation: /ˌkrɛmˈfrɛʃ/, French pronunciation: [kʁɛm fʁɛʃ], lit. "fresh cream") is a dairy product, a soured cream containing 10–45% butterfat, with a pH of approximately 4.5.

What is a substitute for sour cream in Europe? ›

A popular ingredient in French cooking, crème fraîche, or fresh cream, is another great option for heating since it will not curdle as quickly as other substitutes. This makes it a perfect sour cream substitute for making sauces and soups, where its thinner consistency will not necessarily be noticeable.

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