russian honey cake

From time to time when someone learns that I’m married to a Russian, they’ll ask me if I can come up with a recipe for a Russian dish they’ve had, which is hilarious because I have never been to Russia, have probably only picked up 20 words (by generous estimation) in the 13 years we’ve been together and of the maybe five Russian dishes I’ve made, I’ve simply done them my mother in-law’s way. It’s almost like people might know that I have a tendency to get really obsessive when I decide I want to crack the code of a recipe and they’re hoping I’ll apply it to a long-lost loved dish they want to make a regular part of their lives again? Nah, that would be ridiculous.

whisking in those eggs, it gets thick

Enter: medovik. Or maybe smetannik. Guys, if you’re ever looking for a sign that a recipe is going to be a doozy to unpack, definitely aim for a dish that nobody even agrees on the name of.*

adding flour

Technically speaking, this hunt began in 2013 when I received two requests for Russian honey cake — something I’d never even heard of — within a month. I expected it to be a fairly simple process: 1. Try an authentic one from a Russian bakery and see if I even liked it, which I doubted I would because I’m just not that into honey. 2. If I did, try to recreate it using published recipes as guidance. But things got immediately, screechingly off track.

it has a bread dough-like texture

First, I fell in love. Why did nobody tell me it was as stunning as a dobos torte? I have a soft spot for cakes with a gazillion skinny layers. Oh, and the flavor — I had no idea. It tastes like an extraordinarily good honey graham cracker (i.e. like nothing we can buy in a box) that’s at once caramel and penuche and biscoff or stroopwafel layered with a sweetened cream or custard or cream cheese, yet the version I was eating, as per the ingredients on the label, contained exactly zero of these things. I was riveted.

dough, ready to roll

And then I fell in… something, because the recipes I found made no sense at all. They were for cookies! This was unquestionably a cake with plush layers. I ceased all medovik/smetannik studies until this madness stopped.

dock it -- it bubbles

Last month, three years later, I began anew. I went into a tornado of research — my Russian cookbooks, recipe websites in English and Russian via Google Translate, more Russian cookbooks through Google Book Search, having my mother-in-law call her friends that bake, YouTube videos in English and Russian — the likes I haven’t done since 2012’s Lasagna Bolognese in 2012, a dish I referred to “my culinary Mount Everest,” a mountain that has never since looked so tiny. The more I read, the more confused I became.**

all baked, smelling like honey caramel heaven

I finally, weeks later, had to make all the noise stop. I closed all the books and all of the browser windows and started typing a recipe that blended the most appealing middle ground or elements of everything I’d read. I accepted that there were parts that didn’t make sense to me but I would do them anyway. I expected very little, but the cookie discs — yes, cookies, but a tiny bit bendy so maybe 10 percent on its way to cake already — smelled like a kiss of buttery honey caramel as they exited the oven and I felt like we might be at the brink of honey cake greatness at last.

you bake the trimmings

After expending so much mental energy on the layers, I decided the simplest filling option — sweetened sour cream — was the most sane place to start. Honey would be the logical thing to sweeten it with, but after seeing a few recipes that worked in sweetened condensed milk, only one of the most delicious substances on this earth, I sweetened mine instead with it. The filling/frosting takes approximately one minute to make and I was pretty excited by now because this was happening, I was finally doing this. And then this happened:

things started going badly
oh god what have i done

And I was all because I couldn’t believe I’d gotten so close just to trash the whole thing. I shoved it into the back of the fridge, stormed out of the kitchen and didn’t return until the next day, and then I took deep breaths. I re-iced the cake with the spillover. I scooped and spackled. I covered the cake with the prescribed crumbs but until the moment that we sliced into the cake, I was still convinced it was a flop, that there would be no filling left, just a merged megastack of cake inside with no nuance, no joy, no point, no…

russian honey cake
russian honey cake

… sound. This cake has a way of silencing a room.

** So, is it called medovik (honey cake) or smetannik (sour cream cake), Deb? I asked many many people and here is a small sampling of the responses I got:

Team Smetannik: “Smetannik is what you made — it is a honey cake with sour cream layers…” “Smetanik is any cake with sour cream based frosting. Smetannik has honey in the recipe too, but only a little.” “Smetanik is a cake with sour cream used both in frosting and batter.” “smetannik, but you are missing the walnuts.. We make it with walnuts on each layer.”

“Medovnik, which I I think is also called Medoviy Tort — is basically the same thing, except, and this is where you get LOTS of debate, has honey in the sour cream frosting.” “Medovik is a honey cake which is usually assumed to have a sour cream frosting (though not always). I’d call it a Medovik.” “did you use multiple cups of honey in the recipe? Then it’s a medovik… also you seem to be missing walnuts”

Both teams were kind, however. “… if you were to use the terms interchangeably, the Russian culinary police won’t come after you, partly because there is no consensus.” “It’s definitely confusing, but call it what you want, I’d eat your version and ask for seconds.” (Aw.)

** Just a rough overview of some of my questions:
– Why did most contain 2 tablespoons of honey and 1 cup of sugar? How was this a honey cake?
– Why do some use 2 tablespoons of butter and others use 12?
– Half the recipes called for us to make a caramel and then, when it is still bubbling on the stove, whisk eggs into it — you do not need to be a food scientist to know this is how to make scrambled eggs. The other half have you make the caramel with the eggs already in it! How can that work?
– A lot of recipes have you mix baking soda and vinegar — basically activating it and rendering it almost inert, right? we did this once for red velvet cake and it confused me then too — and then mix in into the bubbling caramel, surely killing off any rising powers left in it. What was the point of all of this?
– Why does the dough roll out better when warm? Isn’t this stressful? What if your kid needs something and then the dough cools and you can’t roll it, does one just throw everything away?
– Do these really bake into cookies or something softer?
– And the filling — some people use sweetened sour cream, others add whipped cream and/or sweetened condensed milk or a full pastry cream/custard and I even saw one with a cooked flour frosting. Which was correct? Which was better? This is not America’s Test Kitchen. If I can not reasonably nail down a recipe in 2 to 3 rounds, I’m out.


One year ago: My Old-School Baked Ziti
Two years ago: Better Chicken Pot Pies
Three years ago: Miso Sweet Potato and Broccoli Bowl
Four years ago: Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
Five years ago: Apple Pie Cookies
Six years ago: Mushroom Lasagna
Seven years ago: Quiche Lorraine
Eight years ago: Best Challah (Egg Bread), Mom’s Apple Cake and Beef, Leek and Barley Soup
Nine years ago: Peanut Butter Brownies and Arroz Con Pollo
Ten! years ago: Lemony Persnick

And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Caramelized Brown Sugar Oranges With Yogurt and Potato Pizza, Even Better
1.5 Years Ago: Why You Should Always Toast Your Nuts and Obsessively Good Avocado-Cucumber Salad
2.5 Years Ago: Asparagus-Stuffed Eggs
3.5 Years Ago: Spinach and Smashed Egg Toast
4.5 Years Ago: Over-The-Top Mushroom Quiche

Russian Honey Cake

  • Servings: 8 in huge slices, 12 in normal ones
  • Print

This cake is eight paper-thin cake layers with a creamy, slightly tangy filling and coating. It mostly tastes like dreamy frosted graham crackers. The honey, if you’re nervous, is barely notable if you use a mild one but will be more present with a strong one. The filling is just a little sweet and has no sourness to it; after absorbing into the cake layers, it tastes so much like a mild cream cheese frosting, good luck convincing people it is anything else.

Planning ahead: You must start this cake a day early because you’re going to want the better part of the day for the filling to soften the cookies into glorious thin cake layers, just like an icebox cake. You can start even earlier than that, too. Our cake looked amazing in the fridge for 5 whole days before, um, it was “gone” so you can assemble this a few days before you need it. Or, you can make the cookie layers a week or longer in advance and store the in a container at room temperature, as you would other cookies. Just make sure you get them filled and frosted a day before you want to slice in.

    Cookie Layers
  • 1/2 cup (170 grams) honey
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (115 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups (455 grams) all-purpose flour, divided
  • Frosting and Filling
  • 32 ounces (just shy of 4 cups or 900 grams) sour cream
  • 1 14-ounce can (400 grams) sweetened condensed milk

    The day before, get ready: Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Get 2 baking sheets (or even better, round pizza pans) down, more if you have them. Tear off 6 sheets of parchment paper large enough to have a 9-inch circle on it.

    Make cookie/cake dough: In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the sugar, honey and butter over medium heat. Once simmering, cook for 3 to 4 minutes (no specific temperature needed), it should get a faint shade darker and smell wonderful. Whisk in baking soda.

    Remove from heat and set aside for 2 to 3 minutes. It’s not going to significantly cool off, just settle a little. Lightly beat your eggs in a spouted measuring cup (for easiest pouring) or small bowl. Take a deep breath. Whisking the honey mixture vigorously in the pot the whole time, drizzle the thinnest stream (think: 1/2 teaspoon at a time, that slowly) of the eggs into the honey mixture. Do not stop mixing. Continue until all of the eggs are thoroughly whisked in.

    Stir in the salt and vanilla and 3 cups (390 grams) of the flour with a spoon. The dough is going to be thick like a bread but you’ve got this. Stir in the last 1/2 cup of flour 1/4 cup at a time; you’ll get a bonus arm workout.

    Shape and bake the cookies/cakes: [Plus, a bunch more layer tips at the end.] Lightly flour your counter and divide the still-warm dough into 8 even pieces. Roll the first one between two sheets of parchment paper (no flouring needed) to a slightly-bigger-than-9-inch round. Remove top sheet of parchment paper. Very lightly dust the top with flour if you’re going to put something on it (such as the bottom of a 9-inch cake pan or the rim of a 9-inch bowl) to trim the shape to an even 9-inch circle. Save the trimmings — put them aside on one of the sheets of parchment paper, it’s fine if they overlap a little. Dock the circle all over with a fork. Slide your 9-inch round onto a baking sheet and bake for 6 to 7 minutes; it should feel firmish and get slightly darker at the edges. Slide the cookie onto a cooling rack. Go ahead and reuse the parchment for another layer.

    Meanwhile, while the first layer is baking, roll out your second piece so it’s ready to go into the oven as soon as the first comes out. If you’re making good time, get the third ready too and continue to bake them two at a time. Keep adding the unbaked cookie trimmings onto one piece of parchment paper. Repeat this process as you bake each round and you’ll have all 8 baked before you know it.

    Finally, take that last sheet of parchment with all of the cookie scraps on it and slide it onto a baking sheet and bake it, checking in at 4 minutes, because the thinnest scraps will want to burn quickly. By 5 minutes, all should be baked until pale golden. Let cool completely and save until you’re ready to decorate the cake tomorrow.

    Fill and frost the cake: Whisk sour cream and sweetened condensed milk together in a large bowl. Once cookies are cool, place a dab of the sour cream mixture on your cake plate and place the first cookie on top of it to help adhere it.

    Cut or tear one of your used pieces of parchment paper into strips and tuck them all around the underside of the cake to protect your cake plate. Trust me, if you do not do this, you will regret it.

    Scoop 3/4 cup sour cream mixture onto the center of your first cookie layer. Spread it only a little from the center, leaving a good 1- to 2-inch margin of unfrosted cookie. Stack the second cookie on top and repeat until you have 8 layers.

    This will quickly become a huge mess. The sour cream is going to spill out and down the sides anyway (hear hear for those paper strips) and you’re going to start yelling at me/drafting an angry comment in your head. It’s also going to want to slide around and not stay neatly stacked. It’s totally okay because the filling will thicken as it absorbs into the cookies. Put the cake in the fridge for a couple hours (1 to 3) and when you come back to it, nudge the stack gently back into place and use a spoon and icing spatula to scoop the spilled-out filling back up the sides and onto the top of the cake. Don’t worry about it looking neat. Let it chill overnight.

    The next day, finish the cake: Grind your baked, reserved cookie scraps in a blender or food processor, or bash them into crumbs in a bag with a rolling pin.

    Take your cake out and do one final frosting clean-up. Spread any newly puddled sour cream back up the sides and across the top. If you’d like to make a decoration on top of your cake, take one of those used pieces of parchment paper (see how much Deb hates wasting parchment) and cut a stencil with it. Place it gently on top of the cake.

    Use a small spoon to sprinkle the top and sides of the cake with the crumbs. In the coolest trick I saw on a cooking video, use a pastry brush (or extremely clean paintbrush, I won’t tell) to gently brush the crumbs off the stencil and across the cake in a thin layer. It sounds crazy but it works — on the sides too. Remove the stencil and parchment paper strips and look at that clean serving plate! (Bravo, you.)

    You can serve the cake right away, or keep it in the fridge for up to 5 days. When slicing, I found that a knife dipped in hot water made picture-perfect cuts.

    A bunch of extra dough and cake layer tips:

  • The dough is a bit stiff, but it will stretch to the size you need with pressure. If you’re finding it to be a huge pain, that the dough clearly wants to go to 8 inches but not 9, just go ahead and make the cake 8 inches round. It will be just as good of a cake; the layers might need a single extra minute to bake.
  • Ovens will vary, especially for such thin cookies, so keep an eye on the first round as of the 6-minute mark, checking in each minute after as it can brown very quickly, and then you’ll know how much time you need for the remaining ones.
  • This dough is easiest to roll/softest when it’s still a little warm; if yours has cooled quickly, I found that you could put each piece in the microwave for 5 to 7 seconds (only!) to get it a touch warmer again, without prematurely baking the cookie.
  • Go ahead and save all of those used pieces of parchment paper for the next step and beyond. We’re going to use them again.

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510 comments on russian honey cake

  1. WK

    Thanks, I have a project for next weekend now. This was one of my favorites growing up.

    My mother, who came off the boat in the 60s from Ukraine, made this on occasion. Her variant was to alternate layers with a fruit filling, usually a homemade jelly of either apricot or pineapple. Also, her version of the frosting had a good amount of vanilla bean incorporated as well.

    “medivnik” as I remember it is a spongy loaf cake.

      1. Karen Rovinsky

        I was obsessed with this cake and made it last year for Thanksgiving. This year I am making it for Rosh Hashanah as our family honey cake. I found that using a spring-form pan ring (left open) during the filling process helped to wrangle the layers and kept the shifting and sliding to a minimum.
        I’m also curious if the cake layers could be made swapping out molasses for the honey and adding warm spices as would be used for gingerbread to make a winter cake? Any thoughts?

    1. Andréanne

      I made this cake yesterday and I was surprised this morning when I looked in the fridge how nice it looked! The sour cream was almost solid, just like a nice buttercream. I was able to cover the cake very easily yesterday. I used 14% sour cream and a can of eagle brand for the mix. The only think that didn’t work out perfectly was the amount of batter. It was not enough as I was only able to make 5 big cookies. So I doubled it and ended up with 10 layers! I also doubled the sour cream and condensed milk. This morning I draw a flower on a piece of paper, I cut it and place it over the cake before sprinkling the Graham powder. It looks so good now. Whish I could post a picture! So thank you a lot for the recipe! I am from Montréal, Canada btw :)

  2. Ellen N.

    Thank you for posting this recipe. It looks beautiful and delicious. I have a question about beating in the eggs. You advise leaving the batter in the saucepan while you beat in the eggs. Is there any reason I couldn’t scrape the batter into the stand mixer bowl and beat the mixture in the stand mixer while adding the eggs?

    1. deb

      You could, you’ll want the whisk going pretty fast for the egg part and the paddle for the flour. I kept it in the pot because it made it simplest, to use it as a bowl.

      1. Jen

        After following the recipe for the icing/filling it is like water.. unsure if sour cream or condensed milk is different here in Australia, but I hope it turns out when I get out of the fridge tomorrow

        1. Lisa

          I had the same experience following recipe in UK (see earlier comment), I think sour cream in US is very different – good luck!

          1. An American in the UK

            Creme fraiche would be closer in thickness to US sour cream. You want something spoonable from a pot rather than pourable from a bottle.

            1. Liana

              I’m from Australia also and my icing worked really well. It was firm to the point where I had to push down pretty hard for just a bit of ooze. For the dough however, I had to add probably 3/4 cup more flour. Nonetheless this recipe is great :)

              1. Sel

                Oh good, it’s not just me who ended up adding even more flour to make the cookie batter solid!

                It might depend on which sour cream you buy in Australia. Some are practically liquid, others (the Woolies brand ones) come out of the carton as CUBES. I’ll keep this in mind. Icing/frosting is tomorrow…

        2. Ruxandra Vasilescu

          My filling was the same, and I’m in Brooklyn, so I bought US sour cream. I did put it in the fridge overnight but in the morning was still a big disaster. I don’t know why I didn’t take a pic of it. It was tasty though, but ultimately was a bit of waste, since the filling leaked out from between the layers. It was a big mess. Still, I’m impressed with Deb, so I bought all her recipe books. :p

        3. Diana Gaze

          I haven’t baked this particular recipe but I have done this type of cake many times before. I like to use freshly made custard and whipped cream for my filling. However, I have done it with sour cream as well, and I always drain my sour cream to get rid off extra whey. Just use a cheese cloth. You might need more sour cream to begin ( 1- 1.2 kg). My aunt also uses cooked condensed milk (similar to Dulce de leche) and then mixes it with sour cream.

        4. Kerry

          I love this cake! I’ve made it a few times now and have a trick I thought I would share. I cut out a cardboard round to fit inside my springform pan. I layer inside the pan and it keeps it from shifting too much (had this problem the first time). Some tall skewers tucked in the sides keep it from spilling out the top. Thanks for sharing your great recipes!

    2. Oy With The Rolling

      I did this! It worked beautifully with the whisk attachment, and yes, it does need to be going pretty fast. I think I had it on setting 6. I then put on the paddle beater for the flour addition, and that worked beautifully as well.

      1. Megan

        Hello! I do appreciate the immense amount of research you put into this recipe- I found yours and didn’t feel like I needed to look any further. :) I made the icing as directed, it came out great, I left the extra margin around the cookie edge- and none of it oozed out. Which I guess is a good thing, but when I checked on my cake in the fridge a few hours later the icing was already starting to harden more/soak into the cake, but no spilling over the edges. Should I make more to add so it covers the sides and top? I’m worried the layers are too thick in between since I used the whole recipe originally. What are your thoughts?

          1. Megan

            It tasted wonderful! Like you said, graham crackers and cream cheese frosting. It’s now one of my brothers favorites. And I actually did end up making another half batch for the sides/gaps and it didn’t mess up the ratio. Thanks again for sharing!

      1. Your fan

        I make it often, and last time I added a bit of xantham gum to the frosting/filling as it turned out to be a bit runny, and the consistency was perfect for spreading and assembling the case! The cake was still moist and delicious. I also use egg yolks only in the batter (so double the amount of eggs). I haven’t tried your recipe, but the best one I tried so far is

  3. joy

    I am on team medovik. I don’t like smetana, so even if I know there is smetana in the recipe, I would rather call it medovik. Also, this looks amazing and perfect and I am INCREDIBLY impressed. I never knew how medovik was actually made!

    Next up, syrniki, please!

    1. For New Year’s Day breakfast, I make a huge batch of “Russian pancakes.” (Just our household tradition.) Ohhhh, I love them. How can you not love cheese+pancakes! :)

      I’m going to have to make this honey cake, too, now!

      1. Mila

        I make your “New Year’s Day pancakes” every other Sunday :D. I wouldn’t call it pancakes though as there’s barely any flour in syrniki. BTW, Russian name of it is tvorozhniki and “syrniki” originated in Ukraine.

      2. Luca

        What is the purpose of baking soda ? Ist it truly needed or just sort of cake FX with no true impact ?

        Thanks, this cake is wonderful

  4. Cake Auntie

    Hi Deb. Do you think this might be less messy assembled within a cake ring? So the frosting/filling is more ‘controlled’. Thanks!

    1. deb

      I actually considered including this exact tip from an IG comment but didn’t try it either time I made it. My worry is that the sides could get messed up; they’d definitely not be able to be fully coated until the ring was off as it might slide into it. But I have a feeling it will work out just fine.

        1. deb

          Maybe it would work. I know Christina Tosi calls for sheets of acetate to hold her cake layers in place, extending up from a springform ring. I don’t exactly keep acetate around, but I can see why it would work her because it’s more sturdy.

          1. Susan

            When I make any cake (think: chocolate blackout cake) with a creamy filling, I take a strip of parchment that will circle the cake with a 3-4 inch overlap and fold it length-wise in as many folds needed to slightly exceed the height of the cake to use as a cake ring, I use a paper clip to secure it. It keeps it stacked evenly and the filling from oozing out as the weight of the layers are added. Once completed and refrigerated, I don’t need the cake ring anymore..but use it to keep the sides from drying out. ..and I can clean it up and reuse it. I hate waste, too!

      1. Julie

        Hi thank you for this beautiful recipe! It’s my third time making it and this time I tried with gluten free flour and it looks like it’s going to be just as good. At first the dough was sticking to the parchment paper but as it cool off a bit more it was easier to remove the top paper after rolling it. So my friend who eats gf will be able to try it! It’s always a hit and looks so impressive too

  5. GJ

    Hey Deb! Always love your work.

    You describe these as cookies…and note that you can crumble them up…what I’m wondering is whether you could conceivably cut the dough as if it WERE a cookie (like into circles), reformulate the frosting into something a bit more royal icing like, and flood them, and have pretty Russian honey cake cookies instead? Or would it not quite hold up?

  6. Michaela

    This was our wedding cake! And wow it’s good! I can’t wait to surprise my husband with a homemade version. When you visit San Francisco next check out the Russian honey cake from 20th Century Cafe. It’s heavenly.

  7. Jennie

    You said the frosting tastes like a mild cream-cheese frosting; is there any reason not to use that instead, which might make the assembly easier? (I realize this breaks with the tradition of using sour cream in the frosting.) Or would it not soften the layers enough?

    1. deb

      The wetter sour cream filling is probably better here because it’s going to thicken and get more dry as the cake absorbs the excess moisture, leaving you with a nicely textured frosting. If you start with a frosting that already thick, it might get pasty, but I can’t be sure without trying it.

      1. Naomi

        I just made this cake last night (and was basically crowned upon everyone’s tasting it at the office today). I used the recipe as is for the frosting BUT I used a really thick, high fat sour cream so the sides didn’t drip at all. It worked wonderfully.

  8. Sigita Hartung

    I am a Lithuanian and made this cake often growing up. I am sure most Lithuanians would argue that it is called Lithuanian Honey Cake:) One tip…to avoid a huge mess assembling the layers and cream is to assemble the cake on two overlaid pieces of saran wrap. Once the layers are done you simply lift the saran pieces up and “wrap” up the cake and put it in the fridge to get all happy overnight. And I also flavor my sour cream with lemon juice for more tang and brightness. Big fan of yours!

    1. Blandine

      Hi Sigita, Replying to your comment five years later. I live in Vilnius and was interesting in buying this cake (one year of a global pandemic has killed my enthusiasm in the kitchen). My assumption would be that this cake is a Napoleonas, is that correct?

  9. Jessie

    Ah! I have a recipe from my Polish grandmother. Her base was a sponge cake and she did 4 layers. I need to discuss with my mother! She’d make a huuuge sheet cake pan full of honey cake and cut me small squares. This brings back wonderful memories. Thank you

  10. In my family, medivnik is more of a spice cake with no frosting. I’ve had something that looks like this too, but have never had a name for it, only calling it by the name of my cousin who makes it (Marinin torte, pa Ruskie) Out of curiosity, I’ll ask my mom what she would call this delicious concoction.

  11. Gardiner

    What do you think is the minimum amount of time the cake needs to rest? I have been craving honey cake for weeks, and I’m thinking about making this after work today, but I would want to serve it at brunch tomorrow (noon-ish). Think that’s cutting it too close to get the right texture? Thank you for posting this!!

    1. deb

      I wish I’d checked it sooner but I don’t think you’ll be miserable if you have given it, say, 12 to 15 hours. It helps that the filling is quite wet (hence the mess) and that the cookie is pliable. I wish I could say for sure, though.

  12. Dear SmittenKitchen,

    This is the most authentic medovik I have seen in a long time! I bet it tastes divine, too!
    NY had an outpost of famous Moscow restaurant, Pushkin, where they served a molecular gastronomy version of the cake. They have closed down, unfortunately.
    In my family, we used a cooked condensed milk (you boil a can in a pot full of water for 2-4 hours and basically get dolce de leche) and butter in the cream. Walnuts were a welcome addition, I am sure pecans will also work very well (or caramelized pecans).
    All Russian cakes call for baking soda mixed with vinegar – I think the idea is that you release carbon dioxide when mixing soda and that will be your leavening. But not sure. Certainly in all recipes though.
    I haven’t made it in 20+ years, but I remember that the whole boiling of honey sounded weird to me too. It works though, in some miraculous way.
    My grandfather decided to make a dolce de leche out of condensed milk once, and went to watch debates on TV. The water boiled out and the can had exploded, leaving the walls and ceiling of his kitchen covered with burnt caramel.

  13. Lenna

    I think it is call Medovik. I’m no expert in Russian cakes but when I lived in Czech Republic there’s Czech cake called Medovnik and it’s honey cake. Because the word Med=Honey in most of Slavic language as far as I know anyway.
    And yes you need Walnut for that cakes :-)

  14. This looks truly amazing! I am of Hungarian origin – so anything that is compared to a Dobos gets my attention immediately. Thanks for sharing the recipe and tips – I’ll definitely have to try this!

  15. Wait, what? You published a recipe of a cake that has falling icing and melting sides? For as Everest-y as you say the experience was, I’m wondering, why not summit and come up with something that’s really….right? I’m sure it tastes great, but surely there’s a better solution than glopping the frosting around until it looks like a cake? a cake ring? acetate sides a la momofuku splendor? there’s gotta be something, Deb.

    1. deb

      You can set it in a ring if you wish, some people do (see earlier discussion), but it’s not going to fully remove the mess nor is it necessary to achieve perfection here. I made it twice — it works like a dream, just not the neatest construction.

      1. Katerina

        Deb,l have made this cske many many times,family favorite.lts originaly from Ukraine l believe and Czech name for this is Medovnik.l never made or saw recipe with sour cream,aleays with caramelized condensed milk(u boil submerged in eater for two hours),let cool and whip with butter,sprinkle with walnuts.Its spectacular when made about 3~4 days ahead,at least 2! Trick l have learned over the years is to make cream ahead and caramelize milk even a few weeks agead store in fridge.When working with dough,keep it cover with plastic foil all the time and roll the dough on silicon mat,thats the trick for perfect round pieces.Nooopw lm so hungry.We also cut this into tiny squares and served as Xmas cookies.

        1. Asia

          Yummy! This is the cake of my childhood :)
          Funny though, as far the name is regarded, in Poland it is often called the Czech cake :D

    2. Rainyday

      Wait, what? Did you even see the finished cake, Katie? It looks great. Pretty much every recipe that has this many steps is going to look a little wonky at some point in the process.

      Plus, if it’s delicious, who cares if the middle steps are a little messy. Thanks for the recipe and the years of research, Deb!

  16. MayravB

    I’ve also been researching Russian honey cakes! My family makes a loaf cake called a Kimmel Cake for Rosh Hashanah. It’s flavoured with fennel and anise seeds, cloves, allspice, and ginger (and honey, obviously). I’ve never come across a similar recipe. Puzzingly, while I know it to be authentic (the recipe came from Russia with a relative of mine), “kimmel” means “caraway” not “fennel.” Caraway seeds look a lot like fennel seeds, so maybe someone mistranslated from Yiddish? But they taste so different, so I can’t imagine someone putting caraway with anise. Yours looks delicious. It makes me think of an icebox cake!

    1. Sandy

      That’s what I thought of when Deb said honey cake. Deb, yours sounds delish. Honey cake my bubbe made for the new year was not delish. It tasted spicy and dry.

  17. C

    Hi, Deb

    Interesting concoction. Sounds tasty.

    I see another it’s / its swap — “on it’s way”

    (Also I think there’s a word missing from “contained exactly zero these things”)

  18. goneveg

    Thank you so much for posting this. I got really excited when I saw this on your Instagram a few days back. My mother used to make this back in the Soviet Union but we could never replicate it with American ingredients. I’m excited to try your version (although I will be adding walnuts, as we used to do back home).

    I have a question though: what kind of sour cream did you use? Because, as you may know, there’s quite a hubbub in the Russian-American community about sour cream and how the American version is inferior*. Did you get Russian-style sour cream or is this the good old American kind?

    1. deb

      I used American sour cream (Breakstone’s) because it doesn’t help anyone if I use an ingredient not readily available/I want to see how things work with grocery store standards. However, I’d read about this (omg so much research) and made my first batch with 1 cup of heavy cream worth of whipped cream folded in for richness and lightness but not in my second. To me, it made zero difference whatsoever, the one with cream didn’t seem richer or lighter, so I didn’t bother suggesting it here.

      1. When I’m making the cake, I’m using the full fat (10%) Greek yoghurt for the cream, it’a much closer in taste to what you’d call Russian sour cream. I made it with conventional sour cream too, and because it’s artificially soured, the cream ended up tasting more acidic than I like. It was still delicious, but I could taste the difference. Hope that helps!

  19. Charlotte in Toronto

    What a fantastic project. I’m fully booked with pie making this weekend, it being Canadian Thanksgiving, but next weekend will be game on for this cake. Can I use regular grocery store honey or should I look for something more exotic? Would it be scandalous to sneak a 1/4 tsp cinnamon into the cookie dough? I love honey and cinnamon together. This sounds like a delicious use of time and energy. I’m so glad that you persevered and didn’t trash it. We’ll all benefit from the grief it initially caused you.

    1. deb

      I used grocery store honey, not a problem. I considered suggesting cinnamon as an addition, I don’t think it would be unwelcome here, but ended up loving the caramel-y flavor and didn’t want to cover it. And thank you.

      1. Charlotte in Toronto

        I made this Sat/Sunday. It’s not nearly as neat and tidy as yours, but it tastes heavenly. I left out the cinnamon that I was threatening to add. I’m glad I did. I’ll be making this again closer to Christmas and hopefully it will be nicer looking. It was well worth the time and effort. Thank you for this.

  20. Ang

    I’ve made this with Greek yogurt rather than the sour cream. Healthier (not actually my intention) and tastier! Sacrilege probably, but it ended up tasting like a tangy cheesecake.

  21. Gorgeous. I seriously wish I could have a Rosh Hashanah do-over– I’m keeping it for next year! :)

    Incidentally, next time you’re in San Francisco, if you’ve not already been there, make sure to visit 20th Century Cafe. It’s a throwback to, um, the 20th Century, with a focus on Eastern European desserts. Their crowning jewel is the Honey Cake, which like you, I didn’t think I would like much. BUT WOW.

  22. Naomi

    Looks beautiful, can’t wait to try it out. By the way the reason some recipes have you inactivate baking sofa if cause sometimes you just want it to raise the pH, not add levening. If I remember correctly a higher pH increases browning, also changes flavor by getting rid of the tarntness from any acidic ingredients

    1. deb

      This was my theory, too! When you add it to the caramel, it immediately darkens. I was very happy with the color of the dough (because it looks honey-ish), darker than I saw in other recipes.

  23. Michaela

    I bake this cake on daily bases. In slovak it´s called medovnik. And I have some answers for you. :)
    We put only 2 Tbs of honey in the batter, because honey make the finished cake hard. So more honey – harder cake.
    When using recipe for this kind of cake, you use less butter. But when you want to bake soft cookies, dough contain more butter. We bake those cookies for Christmas (something similar to your ginger bread cookies). It´s common to bake them 3 weeks before holidays, because fresh cookies are hard. We store them in boxes with a slice of apple so they soften and are perfectly ready for Christmas. You can store these cookies up to 3 months.
    My recipe calls for caramelisation. But also for milk. I add milk to the hot honey caramel and then add eggs – no scrambled eggs :)
    I hope these informations helped. Medovnik is one of those intimidating cakes, that needs 2 or three tries, but after some practise, it´s pretty easy. I bake medovnik 1 to 2 times a week and even after couple of years I still can´t get enough. :)

  24. Kristine

    Also in Latvia we have our version of this cake and I’d like to think I have one of the best recipes for it :). Overall its quite similar to yours except mine is more like a sticky dough which you apply on the back of round cake pan with a wide knife, then bake it for 3 minutes, and repeat. This will yield even thinner, softer layers that still tastes amazing and soakes up all the beatiful and oh-so-simple sourcream sugar mixture. I think I might try your version to sweeten sour cream with condensed milk, it sounds delicious! Also, sometimes in every 3rd layer we would use lingonberry jam instead of sour cream. Love your blog and follow it religiously :)

  25. Madeline

    I am SO tempted to put this on my list of to-do’s this weekend! Is it a coincidence that you posted this in the middle of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?? I ALWAYS make my grandmother’s honey cake recipe (ready for #3 for yom kippur this Wednesday – family would mutiny if I didn’t!!!) … wonder if I should also offer this as an interesting additional honey cake?? Looks like a worthwhile project :) L’Shana Tova!

    1. deb

      Yes, I had it 99% ready for last Friday but a) got panicked and wanted to do one more round of testing and b) figured people would be made if I suggested a dairy dessert for what is often a meat meal. Thus, it works best in the middle. :)

  26. EOC

    WAITAMINUTE! I am married to a Czech. And this is definitely Czech honey cake. Exactly identically definitely. Now you’re telling me it’s actually Russian?! My in-laws have been lying to me. Well, them, and every bakery in Prague….

    1. Michaela

      I am from Slovakia and I have to say that your in-laws are safe. Czech honey cake “Marlenka” IS this cake! And it is very popular in Slovakia too.

    2. Helena

      I’m Czech and yes, this cake is super popular in our country but originally it’s from Georgia (I think). But I’m not surprised if they think it’s Czech – it really is in every bakery here!

    3. Katerina

      Im Czech and remember estung ir tbete but tbe origin is from Ukraine and it has many versions.And yes,bakeries are lying,its nit a czech specialty at all:) but l still make bcs its sooo good.

    1. I baked this Tuesday and assembled it Thursday, and will get to eat it tomorrow. Feedback so far:

      – next time I will actually use the cake pan as a cookie cutter instead of a cutting guide – my edges are rather ragged and it’s not a very pretty stack.
      – next time I will definitely go for 8-inch rounds – it was VERY difficult to get my circles near the 9-inch mark and I didn’t have much scrap left over, so I’m not sure how I’m going to decorate.
      – I used my kitchenaid mixer after the stovetop part – whisked on almost the highest setting while adding the eggs, and then swapped to the paddle (on low) for the flour.
      – I didn’t understand that the 3 1/2 cups flour, divided, was really just adding 3 cups of flour, then adding the final half-cup in two batches. I thought the final half-cup was for the dusting/rolling out, but I realized at almost the last minute what you meant. Could maybe use some clarification, I’m not sure.

      – I was not really confident about using SO much (3/4 c) per layer but it really worked well.
      – Despite the above, I might ease up a tiny bit on the amount per layer so I’d have a bit more left over for final decorating.
      – It did run quite a bit, and the stacks wanted to slide, but I got it in the fridge and they did NOT fall apart.
      – I left the mess in the fridge for 2 hours before checking on it, at which point it was a bit too late to try to nudge them into better alignment – they were already absorbing the liquid and the frosting was firming up.
      – I’m sad to report the color of the cake is bleeding through the top a little, and I don’t have lots of crumbs or leftover frosting to work with to hide it. My audience will be forgiving, but it doesn’t look as crisp as in the above pictures.

      I’m excited/nervous to try it!

  27. OMG. I doubt I will ever venture to try this, especially as I am killing myself to reduce my sugar intake (and that includes you, honey). But your story about chasing down the recipe and getting no resolution is too wonderful. I love you!

  28. I was just thinking about your questions, and while I can’t answer specifically as to amounts or best practices, I think the reason for the wide amount of variation between recipes is the same reason so many Russian things have a lot of variance in recipes.

    I think it’s largely scarcity and a kind of making-do…. In the soviet era, there wasn’t a lot to go around, and I feel like people just used whatever sweet/dairy item they could find. And eventually, it became part of the recipe, and got handed down. So… “I only have this, so I guess I’ll put it in the cake” eventually turns into “We’ve always done it like this, so I’m going to do it like this.”

    I don’t know if that’s helpful at all. This is the first time I’ve commented, although I’ve been following your blog for a couple of years now… I think your recipes are lovely. I use the zucchini bread recipe to make muffins and people always love them.

    Thank you.

    1. deb

      Thank you — I’ve thought of this many times. I get so stuck on details, I realized I was never going to make the cake (3 years and weeks of research later) because I was never going to get to the bottom of these things (baking soda, whisking eggs into boiling liquid) and then I did and I was so happy because it’s so unbelievably delicious.

  29. I was beyond thrilled when I saw the picture of the Russian Honey Cake. My hostess made this for my farewell party in 1995 after I had been in Ukraine for a visit. It was wonderful and I asked for the recipe. She gave me ingredients but eyeballed them–no measurements. No temp for baking and no time for anything. I savor the memory of that cake and have looked for a believable recipe for years. I think I’ve found it. Thank you so very much for the work, time, and guessing that you put into this. I hope to have help from one of my children when I visit at Christmas. Thank you again for this treasure.

  30. Ashley

    Deb I can only imagine how much time you devote to your cooking adventures. You are a hero! Saving us all from the humdrum. Say….while you’re at it and working from your Russian playbook maybe you could find a way to recreate the mind blowing pies from Stolle in St. Petersburg. They have meat, fish, fruit, etc. and they are beautiful to boot. After vacationing in Russia two years ago I still crave them. Google has let me down; maybe your Russian connections can win the day? 🇷🇺🇷🇺

      1. korovka

        They are awesome! The dough is definitely yeasted. They actually opened a cafe or two in the city over the last year but the pies doesn’t compare to the ones in SPb.

  31. allastar

    Dear Deb, I’m also a blogger and from former Soviet Union. Actually I have a recipe for this cake. Here’s 2 authentic recipes for the honey cookie layers:
    1. 250 gram margarine, 3 tablespoons honey, 4 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons baking soda, 3 eggs.
    2. 3 eggs, 60 gram butter (melted), 3 tablespoons honey, 4 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda diluted with white vinegar, 1 cup sugar.
    Rest of them the same you described in your recipe.

    We used to call this cake Medovyi Torte. I promise, I will try your recipe. In any case, if you wan to try Russian recipe, you can always ask me. I will be happy to help you.

  32. JP

    When you talk about whisking the honey mixture in the pot and adding the egg ever so slowly, it seems like it would be easier to use an electric mixer (with a whisk attached) directly in the pot rather than a hand whisk. Maybe you would have better control that way. Or at least it would be less of an arm workout. I once made a crepe cake with many layers like yours and by the 20th layer or so, with all the slipping and sliding, I threw it all into a springform pan, just to set. I thought all was lost, but it set and was delicious. Apparently, cakes with many thin cookie-like layers come from all over the world. Cook’s Illustrated has an apple stack cake from the good old USA and a strawberry version also.

  33. Jenny

    I’m so excited for this recipe! I fell in love with honey cake while studying abroad in Moscow (where I always heard it called medovnik) and have missed it ever since! I can’t wait to try making it myself.

  34. korovka

    Team smetannik here! Love this cake! I don’t have a family recipe, just an old classic Russian cookbook but I am going to have to try yours!

  35. I am tempted to hack this wonder with graham crackers lining a 9×12 glass pan, layering them with the sour cream/condensed milk mixture. Why not? The real McCoy will have to wait until the baby is potty-trained. Sigh.

      1. Dusty

        I tried the Graham Cracker approach. As Deb said, flavor was wonderful.

        I used 3/4 of a 16 oz box of Honey Graham’s. I made the cake in a ~5 1/2 by ~7 1/2 inch loaf [or “storage”] foil pan ~3 inches deep lined with Parchment Paper. Filling as Deb said except I added ~16 oz chopped walnuts because of the comments here. I started with 16 oz of sour cream and 1/2 of a 14 oz can of Sweetened Condensed Milk with 12 ounces of chopped walnuts and had to make another batch of a half container of sour cream and half of the remaining Sweetened Condensed Milk; plus open another bag of walnuts and use 1/2 of that bag.

        Totals were then 24 oz sour cream; 3/4 of the can of Sweetened Condensed Milk; the 16 oz of chopped walnuts. A tablespoon or two of honey was added to the filling mix to assure a ‘honey’ flavor. Small electric mixer rather than a whisk; although usually I prefer to use a whisk and avoid the electric mixer. A layer of the filling on the bottom of the lined pan; a layer of Graham Crackers; filling; Graham Crackers– until the pan was full. Top coated with filling. Maybe should have the crumb coating on the top for cover separation later? I counted seven layers of Crackers. The filling with the chopped nuts does not spread thinly very easily and I just did what worked quickly. This was done in mid-afternoon with the Yom Kippur deadline at sunset. I know the cake took 40 minutes while a Savory Noodle Kugel was baking. A piece of Parchment Paper for a cover and it sat in the fridge until serving time at the After-Dinner. The parchment paper let the cake slide out of the “mold” easily. I flipped the cake onto a serving platter first and then removed the pan and Parchment Paper. The “cover” Parchment Paper removed first and stuck filling scraped off and spread on the about-to-be bottom of the cake; the rest of the Parchment Paper peeled away reasonably nicely. A heavy dusting with Graham Cracker Crumbs.

        This is a rather small cake but it is so rich as to be better for being small. I placed the Graham Crackers so that the joints were not all aligned vertically. Pinched off some corners of the Crackers to match the corners of the pan. After about 30 hours in the fridge, nominal temp about at freezing, the cake cut easily and cleanly with a narrow spatula. Flavor is beyond fantastic. It would be fun to taste Deb’s cake and compare final flavors! :-)

        1. Dusty

          Next day: The cake has the flavor mostly of the Graham Crackers. It is still excellent and very rich. I had it for brunch along with leftover apple slices [without honey. Enough calories awreddy!]. The little cake will easily make at least 10 servings.

          1. Dusty

            October 27: For two weeks [16 days] this cake, ~40% of it, has been sitting in my fridge on its plate with the foil pan over it as a cover since the day it was first served. My fridge stays at about freezing and sometimes a trace colder. Tonight I had a serving as dinner [with milk]. A couple of small left-behind lumps were like candy. The served slice dried out some but is not stale. The sour cream, honey, other thick liquid ingredients in the filling have kept it quite nicely and it is very tasty. Time to use it up, however. I think for a couple of breakfasts with coffee? :-)

  36. Thea

    This cake! It is my nemesis. I was beaten in a work baking competition by a guy who made this cake (against your spiced applesauce cake). This looks exactly like his, it was absolutely delicious – can’t wait to give it a go myself. He called it a Russian Cream Cake, filled with sweetened sour cream – which I think was made with sour cream and powdered sugar, so it was a little thicker and didn’t run everywhere.

  37. TinaD

    This is funny. I had a similar, though less complex, dance with frustration after my grandfather died and left me the recipe for Hungarian nut roll (kalacs, or, apparently, if you are Polish, which I’m not, kolachi)…but only the dough. Dough is simple–sort of a thick yeasted strudel pastry, I even found a Craftsy class that does a version of it. Filling is another matter entirely; the one I remember from childhood had ground walnuts and lemon and maybe sugar and…something. But the cookbooks and the websites and whoever usually cook the walnut filling. With thickeners. And apples. Sometimes raisins. And are inclined to omit the lemon in favor of flavors like cinnamon. These make perfectly nice fillings, but they aren’t the “something”; the effect is rather more breakfast oatmeal than I remember. When I ask my mom, who was there and thus should know, she says, vaguely, “just grind some nuts…” When I ask other Hungarians, they say “get it from a bakery.”

    1. Cory

      My Hungarian grandmother taught me to make nut roll. The filling is super-simple. Grind some nuts. Add sugar to taste. Add a little cinnamon if you like. Add a bit of milk until it is sticky. Add golden raisins if you wish – my grandmother did. Roll it up in your dough. Good luck!

      1. Diane

        I make both nut roll and the same dough filled with poppyseed. Your filling sounds right. I add plain raisins because I always seem to be out of golden raisins. I use a food processor and watch it very carefully so it doesn’t turn to paste. Maybe 8-10 clicks. But, my mother taught me to cook the filling for a few minutes to better incorporate the sugar. You must let it cool. The other trick she had is to spread the pastry with a very thin layer of jam (raspberry, strawberry or apricot) before adding the nut or poppyseed filling.

  38. Nika

    Very good recipe. If you are still struggling with figuring out the dough for the layers, this is the recipe I use (in Russian, but it has pictures for the steps): The steps for the layers are as follows: melt the sugar in a pan until golden brown, add honey, add butter, cool it down a little, add 1/3 of flour, add eggs (this is how you do not end up with scrambled eggs, flour will cool the mixture down), add baking soda and citric acid, add the rest of the flour, mix everything well. With this method the dough is not sticky at all once it cools down and there is no need to reheat it.
    To all the people wondering if using cream cheese instead of sour cream is a good idea: no, don’t even try. Yes, sour cream may be sloppy and messy, but that’s not the kind of cake which requires excellent frosting/decoration work. There were a lot of good suggestions on how to deal with it in the comments. I sometimes use coarse crumbs and walnuts/pecans between the layers to help hold the cream in place. Sour cream is what makes the cake moist and gives it its unique flavor and texture. The layers are dry and very cookie-like and will not get enough moisture with cream cheese (and it is too fatty anyway).

  39. My Russian friend from Khabarovsk in the RFE uses boiled [caramelized] EagleBrand sweetened condensed milk for the filling. Obviously, you must have five hours, and a large paying so you don’t blow up your house. The cakes are not cookies, and salted crackers for the coating are required to “pop” the flavors.

  40. This made me laugh: ‘This will quickly become a huge mess’. Sometimes the bigger the mess, the better the cake. I imagine this would taste heavenly. I adore honey so would use a heavy-flavoured one to ensure it shone through.

  41. Kelly Ryan

    Than you so much for this recipe! I have loved your Boozey French Toast for years!.
    I had this cake for the first time in a hole in the wall cafe in Prague, and I still remember it as the best thing I had ever tasted. I also remember there being a lot of nuts as I was breaking my paleo diet to eat it, and they made me feel a little better. I think it was called medovik there, but I thought they said it was the company who made it … of course this was eons ago. I look forward to giving this a go when I get back to my kitchen — and maybe I will look for a way to make it paleo-ish.

    1. deb

      I feel like it has potential, my bigger concern is that it has a bendy toughness to the cookie before it is soaked that gluten plays some role in. But I imagine it would be fairly forgiving of g-f flours, regardless.

    2. I had a version of this cake at Beyond Bread in London and it was THE BEST CAKE I’VE EVER HAD IN MY LIFE. And totally gluten-free. So it’s definitely doable. I’m planning to give it a try.

  42. Golly. You were convinced the cake was a failure, yet you still went to the trouble of putting a pretty flower on top. I am so very impressed. Which I hope makes up for the involuntary LOL I did when I recognized that photo from the other day, the one with all the icing dripping out between the cookies. Sooo funny. You should sell it to a birthday card company.

    1. deb

      Heh. I’ve had enough flops over the years that I know that it’s worth testing all my theories (i.e. “would a stencil work for a more unique look?”) even on a flop so when I get it right, I’ll have that much less research to do. Except, it turned out to be wonderful: double-yay.

  43. Hi Deb! First, I’m a huge fan of your blog. I’ve been reading it for years, but as in that joke the soup was never hot enough for me to speak up. But here your post leaves me with a sense that you weren’t completely satisfied with the process, and I can’t tell if the result was even worth all the frustration.
    Anywho, this cake was my favorite growing up (I’m originally from Belarus), but my mom didn’t make it. It was a time where you were screwed if you didn’t have the recipe: no internet, no way to find it. I am an obsessive baker, and because I was determined to find THE BEST recipe, I did the whole ATK thing and came up with something that makes sense, is relatively easy to make and tastes divine. I even translated it into English, so if you are interested in a frustration free version, drop me a line and I’ll share!
    P.S. The cake you made is Medovik (one version of it), Smetannik has no honey in it, and the dough is made with sour cream, hence the name. They look similar though, that’s why people confuse them I guess.

    1. deb

      Thank you! I should have said more at the end, this post had run so much longer than most and I wanted a quick exit: WE LOVED THIS CAKE. It was perfect. I was so happy all of my handwringing and obsessive research paid off — I really feel, in hopefully a way that doesn’t sound boastful, just excited — it was the best I ever had and if you’re someone who loves this but making it at home has eluded you, make this. But I would love to see your version. I am sure it is amazing.

        1. C

          Is there a link? I am intrigued but a bit daunted, even if the results are great. I’d love to know how the two compare and am willing to try a frustration-free recipe.

          1. Sorry, no link! It’s my own recipe developed through trial and error, perfected through the years. I’ve been making this cake without deviating from the final recipe for about 6 years now, and it’s pretty much hassle free with reliably great results every time. I’d post the recipe here, but it’s against the rules!

            1. deb

              Sorry — don’t mean to be a meanie about posting recipes. It’s more that a) it’s very easy for a comment section to become a recipe dump (i.e. a gazillion copied-and-pasted recipes, not meaning that your or any recipe is a dump!) and it’s a lot to scroll through that nobody would know what to do with it when what we really need to know is why x recipe might work better than y recipe, etc. Also I am afraid of someone telling me I’m running a copyrighted recipe of theirs and I had no idea because it was just a copy-paste in the comment… Regardless, thank you for offering to share it. I’d love to see as well!

  44. Garlic + Zest

    I love/admire/am in awe of your dedication to making this — and I have to say, it’s a stunner! It does remind me of a dobos torte, but then it’s also like those chocolate icebox cakes made with layers of chocolate wafers and whipped cream. Either way, it doesn’t suck! I want to make this one!

  45. MMD

    Hello, beautiful looking cake!
    I would suggest draining the sour cream overnight in order to avoid having a soft and runny fill. This is what I do and what is usually recommended with a sour cream that is not as high in fat as the original-Russian-recipe sour cream.

  46. Chrissy

    Holy cow. I am pregnant, and now I am craving this like crazy. I need this NOW! Not sure I can wait two days, and I’d probably screw something up anyway. Le sigh.

  47. Deb, I love you for making this! Medovik is my favorite!!

    The last time I made it I added a cup of whipped cream to the sour cream, and it helped keep the cream inside. That said, it made the cake taste incredibly buttery and rich, perhaps even too much so. Who knew that could be possible?

    My mom sent me a recipe for a “lazy medovik” a while back which is a more traditional-looking cake with very similar flavors; I’ll send it your way when I find it.

  48. Fel

    I like the cake very much – I also had it in Slovakia and Czech Republic (as “medovnik”), as well as in Poland (“cudak”), but heard the name “Marlenka” as well and that it originates from Georgia (there I heard could have a dark version, with cocoa, and can be eaten hot).

  49. moniqueo

    Hi Deb
    There is a whole company in Perth Australia making a similar ‘honey cake’. Since tasting there’s I had also looked at several conflicting recipes, but then given it a miss. I think I might actually be able to try making it now with your help.

    PS I am pretty sure the company uses ground walnuts on the layers also, but layers the cookie disks with a honey caramel sauce type concoction. It isn’t tooth achingly sweet though, just right.

  50. Laurie Confer

    Could you whisk a bit of the hot honey mixture into the beaten eggs first, to get them ready for the heat, then whisk that mixture into the rest of the hot honey on the stove? This is the technique I use for lemon meringue pie, a la Betty Crocker.

    1. Oy With The Rolling

      This was my instinct as well. I tried to dribble a little of the hot liquid into the eggs and it just balled up and wouldn’t incorporate. But pouring the eggs slowly into the hot liquid totally works.

  51. Monika

    Whiffled through a couple of my OLD cookbooks (Time-Life Russian and Anya Von Bremzen’s Russian) and they had medivnik as a honeyed loaf cake with dried fruit and nuts. On looking at your recipe, it looked kind of familiar to me (dough and method of mixing) – it’s almost the same recipe as my gingerbread house dough, except it doesn’t have the cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and cardamom that the house recipe has. (The gingerbread house recipe is also out of a Time-Life book, but in the German one). The melting pot strikes again!!!

  52. Ripple

    I made this 10 days ago for Rosh HaShana. It is indeed divine. I seems very complicated and messy, but once you set out to do it, it’s not that big of a deal. Dough is simple, filling is a breeze and rolling out the layers is a bit of a chore, but by the second one you get the hang of it.

    Two quick comments though:

    1. I rolled the dough as thin as possible, baked, cooled and then cut to shape. Think it might be easier to form very thin layers.

    2. I worked from Hebrew recipes and none had condensed milk in them. All recommended high fat content sour cream, which is thicker. The filling was essentially cream mixed with sugar and honey.

  53. This is very similar to a Hungarian recipe that is oh so famous and beloved in my family. My mom would prepare it on special occasions, in rectangular form, cut it into diamonds and dust with powdered sugar. I have even used the recipe to create glorious wedding cakes! It is usually the requested birthday cake and holiday treat around here; yep, it’s good! Here’s the Hungarian version:
    Thanks for sharing the Russian version!

  54. Hilary

    I’ve been looking for a reliable recipe for this ever since I read about 20th Century Cafe’s version!

    Question: would it be easier if you chilled the icing BEFORE adding it to the layers? Would this help with the runny mess? Seems like it would still be able to soak into the layers.

    1. deb

      I don’t think that the runniness has anything to do with temperature. I mean, I take the sour cream right from the fridge and whisk it. I think it’s just the way sour cream with sugar is. But it all works out, just a little messy getting there.

      1. Ilze

        Hi, Deb!

        I can tell from my personal experience with honey cakes that chilling sour cream after sugar has been added (in my version it’s sugar and not sweetened condensed milk) actually helps to make things more manageable.

  55. Anna Bets

    Hello from Moscow! This is the favorite cake of my family, the same ingredients for the layers, but i boil it on the “water bath” Filling = butter+sweetened condensed milk . Always bake double portion and prefer square layers.
    And please be sure – it’s Medovik )

  56. Janet

    Have you already found Toné-Café on East 17th Street? It’s a take-out place that serves Georgian food. The original location is on Neptune Avenue in Brighton Beach.

      1. emilyadi

        Cool! Yes, it tasted very good, thank you! My mom loved it. My boyfriend…well, I think he expected it to taste a little different. He said he was expecting a tres leches type cake, since he saw me using sweetened condensed milk. I guess he missed the sour cream going in…

    1. Oooh yours came out great, Emily! I love the face on it! Did you use the leftover scraps from baking, or did you supplement? I haven’t ground my scraps yet but I don’t think I’ll have nearly that many to work with (I may have eaten cake batter for dinner that night…).

  57. laurie655

    Have you ever made vinatarta? 5 or 7 layer “cake”. Icelandic. Prune based filling between shortbread type baked layers, spiced with cardamon. Needs several weeks of “curing”. It is my Christmas go-to recipe for my children who have a partly Icelandic background.
    The thin layers concept obviously spans many countries with only the ingredients differing. Fantastic comments from all over!

  58. Natalia

    Cannot wait to make this cake. I think it will become a Christmas favorite. I used to make a walnut torte, very time consuming. It used a lot of walnuts, but the rum was the best part. I do want to ask about a Honey Cake my mother used to make. She was from Poland and every year right after Thanksgiving she would make a honey cake in a sheet pan. It was a spice honey and it was very very hard. She would lightly cover it and put it away and miraculously by Christmas it was so soft. She would then lightly ice it with a Chocolate topping. I have never bin able to find a recipe that resembles this. Can u help?

    1. Hi Natalia…I grew up in Germany and this sounds awfully like Lebkuchen. I did a little digging for you to find the version that gets aged (mine is torn out of an old Brigitte and it’s in German):

      This recipe has more history and the chocolate glaze, but the Nuernberger Lebkuchen is softer from the beginning:

      Hope this helps.

      Deb, I’m enjoying the conversation as much as this fabulous recipe, which I’ll certainly be trying soon!

  59. Sofia

    Hi Deb! Even though I’ve had (and loved) this cake many times, I haven’t been truly inspired to make it until now. I’ve always known it as medovik (as it’s labelled at all the Russian bakeries in my ‘hood), while smetannik is a cake that has chocolate and vanilla layers, sour cream filling, and a chocolate ganache topping. They’re similar and I can totally see why there’s no consensus, but they are two distinct Russian cakes, regardless of what they’re called, that are both worth seeking out. Loved this post and will be back for the recipe when I’m ready to finally make it :)

  60. Dot

    Hi Deb, I’ve made this cake this weekend because I just couldn’t resist. Your pictures are beautiful and the blog made me laugh so much! I am slightly disappointed with the way mine turned out. It still tastes grrat but for some reason the cream filling turned out quite runny and so I really don’t get the layering that you achieved. I also have lots of the mixture left over. Do you have any advice here? Thanks, Dot

    1. deb

      Oof, it sounds like you needed all that filling in the cake for it to work. Was it impossible to keep it inside even putting 3/4 cup per layer? Did you use regular sour cream? I don’t mean the questions to be an interrogation ;) — if this isn’t working as written with regular ingredients, I definitely need to know.

      1. I’m not Dot, but wanted to reassure you about the ingredients – so far so good. My cake is still in the fridge, but I followed the directions as written, including using the 3/4 cup of frosting per layer, which seemed like a LOT but did result in using up almost all of it AND letting me achieve the layers.

        One note for anyone making it down this far – I got it in the fridge and revisited after 2 hours, and it was already a little too late to be able to nudge the layers into better alignment. Next time (if we like it!) I will be more precise in trimming the cakes before they go in the oven, and I will revisit the stack after letting it chill for about an hour, to see if it’s a bit easier to move the layers.

        I baked Tuesday and assembled Thursday and will be eating Saturday. I will update my post further upstream after I try the cake!

  61. Jessica

    I made this a few years back and could not get it to the thin layers you did. Four sufficed and kept it more cake-y. I, too, found great discrepancies with the recipes. Same issues with the frosting, and ended up creating a lopsided, melting mess. It tasted like a Lebkuchen more than a medovik. I love this recipe nonetheless, and haven’t attempted it since.

  62. Can I help you answer why some American versions use mixture of heavy cream and sour cream for the filling?

    It is because Russian Smetana in fact is cultured or soured heavy cream, which, if whipped is going to hold its shape like our heavy cream, but have the tang of sour cream.
    So to get the same texture and flavor here in US as Russians get in Russia, we mix heavy cream for fatness and stability, with sour cream for tang. If you do this, your cream won’t run and you’ll have more frosting between the layers of the cake because it stays put.

  63. Jenny

    I made this over the weekend and have a few suggestions if you’re wanting to use a cake ring to form the cake. I assembled the cake inside the ring, allowed it to chill for a few hours in the ring, and then removed the ring and allowed it to chill overnight. If I were doing it again, I would evenly spread the filling on top of the cookies without leaving a margin around the edge, because the cake ring kept everything in place so the filling didn’t spread all the way to the edges in some places. I would also save some of the filling to put around the outside of the cake after I took the ring off; I didn’t have very much that dripped down the sides because everything was so held in place, and ended up making some extra filling in order to adhere the crumbs. The cake didn’t turn out quite as pretty, due to some of these issues, but it was still delicious!

  64. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I’ve been looking for this recipe forever and tried several duds. I love this cake! I’ve bribed friends to bring me medovik back from their trips to Prague. My husband special ordered medovik from some secret source as my Christmas present. Thank you for doing all the leg work to give us this recipe. I can’t wait to try this recipe.

  65. Laryssa

    This was delicious! Not heavy, and just the right amount of sweetness. Made 8″ rounds (after near tears when making the first 9″ round, which I realized after was actually 10″!), used 1/2 c. filling per layer when assembling, and had minimal oozing! I had no problems rolling out the dough when it had cooled, though the first round was a challenge. I ended up with 11 layers, so I made two smaller cakes – I was worried the added height and weight would cause too much filling to ooze out. Also sprinkled about 2 tbsp. toasted, finely chopped walnuts on the filling of each layer, since walnuts + honey + yogurt (which is almost sour cream) = awesome!

  66. Rebecca

    I’m a long time lurker despite using your recipes to make about 95% of my meals. I just wanted to comment on this post, though, bc the timing was too perfect not to say something. I am also married to a Russian and have similarly found it a baffling mess to find consensus on most Russian recipes–especially cakes. I’ve given up making Russian cakes for my husband’s birthday despite them being delicious bc it was too difficult.
    So imagine my surprise and joy when I open up smitten kitchen on his birthday to find that you’ve posted an easy to follow recipe of his favorite Russian cake! Thank you!! I’m planning on making this next weekend and can finally bake something Russian without a lot of guesswork. :) :) If you ever feel the need to tackle any other Russian food, know that you’play have at least 1 extremely happy reader! ;)

  67. Hilary

    As a fellow American married to a Russian (though alas, my in-laws are not fantastic cooks), I appreciate Russian recipes! This looks fantastic and I will certainly make it soon, though perhaps not until a birthday or other extra special occasion — it looks like too much effort for Sukkot. Do you know about a Russian recipe called a walnut torte?

  68. Elley

    as usual, your posting of a new recipe bordered on psychic as i was going to the birthday party of a russian friend today. i assembled the cake friday night and did the finishing touches this morning. not sure what i did wrong with the dough, but i nearly gave up a few times because the layers kept sticking to the parchment paper. i had to tease the edges of each rolled out cookie with my fingers while holding my breath. it got marginally easier as the dough came closer to room temp.
    it was worth all the time and trouble when it came out so beautifully, and all the russians said it tasted authentic. my only regret was not adding enough frosting between the layers. i used maybe a half a cup each and it never quite made it to the edges.

  69. dinazad

    I first came across this cake in Poland, where it was called “czeski placek”, i.e. Czech cake (made by my friend and filled with vanilla butter cream and glazed with chocolate) Then I had it (or something very, very similar) in Prague, where it became a reason to sit in yet another café and have a piece (here it’s an “old Czech honey cake”). I also heard it was Armenian, Georgian, you name it. In any case: it’s fabulous! I fill it with Dulce de Leche and add ground walnuts to the crumb topping.

  70. Your post made me laugh so hard! I’m definitely not going to make this cake but it reminded me of a Chilean cake with dozens of thin cake/crepe layers stuck together with sweetened condensed milk. We called it the WW3 ultimate weapon. Eat a slice and die, basically. On the other hand, your cake does look good. I hope you get an answer about the walnuts bit. Love walnuts.

  71. Sarah V

    Loooooong time reader, first time commenter! Our fridge is slightly off-kilter and so putting the cake in meant it slid around a LOT before the icing had a chance to set. I fixed this by using metal skewers (long toothpicks or long wooden skewers for BBQing would work too) in the middle of the cake to help keep it all stacked straight while the icing set. Worked like a charm!! Hope others find this useful too!

  72. Nuala

    Any thoughts on whether the cookie layers could be made in advance and frozen, then thawed to assemble the cake? This seems like it would make an amazing thanksgiving dessert, but I try to do as much up front as possible.

  73. canuckerrant

    Just a quick question – how well does this work if the icing / filling is refrigerated before being added in between the layers? I’ve seen at least one other recipe for honey cake that does so, and it seems to me that it would keep the filling from, well, *oozing* quite so much if it’s chilled before stacking and refrigerating.

    1. deb

      I’m not sure how big of a difference it would make because the ingredients are cold — I take the sour cream from the fridge and use it as soon as I’ve mixed the milk in.

  74. Jenny

    “and when Rabbit said, ‘Honey or condensed milk with your bread?’ he was so excited that he said ‘Both,’ and the, so as not to seem greedy, he added ‘but don’t bother about the bread, please.’ ”

    I *was* going to make a plain old Bear-shaped cupcake for my son’s upcoming Winnie the Pooh birthday party, but now…

  75. Yay! I’m so glad you’ve discovered this delightful cake. Tender, moist, and light, with the perfect sweet/tart balance.

    The recipe I follow is a little different but the result is very similar. I often put walnuts on top and sometimes between the layers, and will sometimes sprinkle chocolate shavings on top instead of or in addition to the walnuts. I don’t bother with the crumb coating and don’t mind if the sweetened sour cream runs off the sides a bit :)

    A few years ago I entered this cake into a local Cake vs. Pie contest in Seattle and it placed second in the Cake category! (Pie took the grand prize that year.) Sadly, my Russian Anthill cake didn’t fare as well the following year :(

  76. I noticed a dough whisk in the photo, but not in the instructions…. does the dough whisk work well once the flour is added? Or did you decide a spoon worked better? I am always looking for a reason to use mine! Also, any thoughts on using gluten free flour here?

  77. Wasana

    I have been waiting for the day that you make this. We ate it at a Kyrgyzstan restaurant and have been dreaming about it since. I’m making this today after work and perhaps bring it to the break-fast super on Wednesday! Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. deb

      I just used a sheet of parchment, one leftover from baking, folded it up like you’re making a snowflake and cut the wedge into a teardrop shape. Put the crumbs all around this. I describe it in the last steps.

  78. As a lover of almost every dairy product I’ve ever tried (in our country and many others), I have to say, smetana is not EXACTLY the same as sour cream. I love sour cream. I did not like smetana (the one time I visited Russia). I have no idea what the difference is, but it struck me as very distinct from sour cream, so I have always found it funny that it gets consistently translated as sour cream. I’ve only had Russian honey cake once (from an Eastern European store in the Seattle Area) and it did not have a dairy-based filling/frosting, so I can’t comment on how either would turn out, but I suspect it would have a bit of a different taste if made with smetana, which is really an excuse for more experiments!

  79. Louise

    So, first, I am so upset. I made the layers and it is frosted – and I just realized that I think I forgot the baking soda. And I know why! I had to do the first step of butter, honey and sugar twice because the first time I slowly dripped the eggs in the slightly cooled mixture I ended up with something like egg drop soup. So, I started over and poured the honey mixture into a bowl so it would not retain the heat from the pot.
    I took the suggestion of using a cake ring – but instead I used a 9 1/2″ spring form pan. The base served as the cake base and I frosted all the layers and the sides in the springform. Then after it was chilled, I took off the sides and cleaned it up. It worked well.
    I think it would work better if the frosting was a smidge thicker so it did not run so much. I was wondering about a little powdered sugar – but that would change the flavor??
    I think the sour cream/condensed milk combo was fabulous – it would be great over fresh fruit.

    1. deb

      How did it all come out? I’m not convinced the baking soda does a ton here — darken the cake a little, maybe lightens the texture a hair but probably not much after being dropped into such a hot mixture. Did it taste okay?

      1. Louise

        Tasted fabulous. I don’t think leaving out the baking soda made a big difference. My friend from Ukraine said it was amazing – and right on. the flavor and texture are unique – not like any other cake I have ever tasted. I agree with others that it taste likes graham crackers. A few comments. I found I had to add almost another cup of flour to make it stiff enough to roll. I also found it easier to roll when it had sat for a few minutes. My division into 8 pieces was not that good so I ended up with 7 layers. Even though I had 8 – not 7 – I found I could use more frosting. Also, because I like the flavor of honey, next time I will use a slightly stronger tasting honey. Thanks for a great and unique recipe!

  80. Rawan

    I used to work at a daycare in Dubai and there was this sweet little bakery next door that would sell this EXACT cake. I love it and have wanted to recreate it at home, but never found anything that remotely resembles it, but hands down yours looks exactly like it! I can’t wait to try this next Friday! I’ll be sure to tag you in the photos on Instagram.

  81. Petra

    Love your recipes! And already made a few.

    Today I read in the comments that there is a pdf printing option in the posts. Unfortunately I can’t find it. Would you mind to remind me?

    1. deb

      I’m not even sure that there is. What there is in many browsers is when you go to the print menu, an option to print as a PDF. Does that work for you?

  82. Tally in Dubai

    I live in Dubai, which has a large population of Russian expatriates so honey cake is pretty common here and it is almost always the same.

    Out here, honey cake seems to be layered honey flavored sponge with buttercream frosting (once again honey flavored). It is very soft and creamy with a pleasant honey flavor that does remind you of graham crackers.

    It looks exactly like the cake you made but I wonder how the taste differs.

  83. LuisaCA

    FINALLY! I thought you had not gotten my request for Medovik. I wish I could have sent pix of my Abominable Snowcake as it dripped the sour cream frosting, but it ended up delicious!

  84. Super good cake! I unfortunately had the same issue another commenter did and my icing mixture turned into soup, so mine doesn’t have the right proportion of icing to layers like yours does, HOWEVER the bits that are properly softened by the icing are good enough that I’d absolutely try a round 2!

    – mix your icing FIRST and start off mixing half of the condensed milk into the sour cream. Make sure it keeps an icing consistency and doesn’t just turn into soup!
    – keep any extra icing you have around in case your layers aren’t as neatly defined as they are in the picture, you’ll want that extra icing as you eat the cake.
    – whisking the eggs into the sugar wasn’t nearly as heart-stopping as I envisioned. Just keep whisking constantly, pour slowly, and don’t do it on the heat!
    – the dough will stick to the parchment if it’s too hot- you want it warm to the touch but not fresh out of the pot.
    – lightly flouring the outside of the dough (like you’d flour a mochi ball) helped with the sticking even further
    – when you peel off the top sheet of parchment, peel it back almost parallel to itself (like you’d pull off a wax strip). If the paper is near perpendicular to the dough it wants to stick a lot more. It can also help to roll the dough out and then wait a minute for it to cool even further before peeling.
    – DO NOT try to ice this on a cake plate that doesn’t have a lip. I did, it was a disaster… transferred to a springform pan… that was a disaster… eventually it ended up in a bowl.

    1. I also think that if you end up with runny icing you could punch a larger hole out of the middle of the cake and pour icing in the hole to soak up into the cake overnight- would be a good way to get icing into the inner layers.

      In thinking about it I strongly suspect that I overbaked the layers by a bit and they’re not supposed to be as dry as they turned out (even soaking up the icing).

  85. Emily

    I love that it’s still summer in Smitten Kitchen, but I was wondering if you planned to change the ‘in season’ section with the seasons. I found that extremely helpful this summer plus the pictures are georgous! Thanks!

  86. what a dramatic intro for a cake – wow!, and the result is stunning! I´m usually not that much into bang multiple layer cakes, but I really am into honey, so I´ll definitely jump into Russian baking soon!

  87. Hey Deb,

    This looks like something that I really want to eat but may not have the time or inclination to actually make. This may be cheating but can you tell me which russian bakery you fell in love with this at?

    P.S. about to make the cauliflower soup recipe you just posted and am super stoked!

  88. Shirley

    Hi Deb!! I was waiting forever for a reliable recipe for medovik and it doesnt get any reliable than you!! Im just making it now and unfurtunately the dough came out really sticky (even after I added an extra oz of flour) and ive used a scale so all was measured well… Any ideas? Im afraid its not useable and I will have to start over(Ive tried to make first layer and coldnt get it out from the parchment paper, now its in the fridge, I thought maybe I will be able to get it out cold)

    Thank you


    1. Shirley

      Well, an update 😊 My first attempt with the dough was just as I finished making it since I wanted to work with it as it still warm like you said, I found it better (not to say perfect) to work with after it rested. Half an hour later it looked just like your photo! I guess it has a lot to do with room temperature and humidity levels and it varies between places. Since I couldnt get the first attempt out of the parchment paper I did this- I left the rolled dough between two parchment papers and put it on the baking tray and I put a smaller tray on the dough as a weigh and when it came out (after about 6 min at 350) it was perfectly and evenly baked, then I used my 9 inch ring to cut it. The secong one I baked without the weigh tray and it rose a little so once it came out of the oven I put the weigh tray on it so it will coll down leveled and so it did. The rest I baked with the tray on since I find it better. Thank you for another perfect recipe!

    2. Are you at higher altitude? I just wonder if that might be the cause- high altitude would probably need extra flour. I am, so it would be nice to know ahead of time if I’ll encounter that :)

  89. Katie

    Thank you for this! I lived in the Czech Republic for a while and I still miss medovnik! I’ve searched for a recipe, but the few I found either didn’t make sense or contradicted each other and eventually I gave up. But this looks great! So, so excited to make this.

  90. Lena

    I am Russian and this is my favorite cake but I have never made it. I always have seconds when my great aunt makes it at family parties. I will make this for my boyfriends family when they come to visit. Surely, this will make them love me right? ;)

  91. This post brought tears to my eyes—both of sadness and joy. You see, my grandma in the old country used to make this honey cake for every holiday. Those were some of my best childhood memories—of slathering the layers in sour cream, cutting off (and devouring) the uneven edges, cutting into the final product the next day (we always let it sit overnight to let the layers fuse and meld with the divine creaminess). I haven’t had it since I came to US 22 years ago and babushka Anya had passed on. But seeing it now on you blog inspired me to take it on—thank you!

  92. Sari

    I made this cake on Thursday, and it is wonderful! Your instructions were perfect, and it worked exactly as you said it would, thank you. It also lasts well, but will surely be finished before day 5!
    Sari, from Cape Town

  93. Glenna

    So, I’ve been thinking. I’ve never made a torte or cookie anything like this before. But the other day I was at this Kitchen Connection store or whatever it’s called and saw PRE-cut parchment paper. Isn’t that awesome? So being the impulse shopper that I am I went ahead and got a pack of 30. Still have yet to bake anything. Sweet Procrastination. Anyway, if there are any other lazy bones out there like me you can look for them. Besides I always manage to mess up when cutting wax paper. Just too flimsy.

  94. I have a similar recipe on my blog, where the layers are made with sweetened condensed milk and filled with whipped cream. It is called Milchmädchentorte, because in Germany sweetened condensed milk has that name. Don’t be afraid, the recipe is in german and in english.
    I do love honey so I will definitely try your recipe, too.
    Love your site!
    Greetings from Germany


  95. I love this! I’ve definitely gotten the same kind of question being that my husband is Jamaican. It’s always fun to explore those “signature” dishes, if you will. This one looks incredible. You did a beautiful job!

  96. RK

    Yes! We called it smetannik and it was my favorite growing up!!!! I used to help my mother make it. Thank you Deb for bringing back sweet memories (pun intended..)

  97. lynchsw

    I loved Medovnik (Czech name for the same/a similar cake) while living in the Prague but I could never find plausible sounding a recipe. Thank you for this! I can’t wait to get back to my own kitchen and start baking.

  98. Carrie

    After visiting Prague four years ago, I got the harebrained idea to make honey cake for Thanksgiving. Because of that, your befuddlement at the recipes you were able to find online is total deja vu. They were few and far between, and what I found were so completely different from each other, I didn’t know what to believe. The results that Thanksgiving were not great. Happy to bookmark this for a future attempt if I get ambitious again!

  99. Adaire Hiestand

    I think I may have a partial answer for your variation questions.. when we lived in Russia it was difficult to obtain many ingredients. Smetana was one standby I could usually find. And sugar usually but not so much honey – it was a bit harder to find in the city but easy in the country. I wonder if sometimes the recipes are from the people being so adaptable to using what they could find to make their food. Looks amazing!!!

  100. I’ve been having this exact dilemma for the past few months. I had it homemade in Hungary, and I couldn’t reach the lady who made it for a recipe. She called it Medovnik and made it with a cream and plum jam filling. As my search began, NONE of the recipes I read online made any sense, and no two recipes were the same. Not to mention how the ones with flour filling resulted in a giant question mark! After reading your recipe, I’m just a bit more encouraged to go back to my search using your recipe as a guideline. Thanks for posting it!

  101. Hendy

    So, I just made this, and here is my pennysworth. It looked amazing in the end, first of all, having been as disastrous in preparation as the pictures/recipe had suggested it would. But sadly, it was ultimately a failure. This is because the icing was just too runny, and simply never thickened as promised, even after a night in the fridge. I couldn’t have served it on the plate it had been assembled on, since the cookies were sitting in a swimming pool of icing. I decanted it, poured away the excess, covered it in crumbs, and it did look fab. But when cut to serve, the icing had drained away from between every layer, so what I was serving was eight dry cookies squashed together, with no icing between each layer as in SK’s picture. So it was dry and fairly tasteless to serve. Perhaps this is due to my preparing it in England, and the different qualities of the sour cream here? Less thick? If I were to prepare it again (which I won’t), I would endorse an earlier suggestion to add condensed milk cautiously to sour cream to create the right consistency, rather than automatically using the exact amounts in the recipe. Just too runny!! Shame. But it obviously is working well for lots of people, it just carried a risk warning in my opinion. Good thing I made a batch of (Smitten Kitchen!) brownies as well!!

    1. Tatyana

      The recipe for cake layers is spot on, but putting condensed milk in sour cream is a recipe for disaster and I’ve never heard of anyone doing it this way. If you want a sour cream frosting, just add *powdered* sugar to sour cream and lemon zest. That’s it. It will not be runny, it will be a perfect consistency. Do not attempt with regular sugar, as frosting will run. Good luck!

      1. Hendy

        Many thanks Tatyana! I think you’re right when it comes to UK sour cream and condensed milk, they must both be much runnier than US versions.

        1. Tatyana

          Also, if you really want to incorporate condensed milk, you should use the dulce de leche (which is made by cooking the condensed milk for an hour to an hour and a half, to create a caramel confection that is much more dense and thus more suitable to be mixed with sour cream to create a non-runny frosting). Cheers!

  102. TomatoWench

    Here in Jordan this cake is known as Circassian cake… or something similar – anyway sounds as if it was brought from the Caucasus to here by refugees a century or more ago. I definitely recognize it. Interesting historical cake connection… thanks for the recipe!

  103. Lindsay

    Hi Deb,

    This looks fantastic! I was wondering about the eggs:

    Why can’t you temper them with a bit of the boiling mixture before reconstituting the whole thing back together in the pot? It seems like it might be a little less nerve wracking than adding them to the pot directly. I don’t mind the hand-mixing aspect at all, but I know that technique is used – especially in custard based recipes.

    I scrolled through your comments below, and while users made some reference to eggs, I didn’t see your respond to anything about this particular question. I apologize though if I missed it! I can’t wait for your next book!!!!

    1. deb

      I agree, I definitely thought about it but I was so … curious because I’d then watched so many YouTube Russian videos and read so many Russian recipes and nobody did that, they all did it this way, so I thought I’d try it. And it worked! And I basically left it there. There’s so much in this process that feels illogical to me but it works splendidly so I decided not to “fix” what wasn’t broken. If you temper it, do let me/us know.

  104. OMG!! I am so happy to see this recipe. I went to Russia last year for the first time and once I discovered this cake I just had to have it everyday, sometimes twice. It was 2 weeks of honey heaven!

    I made it once from a recipe I found online and it was ok but I’m super excited to try yours. Thank you!!!

    ps: all the places I went called it Medovik.

  105. I hope I’m following the guidelines right now, but I just wanted to say “WOW what an in-depth post and story time on how you ended up making that gorgeous looking cake! I am Russian myself, and got so tempted to dive in and attempt making this cake.. although I gotta say I might be a bit too inexperienced to pull this one off! Anyways, your cake looks amazing!

    1. deb

      I haven’t tested it with this but am hearing over and over again that Russian sour cream is more rich and thick and … doesn’t that sound like creme fraiche to you too? I bet it will work just fine, if not better.

  106. Jamie

    Ok so I just realized that I only put the 3 cups of flour in. The cookies/ cakes turned out fine to me though… hopefully this won’t effect the final result :) My house smells amazing and I tried a few of the cookie scraps and sneaked some dough too- very good!

    1. Jamie

      Update : cake is delicious but looks homely. My layers shifted a bit overnight so they look time I’ll check them twice while they set

  107. Kenna

    I had the sweetest Russian neighbor bring me one of these as a gift when I had my last baby nine years ago. I still remember how delicious it was! I’ll have to give this one a try. Thanks for the stroll down memory lane.

  108. Katerina

    Deb – love your recipes! I made this cake over the weekend and it came out fantastic. I am very Russian (so is my mother who is currently away and was very upset this cake was made without her presence).

    Anyway, my question to everyone else – I ended up using about 5 cups of flour, so I’m wondering if anyone else had the same issue? If not, I’ll assume I messed up the portions elsewhere somehow.

    Thanks again for all the recipes, I’m a huge fan! :)

    1. deb

      That’s a lot of flour — how did the dough look? I show the picture of it stretching above hopefully as a guideline; it’s soft and almost like a bread dough. That said, even if you use more and the layers are more cracker-like when baked, it should be about the same once it softens. Glad it was a hit.

      1. KATERINA

        It was very sticky (you could probably equate it to muffin batter), so definitely needed more flour to get it to where it could be rolled out. End product was great, so that’s all that matters. :) Will be making it again, will watch the portions more closely this time.

        Thanks Deb!

    1. Broni

      You can add some mascarpone or cream cheese to the sour cream in your frosting to make it thicker (which is what I did when I made this cake about a month ago). But I used caster sugar instead of condensed milk to sweeten my frosting.
      And since the taste of the filling is much less sour when substituting mascarpone for some of the sour cream, while there supposed to be a contrast between the sweetness of the cake layers and the sourness of the filling, i spread a thin layer of a very sour fruit preserve (sea buckthorn in my case, but you can use blackcurrent, for example) on every second layer of the cake under the sour cream filling. That is also done in Russia sometimes, like the addition of walnuts between the layers.

  109. Beth

    I’ve made many of your recipes but have always shied away from layer cakes–so of course it seemed like a great (i.e. crazy) idea to have this be my first in many many years. But something about the fact that this was supposed to be messy made me braver–and the cake turned out wonderfully. This is actually my first comment here because I wanted to help others be bold.

    Just a couple of quick notes in case they help others:

    1. I only had whole wheat pastry flour and white whole wheat in my pantry to choose from and opted for a fully whole wheat pastry swap for the APF in the recipe and the cookiecakes turned out great. I had trouble rolling them out to an even thickness and only got them to about 8.5 inches around but I just sort of pressed the uneven bits out by hand and pieced together anything that tried to fall apart on me. I figured, if it was all going to get slathered in cream, it didn’t matter–and I was right. By which I mean DEB WAS RIGHT.

    2. Everyone who says the baking soda step feels like mad science is right–and it’s an absolute BLAST.

    3. I had my husband pour in the eggs while I whisked like crazy and that helped us avoid the scrambled egg fear.

    4. I took the advice of a commenter and used 32 oz of full fat Greek yogurt mixed with the 14 oz sweetened condensed milk in the recipe and it was a bit thicker than the photos here and (maybe?) a bit easier to work with. It was definitely delicious. Next time, I may try sweetening with honey or a honey/sugar blend just to see what happens?

    5. I assembled the cake on a Fiestaware dinner plate and just inverted my largest mixing bowl on top to cover it for refrigeration because I don’t (yet) own a fancy covered cake plate. But I think maybe using a plate that had a slight depression in the center it actually helped keep the layers in place during assembly and refrigeration? I actually didn’t have much trouble with layers sliding around. Some of my cookies were a bit thicker in some areas (combination of uneven rolling and a really old possibly slanty oven rack) but I just sort of arranged them so that the thick part of one was layered next to the thin part of the next layer, etc etc. Once they were covered in frosting, no one could tell the difference.

    Bottom line: delicious and keeps like a dream in the fridge! Three cheers for honey cake!

  110. Rachel

    Help! I’m making this cake as I type this, but I’m definitely not able to get 9″ rounds from my 8 pieces. More like 7″ rounds. And mine isn’t the lovely dark brown of yours. I think I didn’t caramelize the butter/sugar mixture long enough but it’s a bit too late to change that part. I can post a picture when I’m done, but so far, my rounds seem even thinner than yours, and mine are much smaller…

    By the way, I’ve been reading your blog sing the ratatouille post so many years ago (my then 6 year old son wanted to make it just like the movie version), I’ve made probably half of your recipes, am a devoted follower and hardly ever have a recipe of yours go wrong, so I’m sort of baffled.

    1. Rachel

      I read through the recipe again (and through all the comments which mentioned the science experiment with baking soda) and realized my error. I overlooked the baking soda entirely. I see that one commenter went ahead with the cake without the baking soda and it turned out okay, but since I realized it before frosting it, I decided to start again and keep the first round as cookies or an experiment for another day. Huge difference. There was much more batter and I was able to get 8.5″ rounds instead of the 7″, and also I got a much darker color (longer caramelization of the butter was also helpful). Now it looks much more like your pretty pictures. I think the baking soda does make a pretty big difference, if only in expanding the amount of dough, and it was actually such a fun step (my 12 year old loved this part of it!), but I will still see what happens with the other “cookies” on another day.

      1. Rachel

        Oh, and I should also say thank you, Deb, for all the wonderful recipes you have posted over the years. We are devoted fans (for many years, even though this is my first comment–or should I say “string of comments?”) and I really appreciate all the trial and error and effort put into each post, for all the stories associated with each recipe (I love to read your posts, even if I have no intention of making a particular dish), and all the time you take answering the questions about the recipes. We all think you are amazing around here. How can I share a picture of my finished cake?

    2. Rachel

      Okay, I finally figured out how to share my photos! We have a friend over for dinner every Wednesday night, and I can’t tell you how many times you deliver just the right recipe in my inbox for that week. There are pictures of our finally successful honey cake (second attempt!) as well as a handful of others we have made and loved recently. I’m not kidding when I say I’ve probably made half your recipes (recently: baked Alaska, that fantastic cauliflower and pumpkin seed roast, which I’ve already made twice, your favorite rigatoni two ways: one for the vegetarians, one for the only meat lovers, your zucchini and rice gratin, the summer squash pizza, your chocolate chunk cookies, which are a staple in our house). And these are only the ones I bothered to snap pictures of before we devoured it! I’ve been reading since very early on, I’ve given your cookbook to all my friends and can’t wait for the next one!

  111. Southwestsam

    I have eaten this cake with the condensed milk filling several times. As a self confessed chocoholic who usually turns her nose up at anything non chocolate, I am sure I could eat a whole cake of this by myself. The melt in your mouth slight honey, rich, creamy flavour is lovely. Yet to make it as I probably would not share this with anyone.

  112. This is the best ‘comments’ I have ever read. Such cultural diversity, and traditional ownership of names, ingredients and methods.

    I’m just about to fill the one I have made for my adult son’s birthday. He’s used to being the guinea pig for birthday cakes.

    Wonderful blog and fantastic devotion to duty Debs

  113. Made this yesterday. It’s such a gorgeous and unique recipe!
    Some notes:
    * The dough too sticky with 3 cups flour — it didn’t look like the photos and couldn’t be cut into 8 without sticking to everything. I added 1/2 cup flour and it was perfect.
    * My sour cream/condensed milk mixture was thick enough that it didn’t flow over the edges. I had deliberately avoided frosting to the edges, expecting spillage, and it didn’t happen. If I did it again i’d probably frost all the way to the edges and reserve some of the frosting to help make the sides smooth.

    It tastes amazing. Thanks, Deb!

    1. Hendy

      I’m amazed that your filling was thick enough not to spill out Wenderella, the runniness of mine was what made it ultimately a failure despite looking gorgeous (see earlier comment). The differences in product between versions of sour cream and condensed milk are obviously enormous. Mine were purchased in London England, standard supermarket versions. I’m assuming you’re in the US Wenderella, but you’re the first person to describe that level of thickness to your filling. Did you buy standard supermarket versions? Hmm, Sherlock and Watson need to get onto this straightaway!

  114. Joan Hersh

    i made this recipe with the following changes: i added the zest of 1 lemon to the frosting; i added 1/4t.freshly ground nutmeg to the dough; and i subbed white whole wheat flour for all the white flour in the recipe. i used a gram scale and measured everything accurately. the result: a delicious cake, that cut very neatly, but looked quite raggedy. i decided to make a 9″ square, rather than circle, as i thought it’d be easier to cut it in half and then cut perpindicular slices rather than wedges. i don’t think that change was a problem. the reasons it looked awful were the following: 1st, i followed directions and measured out 3/4c. of frosting for each layer but had none left to coat the sides, but since the edges were very raggedy, frosting and a crumb coating wouldnt stick anyway. the reason the edges were raggedy was because the dough was too wet to be able to cut out trimmings, i wouldnt have been able to remove them from the parchment paper to another baking sheet. instead, i rolled out 8 approximate 10″ squares, baked them, and then cut out a 9″ square, so i’d have trimmings. my mistake was in letting the layers cool down before cutting out the final shape- it left messy edges. i think if i’d laid down my 9″ cake pan and cut around it while the layers were warm, it would have been neater. and i’m going to assume that subbing in white whole wheat flour was the reason i wasnt able to cut around the unbaked layers to gather trimmings. in any case, it tasted really good. i think i might try using a can of dulce de leche instead of condensed milk next time. and i’m also thinking it could use a little texture- so i may add some ground, toasted nuts to each layer. i hope this helps at least one baker!

    1. Madeline

      I like the idea of making this as a square cake, Joan, but I’m not surprised there wasn’t enough frosting to coat the sides: the area of a 9″ square is going to be 81 square inches, while the area of a 9″ circle is only about 63.5 square inches — so you had almost 20 extra square inches of cake to cover, for each layer. But I bet if you made enough frosting to put a full cup on each layer, it would work out well. And who doesn’t love more frosting? :-)

      1. Joan Hersh

        hi madeline: thanks for responding. you’re right; i didnt take into consideration that a 9″ square is bigger than a 9″ circle. i plan to make this cake again and keep it square, but i think, rather than increase the amount of frosting (which is plenty rich), i plan just to neaten up my edges and leave them plain. while i had way more crumbs than i would have needed to coat the sides, i dont feel i’m particularly missing anything by leaving them uncoated. it’s an unusual cake, and i like showing the layers. and i’m a minimalist when it comes to frosting….

  115. My mom has a few beehives and I’m always looking for new recipes to use honey in, so this was great!!!

    I tried the saran wrap thing that someone suggested and it made things VERY neat. That being said, for some reason, I couldn’t the layers to nudge back (I was kinda afraid of smooshing the cake), and I found that the sour cream didn’t ooze out the side, so, well, I had to make a second batch (the horror) to just dump over the top. I also cut my parchment paper into a snowflake. I was in a rush to get the cake plated, so it’s a little messy, but when I do this again (and I will!!) I’ll take more time for that. Here’s the final product

    Last note, my friends and I found this to be VERY sweet (I’ve been cutting down sugar, so that might be part of it), and though we LOVED the taste, we needed small slices. Though, when paired with a nice tea, it makes a great afternoon treat (or decadent breakfast!!!!)

  116. I made this last night and the dough was way too sticky to work with. I had to add a ton of flour which effected the flavor, and I lost some dough in the process (stuck to the counter and bowl) so it was a small cake. It’s not horrible, and I’ll try again, but do you know what I could’ve done wrong to make it so sticky?

        1. Thanks for the response! I did roll it between parchment, and it stuck to it! Even after dusting it with flour. There was no way I could lift it off the parchment in one piece. I guess I’ll just have to try again.

          1. It wasn’t clear to me at first, but you actually bake the cookie/cake layers right on the paper! I found if I flipped them over when they were baked, I could peel the paper off very carefully.

          2. Joan Hersh

            i had this same problem, alanna. though admittedly, i used a different flour. so after rolling it between 2 sheets of parchment, i just took off the top sheet and baked it as is. you might try doing that. then as soon as it comes out of the oven, cut out the 9″ round that you need, and you’ll have your trimmings, too.

  117. Diana

    I grew up with this cake and the recipe is great, thank you.
    Is there any reason you don’t temper in eggs as one would normally do with raw eggs and a hot liquid?

    1. Diana

      Sorry, I searched the comments and somebody already asked this question. I did temper in the eggs and it worked just as one would expect – made the whole process less heart stopping and probably faster.

  118. Jess

    Australian chiming in here: this was a complete disaster!
    First one I’ve ever had from your website. I unfortunately didn’t read through all the comments and my filling was way too liquidy. Must be our sour cream is not as thick. A day later and it just flows right off the top still. The whole thing just kind of resembles a soggy biscuit surrounded by a sea of sweet sour cream.
    Oops at least Mum will find it hilarious (her birthday cake)

    1. Hendy

      Yes Jess, mine was the same! (see earlier posts). Made it in the UK, thought the same re relative runniness of sour cream here compared to the US. Hey ho.

  119. Dorie

    Just a thought, when I have made salad dressings with sour cream and milk as the base, I have found that it always thickens in the fridge. I wonder if chilling the filling in advance might help to make it a little less “gloppy” when assembling the cake layers?

  120. Abigail Sedgwick

    Quick question – what fat content is the sour cream you used? I tried this over the weekend and my icing was much runnier than yours looked and I wondered whether there’s a difference in UK and US sour cream? Mine was about 19% – is sour cream double or single cream for you? Or more like creme fraiche? The cake still tastes amazing but isn’t as aesthetically pleasing as yours!!

    1. deb

      I use a standard brand of sour cream, doesn’t list its fat content that I’ve seen. My impression from the comments is that Russian sour cream is much thicker — I suspect closer to creme fraiche.

    2. Sofia

      Just read this after posting my comment. Interesting that you got a runny filling with 19%. I used 18% and it didn’t run at all and was super creamy and easy to work with. I wonder if different brands also have different moisture content, accounting for the variability. Mine was really thick, like a Greek Yogurt consistency. Not sure if I’m allowed to post a link here, but here’s the specific one I used:

  121. !!!!!!!! Medovnik is my all-time favorite cake and I’ve been bending over backwards trying to find the right recipe to make for my birthday this year (because I’m a control freak who makes her own birthday cake). Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  122. Katie

    I made this for my office (in Russian Studies!) holiday cookoff. It was like a magic trick- despite my doubts (eggs into hot caramel?!) everything worked exactly as described, with the exception of the filling. Not enough glooped out to cover the sides and top, so I ended up making another half batch. Other than that, it all came out just right! The consensus among people who were familiar with the dish was that the flavor was just right, but the texture was slightly different than they remembered (but better- less dry). One person, who grew up in the region eating honey cake (she was team smetannik) said it was the best she ever had, and I basically died of joy. Thank you, Deb! (And yes, I won the cookoff.)

  123. Rachel

    Just made this and it turned out beautifully (although not quite as pretty as yours, Deb)! The parchment paper trick was very helpful; I wouldn’t have been able to make the layers without it. I am in the US and found the consistency of the filling to be as described in the recipe.

  124. David

    I made this as a test project for my own family’s Christmas lunch, and brought it to a friend’s Thanksgiving a couple of weeks ago. It was a resounding hit, eclipsing the pecan & pumpkin pies by a mile. I followed Deb’s recipe to a tee (even the daisy stencil for the top), except that I liberally dusted each dough balls with flour and rolled them out on a SINGLE piece of parchment (instead of between two), which slipped right onto the baking tray. I also came up short with the icing and made a supplemental batch the next day using an 8 oz container of sour cream and 100g of condensed milk. That was more than I needed by about half, but nothing was wasted :) I assembled the cake a day after making the layers, so the icing had chilled overnight & the seepage was pretty minimal. So one tweak I’d make to the recipe would be to prepare the icing BEFORE the cake layers & chill it well, which should prevent some of the initial seepage. Needless to say, this will be our Christmas dessert!!

  125. Kathryn

    Hi. I’m in process of making this. Few things: 1. When I added the baking soda the whole consistency of the butter sugar and honey mix fluffed up and changed. Was it supposed to do that?! 2. I’m having trouble rolling the 8 pieces into 9inch circles. I only was able to make about 7 in circles. Did I maybe not roll it flat enough?? It seems almost paper thin and just couldn’t roll thinner. Just wondering if I did something wrong!

  126. kathryn

    HI! I made this cake today. Don’t know why but i could not roll it out to be 9″ circle. I got about 7″ – 8 layers. I used just 24 oz of sour cream but still used the full 14 oz can of condensed milk and felt like the icing had good consistency. It wasn’t runny as described in other comments. it did ooze out some but not badly. I cannot wait to taste it tomorrow! I plan to make a snowflake stencil when doing the crumb topping. Thanks for the recipe!

  127. Erika

    I started this cake yesterday making the cookie layers. Today I added the filling, it’s been in the fridge for 2 hours and the filling isn’t seeping out, did I do something wrong or am I being impatient? Please advise, it’s for Christmas!

    1. kathryn

      Hi – i also didn’t have the oozy icing when i made this. I did have to adjust the amount of icing because for some reason my cake layers wouldn’t roll out to 9″ so it was smaller cake.. But it still tasted yummy and the friends I shared it with all said it was great (My kids, however, were not fans – it was not sweet enough!!). But it was refreshing to have a not overly sweet dessert to eat. Maybe someone else will have something else to say, but i think it should be fine as i had same experience and it seemed to taste fine. I wish i had added more cream between my layers, but it was ok and think turned out how it was supposed to.

      1. Erika

        Thanks for chiming in. Glad it wasn’t just me lol. If going to make more icing and add it tomorrow, I’m just hoping it doesn’t taste like too much.

  128. annegirl8

    Deb-I’m attempting this cake today for my husband’s birthday tomorrow. wish me luck! in the meantime, i’m curious about something that looks like a flour shaker in one of your pictures above? would love to know if that’s what it is and if so, where can I find one. I’ve tried a salt shaker with flour but i think I had one with too small holes–it constantly got clogged.

  129. Marcie Dietrich

    I made this for a post-Christmas family get-together. It took some time, but wasn’t super difficult. My husband’s mother is Ukrainian. The recipe she uses has next to no instructions, so I went with yours, hoping it would turn out OK. I had no idea what to expect, as I have never had honey cake. I loved it, and everyone else seemed to as well. Thanks so much for the recipe!

    1. Marcie Dietrich

      I should add that it travels well. I kept it refrigerated for three days, then put it in a Wilton cake saver and took it on a four hour train ride to Toronto. It then sat outside on a cold porch for a few hours, as there was no room in their fridge for the cake saver. Great cake! Will definitely make it again.

  130. Sofia

    I finally got a chance to make this cake and it turned out fantastic. Just wanted to add a few details that may be helpful to others. I tried making the filling with 18% sour cream and it held up really well…didn’t run off the sides of the cake as pictured/described and I spread it out in really thin layers to have enough for the whole cake. It was really easy to work with. I think 14%, a more common sour cream, may work well too. Deb – you didn’t mention what fat percentage you used, but I’m guessing those that got a really runny filling used a low fat sour cream. Thank you for the wonderful recipe. It was perfect and really easy to follow.

  131. Kelli

    Made this and loved it! The recipe is quite simple and easy to follow, but definitely messy in the middle…I was glad to have some wooden skewers on hand to hold the layers in place, and would recommend them to anyone else planning to make it. I felt like the good fairy Fauna making Aurora’s birthday cake in Sleeping Beauty, but it all came together in the end. And the flavor!! Mild, but so complex. Thanks for doing the research to bring this recipe to us!

  132. Karen B

    I loved making this cake. From watching the sugar and honey mixture turn a deeper brown after adding the baking soda, to rolling out the dough and stacking the layers, it was all a treat.

    To make it easier for myself, I held back 2 cups filling and lined an unclasped 9″ springform with enough plastic wrap to hang over the sides. I built the layers in the pan, keeping the 2 cups filling in reserve. After mellowing in the fridge, I removed it from the pan and plastic wrapped and transferred it to a parchment decked (as per Deb) plate. It was then iced with the reserved filling and tucked back in the fridge. It turned out perfectly. My guests loved it, thank you.

  133. Lindsay

    I made this back in October for Canadian Thanksgiving, following the recipe pretty carefully and it turned out perfectly! I fell completely in love with how light this cake turned out to be. Not too sweet or too heavy after a big meal. Seriously though, after all that research you put into this recipe I don’t know why I doubted for a minute that it would come out any less than perfect!!

  134. Jessica


    Thanks for the recipe. I’m thinking of making this cake sometime this month as I’ve had it at a Russian deli shop in the past and loved it. Just out of curiosity, have you experimented with a springform pan (with a glass bottom) for the assembly stage? I imagine it would make a smaller mess if it stayed all together?


    1. Tatyana

      I made the filling with about 6 cups of Daisy sour cream, 8 oz whipped heavy cream and almost a full cup of powdered sugar instead of the condensed milk (plus grated lemon zest for extra zing). The cream didn’t run and soaked the cake layers through beautifully (I put a generous 1 cup of filling between each layer). Oh, and one layer was bitter orange marmalade topped with minced walnuts – yum-o!) The cake was a huge success and can’t wait to make it again.

  135. Erin

    I am so excited to see this recipe! I ate my weight in it when I was in Prague, where they refer to it as marlenka. Looking forward to giving it a go.

  136. mid

    did you ever get good answers to those questions? recently made an attempt at this myself after falling in love with a version at a cafe in london (cafe rosa in the finchley neighborhood), that was sourced from a lebanese bakery, i think the lithuanian barista said, using a recipe that a russian friend found in english that looked about right. it also involved scrambling eggs into hot sugar and other steps that make me question what was to come, but the end result was both delicious and beautiful even though my layers were a little thicker than they should have been.

  137. This looks soo good! Thank you very much for sharing! I just have to try this recipe out at some point! :)
    Just a quick (and maybe stupid?) question. Does it matter if you just use normal paper (or so) To make the shape on top or is it best with parchment paper? What is your opinion? Thank you!

  138. Anya

    Thank you SO much for sharing your Medovik recipe! I saw it pop up on FB back in the fall, but only got around to making it tonight. Medovik takes me right back to my childhood in Kiev. Your version is absolutely fabulous! I hope it’s OK that I’m using it to create a plated dessert version for my pastry class in Montreal :) …thinking of adding some caramelized pecans for the crunch and maybe a black or red currant jelly.

  139. Michael

    WOW. I was watching Chef’s Table, season 3, episode 2, “Vladamir Mukhin” who is the head chef at a Moscow restaurant called, “The White Rabbit” and there is a cake in the episode that is referred to as honey cake and it look so different from what I know as honey cake, and I thought I would never find the recipe, but yours looks exactly right! It was driving me crazy. I’m going to make this cake. I love that you mentioned the dobos torte as well in this post, as that is another recipe of yours that I’ve used, and love. This cake is so hot right now.

  140. karieeleison

    I am very excited to try this cake. I have a question about adjusting it, though. A Russian deli/restaurant across the street from my hospital sells regular honey cake, as well a chocolate version. If I wanted to do the same, could I just omit a bit of the flour and add in cocoa powder? What do you think?

  141. Jamie

    I would love to make this. Any chance you could upload a video of the process. Or perhaps has anyone seen a video that does this recipe justice?

  142. I have accepted your challenge, and made a cake using your recipe! I thought I would share my result. It was fantastic, thank you for your hard work and research. I topped mine with wild maine blueberry jam, as I am fond of blueberry and honey together. It was lovely, but I think next time I would add a layer of the blueberry jam inside, or maybe top it with the jam like you would top a cheesecake. Here is a picture:

  143. Steve Taylor

    Firstly, greetings from across the pond and a big thank you for this recipe and all the research that went in to it! I’d bookmarked this recipe a few months ago when I first saw it as I’ve wanted to make one of these for a while and finally found the time to do it!

    Slightly odd, but although I used your gram measurements to the tee, my dough was very wet and wouldn’t roll so I added more flour until it got to the roll-able consistency in your photos. It tasted great so no issues there. It baked as expected too.

    A few notes for those making this in the UK:

    Creme Fraiche is closer to USA Sour Cream than UK Sour Cream is. Ours is a little too runny for this! Creme Fraiche is still a soured cream.

    The tips in the comments about adding the condensed milk (which yes, is also runnier here than in the USA) bit by bit until you get an icing/frosting with the right consistency is key. I think adding icing sugar to thicken it folding in some pre-whipped whipping cream would help sure it up. Either or to suit your pallet!

    I did neither of these things however and it still turned out okay.

    I baked at about 160c Fan.

    As my frosting was too thin, I had lots left over in a jar which I used to serve it with instead. It did however soak in well and there was at least some layering to be seen. It wasn’t too dry like the other UK baker said though!

    A couple of pics:

    Thanks again! I’ll be trying this again with the closer UK equivalent ingredients in the future!

    1. Hendy

      Thanks Steve! As the other UK baker, I think your tips about using crème fraiche instead and adding the condensed milk bit by bit are key to getting it right next time. Onwards!

  144. Jen

    What an awesome post.
    In Australia we have something made in a similar way to your recipe, but with a chocolate flavour. It’s a popular homemade classic called ‘chocolate ripple cake’. It’s essentially cheap, store-bought (Arnott’s chocolate ripple) biscuits (cookies) sandwiched together with whipped cream. Once assembled, you leave it for 12 hours and the whole thing soaks up the turns into a fabulous cake!
    So I reckon your cake is really very simple – it’s just super-large honey biscuits done ‘chocolate ripple cake’ style!

  145. Eric

    I’m fairly new at baking and this recipe is going to be great but I found the instructions right in the middle for someone that has never baked before to be fairly hard to understand are you supposed to take it off the heat let it cool and then put it back on the heat? Are you supposed to add flour to the rolling pin? Rolling out the dough could use a little more clarification at least for me.

  146. rose

    Thank you Deb for yet another fantastic recipe! I got a very thin cream the first time /cream, sour cream, double cream, all different, especially in the different countries /, which totaly disappeared on the next day, having been sucked by the cookies. I just made it for the second time and allowed myself some liberty by adding some very thick greek yougurt and some mascarpone to the cream, which luckily enabled me to stack more creamy goodness between the layers. The only problem is, nothing stands between me and the fridge ;)

  147. Oy With The Rolling

    I made this cake today, and it is soaking in the fridge as we speak.

    After rolling out the second round, I was cursing you, me, and my feeble arms. I then remembered I had a tortilla press. TORTILLA PRESS! It did 95% of the work for me.

    Someone suggested assembling it in a spring form pan lined with plastic wrap to force the filling to not be a jerk and run all over. DO THIS! It is genius.

    I also added lemon zest and vanilla to the icing mixture. It tastes like cheesecake batter. Cannot wait til tomorrow!

  148. Masha V

    I know it’s not helpful to everyone due to inaccessibility of ingredients, but getting sour cream from your local Russian store really does help (they’re more common than people think, they’re usually called something like “European deli”). Russian sour cream has a much higher fat content, so when you whip it for the cake filling it is much thicker and creamier and less runny. I’ve tried making the cake with American sour cream and I had the same problem. It’s still delicious, of course! Just more stressful to assemble.

  149. Just wanted you to know that this recipe won an award at a dessert competition I just took part in! SO delicious and beautiful – (and fun because mine looked like a total disaster while it was coming together and if you hadn’t explained that it might, I would have started panicking but as it was I just got to make a mess and look forward to the finished product.)

    I LOVE your blog. Whenever I need a recipe I check here first and I’ve never been disappointed. Thank you for all you do and share! You’re always helping me to try new foods and techniques. :)

  150. Krisp

    Great recipe. My cake was not as pretty on the sides, but tasted wonderful. Everyone loved it. Thank you. I did not use a big enough pan, so the boil after baking soda overflowed. I was able to make only 7 layers, but rolling them out was not too difficult. My construction with the filling was sloppy, but I did my best to keep the layers together under Saran Wrap and also stenciled 72 on it for a birthday. The filling and the layers were ok. I was a little skeptical, but when they came together after 24 hrs, this was awesome. Overall, I am very happy that I tried this and ended up with a delightful dessert.

  151. Brittany

    I made this a few weeks ago and it was SO GOOD! Easy to follow recipe for a very impressive looking and tasting cake. Not too sweet, and definitely authentic. Thank you so much for posting!

  152. Laura S

    It’s totally worth adding chopped (and toasted) walnuts to the cake layers. They add crunch and provide structure between the layers to prevent the filling oozing out.

    I chose to make this cake for my birthday after showing this recipe to a Ukrainian friend. He immediately said “Make this one! Also, it seems to be missing the walnuts.” He convinced to make this cake AND add walnuts.

    After forgetting the walnuts on the first two layers, then remembering them for the rest of the layers, I found the walnuts add a very important structural component. Because they were roughly chopped, they acted like pillars in a building and held up the layers so the weight of the cake was not on the filling, squishing it out. I used about 3/4 cup filling for each layer and left the 1-inch border on all the layers, but for the layers with walnuts, the filling didn’t spread to the edge. For the bottom layers without walnuts, the filling oozed out and those layers merged and tasted drier than the other layers. I liked the walnut layers better, but would spread the filling to the edge next time if using them.

    In the end, this cake was wonderful! Thank you for the recipe!

  153. Jonathan Stark

    Hello! I have made this delicious and wonderful cake twice and have enjoyed it each time! However, both times I had to make extra frosting (adding 4 ounces of condensed cream and 8 oz of sour cream) because the cake did not run or “ooze” the frosting like yours did and I did not have enough then to cover the top or sides! Is this plausible, or am I putting this cake together wrong? I use the amount recommended, the second time I was even down one layer due to a burnt “cookie” and still ran out!

    All I can think is I’m not pressing the layers together firmly enough, but I do apply pressure and am afraid to do more, lest I crack them. Advice?

    1. deb

      Huh. I actually don’t press them together at all, mostly just lay one on top of the other. I know they’ll adhere as they absorb, as well as run off the sides without my help. Do you think if you didn’t press, that you might have enough filling inbetween?

    2. Aliyah

      I’ve had the same problem – I’ve made it three times and it’s only had this problem the last time. Not sure what caused it!

  154. Fifi

    I found the dough to be super soft and sticky almost like a thick cake mixture rather than a bread dough. I used the weight measurements for the ingredients rather than the cups so not sure if that made a difference. I dumped a heap of flour in to make it roll out. It seems to have worked ok though I have yet to taste it!

    Has anyone else had this issue?


    I dont usually comment but thid cake actually made me comment, I would give 5 stars to this, okay one of my classmates got this when I had this I felt I never had anything as amazing as this I tried to know the recipe but she said its difficult to make and never shared it my search began and finally I landed on your page which was fruitful in every way, the only thing she shared with me is she used just cream for the filling nothing else so I used only whipped vanilla cream ..Viola..!
    it tastes divine..thank u so much.

  156. Rebecca

    I made this for my Russian husband’s birthday (after commenting excitingly) just a couple of days after you posted it Deb and it turned out absolutely amazing! I’m returning here because I think i’m confident enough to bake this again tonight to bring to a party at my Russian in-laws house tomorrow (eek).

    I read all the comments here before baking my cake and I wanted to share what worked for me after reading through them all:
    1). I had a hard time cutting out a circle with the raw dough, so I ended up baking them uncut then cutting them to 8″ circles right after they came out of the oven. This worked really well!
    2). My dough was very sticky and it was hard to pull off the top parchment, especially at the beginning when the dough was still hot. It worked best when I folded the top piece all the way back so it was parallel with the cake layer, then pulled horizontally.
    3). I was worried about the frosting, but mine barely leaked at all! I’m in the US and used full fat organic sour cream. If I remember correctly I ended up putting in some greek yogurt as well b/c I ran out of sour cream (but not much).
    4). If your frosting doesn’t seem runny, I suggest frosting all the way to the edges because it won’t reach the edges fully otherwise!
    Here’s a picture of my cake the first time I made it:
    Fingers crossed that it turns out just as well when I bring this to a party full of Russians tomorrow!!

  157. Sarah Brunsmeier

    I made this cake and it turned out great! I had to add a little extra flour, but I think it happens with most recipes? I am just a beginner at baking, so perhaps it was just me haha. My Slavic friends loved it and so did I. The only real problem I had is that it is so FILLING!!! After 4 days there is still some sitting in the fridge :D
    Here are two pics of the finished product. The layers are not perfect but I tried!

  158. I used to live in Russia in the mid-1990’s. I had this cake twice: once from a store (yucky and dry) and the 2nd time homemade. The homemade cake was so absolutely gorgeous that I nearly fainted. I’ve been trying to find a recipe for it for years. Thank you for doing so much research to create this cake. I plan to make it at the end of August for my book club meeting where we discuss “A Gentleman in Moscow”. This cake will be the perfect accompaniment.

    P.S. I’ll let you know how it turns out afterwards. I do plan to make it two days in advance just to ensure I’m not totally stressed out the day before the meeting.

  159. Dro

    Have you considered making a thicker cream so it won’t roll down the sides?

    I found this recipe online:

    Carmel Cream Filling:

    1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
    3 eggs, beaten
    2 tablespoons honey
    1/4 cup butter

    In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine sweetened condensed milk, eggs, honey, and butter. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil; boil until the mixture thickens.

    Remove from heat and let cool.

  160. Dro

    I am planning to make this for Rosh Hashanah this year. I was inspired by the Vladimir Mukhin episode in chef’s table. (Sooo good!) So here’s another idea what do you think: World Market sells these amazing gibersnak cookies that are really thin and delicious. What if I layer the cake with that instead? And sweeten the cream with honey? We need to make this easier. Also did you see the one pastrywithJenn just posted on her IG? That cream looked thick and delicious.

    1. deb

      I’m not familiar with the cookies but if they’re thin, no harm in trying. I just checked out the one you mentioned. I think it’s the famed one from the 20th Century Cafe in San Francisco. I understand that she doesn’t make it the “traditional” way but it’s supposed to be exceptional. I think we might see it in a cookbook soon.

      1. Dro

        Just wanted to add that I made this cake for Rosh Hashanah this year and it was a big hit, especially with my Russian-ish husband. I followed the recipe exactly except I did whip the Daisy brand sour cream which worked perfectly – no overly drippy cake. Thanks for a great recipe!

  161. chiudrele

    “Extinguishing”, as we call it, baking soda with some sort of acid (vinegar, lemon juice or similar) is a standard practice whenever baking soda is used. At least in Lithuania anyway. And the bake always rises no problem. I really don’t know how this works, though.

  162. chiudrele

    “Extinguishing”, as we call it, baking soda with some sort of acid (vinegar, lemon juice or similar) is a standard practice whenever baking soda is used. At least in Lithuania anyway. And the bake always rises no problem. I really don’t know how this works, though.

  163. Anna B

    I attempted this today and it was a disaster (all my fault!) I’m thinking perhaps I needed to add a little more flour (high altitude), one of those things I don’t usually have to adjust, but today I should have. My dough was so sticky, I couldn’t roll it out. I added more flour, over handled it, still couldn’t get it rolled out to get an 8 or 9 inch circle and was about to give up. So, I decided to just use Cookie cutters and just make graham-y cookies for my kids and give up on the cake. Then, I remembered your icebox cake recipe, and decided perhaps I could somehow make this one work like that. And now, my butterfly-shaped cookies are layered in a springform with the frosting. I think it will be alright, although it won’t look anywhere near as lovely as yours!

  164. Thank you Deb! This cake is a winner! I made it for a cookout dessert at our Rabbi’s house and it was the hit of the dessert table! Especially the children loved it! Yes, it is messy to make, but the instructions to use torn parchment papers around the stack of layers makes a neat final plate easy. Also, cutting two triangles and placing them on top in the Star of
    David shape made the crumbed decoration look extra special!

    I used whole milk Greek yogurt instead of sour cream to improve the nutritional content and made my own sweetened condensed milk from a 35-minute easy recipe online because I don’t like to serve foods made with corn syrup. The SCM recipe can be made with any sweetener; I used granulated cane sugar. I will repeat this for Rose Hashanah and the kids will be thrilled!

  165. Jeff

    This was lovely and not terribly difficult to make. I ended up making more filling, as there was none left to coat the exterior after putting 3/4 cup per layer. The recommended 3/4 cup per layer did yield great flavor that was not too sweet and even layers between cookie and filling. I will definitely make this again!

  166. Lara

    Hello Deb,
    I was wondering if you knew about this trick – you can whip sour cream by itself to the consistency of whipped cream, then add sweetened condensed milk (it will get thinner), and whip some more to bring it back to the fluffy cloud. :)
    The catch with the first whipping is – you need to whip from 5 to 10 min, depending on the brand of sour cream to get it to the fluffy cloud stage. And not all brands will whip. I’m in California, and from the brands available here my experience was – Daisy will whip, and so will Clover. Knudsen will not whip at all. Haven’t tried any other brands.
    The filling you get is the consistency of the whipped cream and does not run off.
    But I do have a question for you – do we really NEED a very thin filling here for better absorption?
    Thank you!

  167. Roshni

    Created a 6 inch version of this by halving all ingredients (used 1 egg + 1 egg white). I had to add at least a third cup of additional flour when doing it this way, and it probably could’ve used a bit more, too – the dough was incredibly hard to work with when warm. It got much easier to work with as it cooled, and came out to about 60g of dough per 6 inch cookie.

    Somehow, the frosting measurements didn’t scale properly when halved; I ended up putting 1/4 cup frosting per cookie, rather than 3/8 cup as I would have expected. I used the overlaid saran wrap trick I read in one of the comments and it worked wonders. Once the cake set in the fridge overnight, it was easy to lift off of the saran wrap and transfer to its proper plate. For a more even crumb coating, I found that I could delicately press them into the sides and top with my finger without disturbing the frosting.

    Overall, this recipe worked wonderfully – looks (and I’m sure will taste!) magnificent.

  168. Sara Kuhry

    Years ago a friend, who was from Baku, Azerbijan, brought this cake to work. Her mother had made it. It was almost 10″ tall and was the most outrageously delicious thing any of us had ever tasted. No work got done for days as we visited and revisited that cake. I asked for the recipe, but her mother didn’t want to part with it as she was selling the cakes. Thank you so much for this recipe. I cannot wait to try it.

  169. This is the best thing I read this week.. It’s been a week since I started researching how to make this thing.. and not a single recipe is remotely close to the other! Thankfully, yours came in and it saved me a lot of hassle.
    My discs did not come out the same size :( Though I did cut them all the same, some got accidentally pulled into somewhat of an oval on the warm baking sheet, so I couldn’t fix them. What do you suggest I do? trim of the bits that are poking out? Or add a thick layer of frosting to cover all the imperfections?
    The problem is that the frosting is quite runny, so it will never hold a straight side anyway… Ugh! Though I AM using pastry cream instead of the sour cream and sugar frosting.

  170. Bronwyn

    Hello! excited to try this recipe. do you think it would be possible to make mini versions of the cake? like individual portions? just use a smaller cutter?


  171. Evan

    For some reason I ended up needing way more flour than called for.
    I started with 1/2 cup of each raw honey, cane sugar and unsalted butter with 3 large farm eggs. I was using Ferris farms pastry flour and I think I ended up needing around 8-9 cups of flour to get the dough to the right consistency which was frustrating. But it ended up turning out in the end, now I just have extra dough for the next one. Next time I will try starting with 1/4 of honey/sugar/butter.
    I also used a springform pan which worked great to keep everything contained.

  172. Anja

    I bake it over 30 years under third name Рыжик.
    Your husand will tell you how to pronounce it. I have no idea ow i should spell it in Enflish.
    It tastes good under each name.

  173. The Russian Honey cake was a success on New Year’s Eve. Your instructions were a great help. If doing again I think I’d go for an 8″ round-I love the tall cake thing! And it would be a little easier to handle the dough. My rounds were not so round, but I was able to trim the cake as it softened. Also dividing the dough into 8 parts: about 115 grams each. I loved stenciling part.

  174. Patricia

    I just made this cake a second time today: it is chilling currently. My youngest asked for it for her 21st birthday tomorrow.

    I have some comments and notes that others might find useful.

    1. I used a Danish Dough Whisk (brotformdotcom fr Amazon) instead of a spoon to incorporate the flour. It was easy – this dough whisk is amazing for yeast doughs and, it turns out, heavy cookie dough.

    2. I cooked the honey butter sugar mixture longer since I was using raw honey. It got to a lovely reddish brown and smelled perfect.

    3. Chilled my icing mix in advance and next time will take advice from others in US/UK to add condensed milk in parts.

    4. Used 3 bamboo skewers to keep the layers in place – after I added the icing. A two person job – one holds the layers firmly, the other places the skewers.

    5. Saved some icing to finish cake tomorrow.

    Thanks Deb, for the research and recipe. Our family spent years in Russia and this cake is on the ‘things we miss most’ list.

  175. Rebecca

    Yum! Yum! My family and I enjoyed this cake last night. It was tasty and had everyone mmmming and aaahing from the first bite. Recipe instructions were spot on and while it took a little time to organise, it was not hard to make. Thanks!

  176. Victoria

    I made this cake while I was unemployed and job searching. It was the perfect thing to take up a good chunk of time! Rolling out the layers requires a lot of strength, or at least I thought. It’s precarious and fiddly to assemble, but really impressed my in-laws when they came to visit. They even took photos of it :)

  177. Naaa

    I agreed to make this cake for a party before reading the recipe. Gulp. Was a bit intimidated, but simply followed the directions, and boom! Beautiful and delicious. The Russian birthday girl loved her cake! It was YUM.

  178. Saurs

    Somehow I missed your posting this the first time round, but I had to comment because I’ve never related so much to a recipe backstory before (as a rule, they are either wooden or lies or both; you would not lie to me and your writing, if not actually effortless, tends to read that way). I was with you all the way, here, Deb. Especially when that filling started to escape and then again, later, when you were wondering why a honey cake is called a honey cake when, y’know, honey plays a role but it’s not always exactly the headliner. Plus, the feeling you get when you’re wondering whether you’re making a cake, a cookie, or a molded batter, or some Frankenstein’s patched-up monster hybrid. Yep. I know such feelings all too well. :)

  179. Stacy

    I made this for an Olympics themed dinner party (rebranded as an Olympic Dessert from Russia with the Olympic Rings stenciled on top). The recipe sounded intimidating but was actually pretty easy. I read through all of the comments- thank you to whoever suggested using a tortilla press! My rolling pin skills are less than stellar so being able to press the ball out to a five or six inch round and then rolling from there made it so much easier. It turned out great and everyone loved it. I’ll take the leftovers in to work tomorrow to get the final word from my Russian coworker.

  180. vera

    This cake is not Russian honey cake. Absolutely not. I was looking for a recipe for honey cake, which I remember my mom made for us. But this one is a wrong one.

  181. Tiffany

    Thanks for this recipe. Your encouraging comments throughout were really appreciated when making. I ate my first piece of honey cake while in Moscow last year and this recipe enabled me to share a part of my trip with family at home! 🤗

  182. Olga

    Deb, I just made your red wine velvet cake for my mom’s birthday. A killer, best recipe for a baking-powder-based cake, which I tend to hold in low regard, coming from medovik and Russian napoleon tradition. So, I feel like offering something back in return.

    Smetannik is any sponge cake that uses whipped sour cream (smetana) as a cream. Sponge layer would be typically white. The key favour is the sour cream layer, which is meant to be as thick as in your red velvet cake. And you can add anything you want to ‘spice it up’ – a thin layer of cherry jam under sour cream, or whole canned cherries or anything that speaks to you.

    Medovik has a very distinctive honey flavour from burned sugar, the taste is a function of the dry layer, not cream. Medovik’s cream can be a range of things – I personally like creamcheese with butter diluted with whipped sour cream. There are thousands of medovik recipes, the only thing that cannot be changed is honey(sugar)/soda thermal reaction.

    On your specific cake: Your layers look not enough brown to me. You can improve the color by bringing butter/sugar to boil before adding soda. It will turn dark brown immediately. Another tip, is to make the mix more liquid and spread a thin layer of it on a form with a spoon instead of rolling it out. Your layers seem ok but making them too thick is a frequent mistake, so the spoon technique is more fool-proof.

  183. Alexa Shipley

    If you really, really love to make many-layered cakes… You need to try vinatarta (sometimes spelled vinatorta). It’s an Icelandic cardamom-flavoured cake with prune filling between the layers (sometimes rhubarb gets used when prunes aren’t available). It’s super delicious.

  184. Emily W

    Hi! This is a rather late comment on this thread, but I wonder if the vinegar thing is to do with an older version/different formulation of baking powder?

    I went through my Grandmother’s handwritten recipe notebooks, full of family recipes, recently. They all use baking powder together with vinegar and pre-mix this before adding to cake mix. We are in the UK – and to my knowledge no-one does this any longer.

    They also all specify margarine rather than butter – possibly a post-rationing thing! None give very detailed recipes or give temperatures or often even baking times (they were all good cooks). One simply says ‘cook in a quick oven’!

  185. This turned out beautifully, Deb, thank you so much! I added a little ginger and cinnamon to the dough as that’s the flavour I remember from when I ate this cake in Moscow last year. I also added a half cup of whipping cream to the filling because I had only 500 gms of sour cream, but the cream helped hold the filling together and even in Mumbai’s temperatures, it didn’t ooze everywhere, was fairly manageable. Surprisingly, not cloying sweet either. I also made the dough in a stand mixer with the whisk and paddle attachment. It did mean more dishes but took away pretty much all the muscle work so it was worth it :) I’m very very pleased with the results!

  186. Hannah Fortune

    Divine. I’m making it for the 3rd time now. The first time was a nightmare but so good I braved it again. DELICIOUS!!!

  187. Bobbi

    I just made this cake at my husbands request for his birthday! Oh my goodness what a heavenly delightful cake it is. I am so thankful my husband requested this, as I want to make this somewhat often. It’s just perfect, not too sweet but sweet enough, so light and delicate and the way it melds together is perfect. When I first read the recipie I wondered at the icing and kind of thought, “I don’t know about this.” Once again just fantastic! Everyone should make this cake at least once in their lives! Thanks for making this and sharing with us!

  188. Joanne

    I’ve just heard about this cake and wanted desperately to make it. Couldn’t find any Australian websites with the recipe, so I’m GLORIOUSLY happy that you’ve included the measurements in metric and imperial. THANK YOU!

  189. Marina

    I’m Ukrainian (like born there and spent my childhood there before immigrating to the US at almost 8), but unfortunately in my quest to appear American during my school years, I lost a lot of my fluency in Russian and Ukrainian (and of course never learned recipes from my mom). My mom’s recipes for everything (including Medovik) are her variation that she knows by sight, so she has been completely of no help to me in my new quest to teach myself the foods I grew up on. From everything I’ve seen, you have made one of my favorite cakes perfectly (minus the walnuts :) but I can live without walnuts.

  190. Amanda

    I just made this cake for my husband’s birthday. He has fond memories of honey cake from the time he lived in Prague, a number of years ago. This is my second attempt making honey cake — the first time, I used a different recipe, and the cake turned into a sloppy mess. The Smitten Kitchen recipe was much, much better. Even though the frosting was messy at first, it firmed up beautifully in the fridge. I followed some of the other commenters’ advice to use skewers to hold the layers together. I also found it easier to cut the 9-inch rounds after baking, rather than before.

    My husband loved it — he says the cake tastes exactly as he remembers it from Prague. I found the cake’s flavors to be a bit too subtle for me — next time, I’ll probably add some spices, or crushed walnuts, or maybe a layer of fruit preserves. But all in all, this was a great recipe.

  191. Edison

    This winter I made a traditional Icelandic Vinetarta. It is similar to the Russian Honey Cake in that it has 8 layers and after setting in the fridge for a couple of days it comes out like a cake(well, at least that is my hope seeing as I literally just put the icing on the cookies and have left it in the fridge). I found out about this cake from an episode of Chef Table featuring Vladimir Lupin a Russian chef. You were totally spot with the arm work out between making and rolling the dough it was a challenge. Thanks for the information and recipe!

  192. Himalayan Chef

    A trick I use to keep the layers from sliding as I frost and stack a multi-layer cake: I insert a bamboo skewer or very long cocktail toothpick into the center and frost around it. Yank it out, add the next cake (cookie) layer and immediately reinsert the pick. Leave one or two picks or skewers in place while allowing the cake layers to soak up the moisture from the frosting.

  193. Yasmin

    Hi !
    I looked through several recipe and picked yours to make the honey cake.I altered the frosting adding whipping cream and just a few tablespoons of sour cream and condensed milk. It was a big hit! Thanks for the details which made my maiden attempt at this cake a huge success!!!

  194. marina harrison

    Hi! I was born in Ukraine and lived in Russia for a while. I don’t know if anyone even cares, but here’s my two cents worth: The reason you saw and heard so many discrepancies is that Russian/Ukrainian cooking is peasant cooking. Without trying to insult anyone, it is similar to Asian cooking or any cuisine from poorer countries. Here, (I am in Canada), we generally decide what we want to cook and then go to the store and collect the ingredients we need. In poorer countries, it’s the opposite, you go to the market, find what is available and inexpensive and see what you can do with it. This is precisely why there are so many variations of the same recipe, it just depends on what is around at the time! This is indeed a medivnyk (or medovik in russian). Traditionally it is made with buckwheat honey, which is quite strong.
    The basis of both the medivnyk and the smetannik is similar: they are both made of thin layers of rather dry “korzhy” or flatbread-y stuff, to be sandwiched with something creamy that would absorb the liquid and soften the bready layers. So it is essential to leave both these cakes overnight to soak in the goodness, much like we finish cooking pasta in the sauce so it will soak up more flavour.
    The main difference between smetannik and meivnyk is that medivnyk is centered on the cake: it is the honey that goes in (though if people had no honey they used a mixture of honey and sugar), if you had the resources to buy spices, a little cloves or cinnamon or nutmeg went in there, but very little so as not to overpower the honey. The sponginess of the cake varied too, depending on how many eggs you happened to have (when i lived there eggs were rare and dear!). The filling for this cake was a detail, it could be anything, whatever you had on hand, but most frequently sour cream or cream or a mixture of the two.
    Smetannik, on the other hand, centers on the sour cream filling, smetana. The layers are less cakey, as in medivnyk, and more pretzel-y, more bread-y, less sweet, and not at all fluffy. Smetannik layers are more like a yeastless bread and quite a bit drier. But the filling, is definitely made of sweetened sour cream. In Russia or Ukraine, sour cream is quite different than our North American sour cream. It has a very high fat content and can be whipped like whipping cream, it has no gelatin. Our sour cream has gelatin, which makes it harder to whip.
    I have only made medivnyk twice, for my dad, whose mom was a superb cook. I used lavender honey, put a little lavender in the dough and used a mixture of sour cream and cream (it tasted like creme fraiche), whipped, and sweetend with honey. I thought it was amazing, so did my family. It was a very delicately flavoured cake and i somehow managed to get the driness of the cake layers just right in order to absorb the liquid of the frosting and to combine into a heavenly cake. Dad said NOPE!, not my mother’s cake. So then I remembered what her cake was like and where it came from: buckwheat country! So i ordered some buckwheat honey, added a smidge of orange zest, a smidge of cinnamon and made a sour cream filling sweetend with honey. For added crunch, I made brown sugar brittle and piled it on top (you can also use candied walnuts or candied pumpkin seeds). Dad like that better.

  195. I made this cake in July for a Ukrainian co-worker’s birthday. It is delicious! When she saw it, she said “This cake is home.” Which made me extremely happy. Highly recommend this one!

  196. Carmel Gal

    I’m kind of in the middle of the process of making the cake for Rosh Hashana –
    it’s in the fridge – and it is a mess as promised. the first 2 layers are straight together, but the 6 other layers above them slid together in another direction. I’ve stored the cake in the fridge for a few hours, but when I tried to move them towards the first 2 layers I couldn’t do it because the layers are very soft and wet, and I didn’t want to squeeze the cake… so I’ve put it back in the fridge but it’s still crooked.. any idea of how to fix this?
    thanks so much and Shana Tova!

    1. m

      can you peel them apart at all with a thin spatula? if not, you might need to just trim it around to make a more upright-looking cake, then frost the sides thickly to camouflage that (using more filling, or a cream cheese frosting (i like the filling recipe from the libby’s pumpkin roll recipe), or a whipped cream frosting). then press the remaining crumbs into the sides. i found that last part quite difficult!

      for the next time, make a collar with plastic wrap or waxed paper. wrap it around the cake after layering, before putting it in the fridge, to keep them upright.

      1. Sara Kuhry

        When I made my honey cake I stuck some 5 -6 thin skewers down into the cake as soon as all the layers were on. This didn’t keep it completely straight, but it kept it from sliding apart until it was set. Also, I reduced the amount of filling in the top layers.

    2. Carmel gal

      Thanks for the help!
      Eventually I tried to straighten things up with a spatula. It got better but still a bit messy. Most importanat- it has an amazing taste and the inside after cutting it was beautiful.

  197. Joseph Gomes

    I made this and followed the recipe except I cooked the condense milk in water for about 3-4hrs and then mixed it with the sourcream. Needless to say this is fantastic !!! I will def make this again and again. I also used half whole wheat flour, half white to give it extra flavour. I also ground up walnuts with the pieces for the crumb which was amazing. Thanks for the recipe !!!

  198. LJN

    I just made this cake yesterday morning and served it the same evening, about 8 hours later (plans fell through for day ahead baking). It was great! I am also married to a Russian – stamp of approval earned! We actually ended up sharing it to nearby tables at a restaurant. I followed the recipe exactly except for adding toasted, crumbled walnuts to the edge pieces. After the layers began to settle, I inserted two skewers into the center, which helped. I also added around 1/4 cup of powdered sugar to the frosting, as my sour cream seemed a little too sour. Thank you!

  199. Jennifer

    Oooh, it makes me so happy to see that you’ve figured this out! When I lived in Prague for a couple of years I discovered what I always saw called “Medovnik”. #teammedovnik
    I wanted to make one a few years ago, because it’s pretty hard to come by in Maryland, and ended up going with one that looks pretty similar, except it used a cream filling made by boiling a can of sweetened condensed milk for 3+ hours. Mine turned out ugly, but man it was tasty! Now I’ll have to try yours, because it sounds faster, and everything you make is delicious!
    (also, I followed the link to your Lasagna Bolognese with besciamella, and I’m totally with you on the ricotta does not belong in lasagna. Probably one of the biggest fights my husband and I ever have! :)

  200. Alidia

    I made this last night it was a semi disaster i found the mix did not come together enough when i added the flour it was not like a bread it was like a sticky mess and im unsure how as infollowed the recipe to the gran also there was only enough mix just to make the 8 rounds no extra how does this happen?

  201. Svetlana

    I am Russian and baked this cake and its many variations many times. It made me smile that ” running” frosting made you concerned :) it is a usual thing in many layered cakes in Russia but to avoid it – you can either put all sour cream into a doubled cheesecloth and tie it on top, then hang it over the sink or place it into colllander for two three hours. All excessive water will be removed. Or you can add a tiny amount of gelatin, it will solidify the frosting a bit. But then it’s a slight risk the cake won’t be as moist.
    I have never mixed sweetened condensed milk into sour cream! Sugar powder is usually what we add in Russia. And yes you can add vanilla to the frosting, honey, or pureed berries, jam

  202. Anna

    I made this. Its pretty delicious.Thank you for the detailed recipe! I stenciled super cute snow flake on top of the cake using the paint brush. I do have a question. The cookies came out excellent however the filling tasted like sour cream. I used Axelrod sour cream which in consistency is like Fage yogurt and russian condenced milk (made in Russia) Does your filling taste like sour cream or should I try using brakestones sour cream and condenced milk made in US? By the way my filling also did not leak that much. As a matter of fact it failed to spread to the edges on one of my layers because the layer was not 100% flat.

  203. Juleen

    My Grandmother made this honey cake all the time, she used mock cream, {beaten butter with a little icing sugar and lemon juice}, between the layers with tart plumb jam, not a sweet one, and a thin lemon icing on the top. delicious.
    I had lost the recipe so I was so pleased to find this one, thank you.

  204. LuisaCA

    I was a requester of this recipe back in 2016. I had the same experience you had with the cake turning into an Abominable Snowman. I secured the layers with long bamboo skewers and did indeed spackle the “frosting” back on in the morning. I ended up using only half the amount of sour cream the recipe I used called for. My suspicion is that eastern European sour cream is thicker and a different texture. Maybe the next time I will strain it for several hours first? Also I was thinking to add a non-traditional bit of orange zest to the batter. The cake was Wonderful and haunts me still .

  205. I love your writing style. I’m impressed at how real you kept it. This recipe sounds wonderful and you, I don’t even know who you are yet but, are Inspiring. Can’t wait to try this recipe!! Thank you 😊

  206. Elizabeth

    I am doing a bee themed party for my daughter and so was searching for a honey cake and found this? Do you think it will work if I graduate the slices so that it resembles a bee hive? Thanks

    1. LIsa

      I think this would be a high-risk choice for such an important occasion. I made this cake a few years ago with mixed success – it wouldn’t have been a successful birthday cake, that’s for sure. I have read ever since stories of equal success and failure; the filling is very tricky to get right, and some people struggle with the biscuit layers. I would try it on another occasion and choose a different recipe for your daughter’s birthday. Good luck!

      1. Elizabeth Goldbrom

        Thank you for the advice – I did think that….am going to try anyway because it sounds delicious! xxx

    2. deb

      I don’t think it’s the right kind of cake. It doesn’t… bend to our will! I’d make a honey layer cake if you’re looking for something you can shape a bit.

  207. Rebecca Reeve

    When I just made this I could barely get eight paper-thin 8 inch rounds and had literally no scraps left over. Any suggestions for decorating with no scraps to crush into crumbs, please? Thanks!

  208. Ivy Moonen

    Hi! Is it absolutely necessary to refrigerate the finished cake? (as in, after part has been eaten) I saw that you said to keep it in the fridge, I just wasn’t sure if it was a life or death situation whether or not it’s refrigerated. :)

    1. deb

      Yes, it should be refrigerated. I don’t think heavily sweetened sour cream will turn as fast as non-sweetened but it’s definitely the kind of dairy that needs to be kept cold. Can it be out for a couple hours before serving? Yes.

  209. Jackie

    I made this last night but instead of the sweetened condensed milk in the filling, I used honey and a bit of Kahlua to thin it (I’d seen other recipes with coffee in the batter) and the filling was thicker and didn’t spill out as yours did. I was concerned it wouldn’t soak in as well so poked the layers with a fork. No worries, this morning I finish icing and put the crumbs on and it was freakin’ light and delicious and a huge hit.

  210. Ruth Arcone

    Last year I saw Samin Nosrat’s recipe for this in NYT, and wanted to make it for Rosh Hashana. But it seemed like a real project, and I never got the energy to do it.

    Then I saw your recipe, and it seemed less intimidating, for some reason. Maybe because it makes a dough, rather than a batter that has to be divided and spread into many thin layers. So I made it this year. Not as difficult as expected.

    And delicious. I loved it, and so did everyone I served it to. This is going to be my regular honey cake from now on.

    Yesterday I was in Breads Bakery, and they were selling their version. I don’t know which method they use, but theirs is rectangular. So it would involve rolling oblongs, and maybe cutting them after baking. Even easier. I might try that next time.

    1. Ruth, this is what I did – made two sheet pans and cut in rectangles after baking. I had to spread my batter because it was too soft for rolling – maybe I added the eggs not slowly enough – but it was very easy and quick to do.

  211. Adrian

    Making this cake was a magical experience. The ingredients, each step, the doubt, the triumph. I had the same confusing as others about the last half cup of flour but worked it out.

    How are people managing to stencil? My frosting was still completely gooey wet the next day. No amount of flour would allow me to put a stencil. But I had the cake dome on it in the fridge. Should it be uncovered all night?

  212. PNW

    Amazingly, this honey cake recipe is the SAME recipe my grandmother had in the 1950s and used to make Honey Cookie Men (using gingerbread cookie cutters), decorating them with red hots (for smiles and buttons) and raisins (for eyes). She’d use brown sugar instead of white, and mix the dough the evening before rolling it out (when at room temperature), saying it handled better when the soda had a chance to work on it. It’s a great recipe with a fantastic honey flavor. My kids, my sibs, my cousins– we all loved this cookie every year. Still do.
    (Oh, and they last forever. I found one in a Christmas stuff box that had been there for at least 2 years– still great!!)

  213. Lena

    I am Russian and grew up with this type of cake. I make it almost every holiday. I do icing differently. I whip 1 pt of heavy cream, then add 1/2 of powdered sugar. Whip a bit more. FOLD sour cream carefully in. The whipped cream will give a bit of volume to the icing and it will be easier to ice the layers. Sour cream will add weight and stability to the icing. Use both for best results. The beauty of this cake is in combination of honey caramel and sour cream – sweet and sour.

  214. Madara

    Thank you so much for the recipe, it the taste turned out perfect for me and was exactly what I was looking for. I come from former Soviet union where this cake is common, so I had some particular taste I was looking for. My friends mother who is a master of this cake recommended to bake thicker cookies and then slice them in two, therefore the surface is more porous and there is better absorption of the filling. I didn’t do it tho but it could potentially save time as well of the process.
    About avoiding the mess (that I was surprised I didn’t have much) it’s more about how thick is the sour cream and the fat content. I used 20 percent fat and had no much problem. Also one comment on the shape of it – mostly I seen this cake in rectangle shape and not as high as 8 layers, 5 perhaps. That way it could be easier to manage it. My cake was round and even wobbling at the times but luckily it didn’t slide in the end. Making it rectangle and flatter could also avoid this problem perhaps.

  215. Maro

    I think they made this in the first episode of this season’s Sabrina?! I recognized the decoration and it’s nearly identical to yours, though the layers are thicker. You should check it out!

  216. paulawrodgers

    These layers are so much like a traditional dried apple stack cake we make here in East Tennessee. It has 11 thin cookie like layers with reconstituted dried apples ( I make apple butter and use that ) between the layers. Then it has to season overnight to soften and become a cake. I will have to try this one… it looks and sounds delicious!

  217. Anna

    Hello from a second generation Latvian-Canadian!

    My mother requested a honey cake for her 65th birthday after trying some at a Latvian market. I spent HOURS googling this cake until I finally had the brilliant thought: “Wait a second, Smitten Kitchen might have something…” and LO AND BEHOLD!

    I honestly didn’t think I would make it through this one. I got to the part where the frosting starting spilling over at about 12 in the morning, the night before my mother’s birthday dinner, and I nearly scrapped the whole thing. But SK had never led me astray before, so I had faith and held on- and I’m so glad I did.

    The cake was truly beautiful and so delicious. I made a stencil of a Latvian sun symbol to go on top, and my mother was thrilled with it!

    I followed all the instructions to a T, except I added a bit of heavy cream to the frosting on the recommendation from some commenters. I really don’t think it did anything to firm up the frosting or to lessen my panic when the cake started sliding like the leaning tower of Pisa, but I think it maybe lessened the tang of the sour cream by just a smidge.

    A+ recipe overall. I imagine a world where I didn’t have this post to help me, and it is a grim one. Thank you!

    1. Maylien Swenerton

      FoodWishes on YouTube has a recent video on this.
      I made it years ago and I experienced the “Abominable Snowman Effect”.
      But cake was Awesome!

  218. Renee

    I Made This: COVID-19 Edition! I found I needed to add an extra 1/3-1/2 c flour to get the dough cohesive enough to roll. Even so, I rolled at room temperature (78 in my hot climate). The dough was too sticky when warm; however, I only had 135g of old crystallized honey in my pantry so I topped up with 20g agave nectar and an extra 15g sugar. I also maybe could have cooked the caramel an extra 45 seconds.

    I did not have enough filling to add 3/4 c between layers. I have no idea why because I used 1-16oz tub of sour cream + the tub refilled again with Greek yogurt (curbside pickup grocery shopping is not perfect) and a can of condensed milk. I definitely wanted some for the sides and top, and it didn’t really ooze out much.

    The cake is a little dry, possibly because I used fat-free condensed milk (see: curbside pickup). The flavor is nice, but if I made it again I would use strongly-flavored honey. I think I’d rather just make Deb’s carrot-graham cake for similar flavor.

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  220. Jennifer

    While mine did not turn out as pretty as yours. The flavor was very good. Was not expecting such a good honey taste. Making it was also fun, you should show all the steps of the heating the sugar to adding the eggs, I almost threw it out because of the drastic color change. Very glad I did not!!! Good recipe thank you.

  221. Logan Geeslin

    I’m getting ready to give it a try. Liked the tip about draining the sour cream. I think I’ll do it with yogurt and drain it too. I would like to stir in dissolved gelatin to firm the frosting ala Julia Child. Is this ok? Gelatin: put one package over one tablespoon of cold water; let sit for five minutes

    Add three tablespoons of boiling water and stir until dissolved
    Begin whipping cream. Add sugar. When getting stiff/whipped, add one tablespoon of the dissolved gelatin per cup of cream

  222. Caitlyn

    Made this as a part of “around the globe” weekly recipe challenge that I’m doing. My Georgian-American friend recommended this recipe. It is definitely time consuming but very worth it. In order to save time, I would recommend cutting all of your layers out first then putting them in the oven two at a time. It definitely gets better as it sits in the fridge longer and the icing can sink into the cookie layers.

  223. Logan Geeslin

    I made the Russian Honey Cake yesterday. My hint to make it easier: I used the “mayonnaise oil” tube on the food processor to drip in the beaten eggs. I held it over the mixer and it went very quickly with no scrambling of the egg.

    Hint two: weigh the cookie dough after dividing into 8 pieces.

    I tried substituting Greek Yogurt for the sour cream and so much of the yogurt dripped away over night I had very little frosting. (I put 1/3 cup on each layer.)

  224. Maro

    WORTH IT but wow, this one almost bested me. Some tips/thoughts:

    1) I made the cookies twice. First time they came out pale and terrible and like homemade matzoh. Second time was better — I made sure the caramel cooked a while and I used brown sugar that time to get the beautiful honey-brown color in the photos. I do think the baking soda makes a difference in overall consistency — I forgot it the first time.

    2) both times, the flour measurement was not at all enough. I had to add a bit of flour, but *letting the dough sit to thicken helped a lot!* don’t over-flour the dough, just do that instead.

    3) my dough was softer than pics above and that was fine. It was stickier to portion out, but it worked, rolled, and baked up just fine.

    4) I aced the layering! I lined the same cake pan used for circles with plastic wrap hanging well over the sides, Followed some frosting at the bottoms, and then went about layering the cookies inside the pan, and gently but tightly wrapped the layers up in plastic. I let it set for about 3 hours and then put it on a cake plate and covered top and sides with more frosting. I probably could have put just a smidge more frosting between each layer than I did.

    5) For my frosting, I strained the sour cream ahead of time. Even with full fat, I needed the full 32 oz to get exactly 2/3 of that (I made a smaller cake). I used honey rather than sweetened condensed milk to sweeten it as I was looking for a pronounced honey flavor for a Rosh Hashana treat.

    After the overnight chill, I did the crumb coat and it turned out beautifully. Never fell over, never spilled over frosting everywhere.

    I asked at the market honey booth for the darkest, most flavorful honey to use — I ended up with a Blackberry Blossom Honey and it was very flavorful.

    The cake is intensely honey flavored this way, and dense but not overly so. It’s not super sweet, thanks to the sour cream. It’s different, but better than I even imagined!

  225. paperkingdoms

    Mine came out deliciously this weekend, but was kind of a mess to look at… after an hour in the fridge, my layers were *not going anywhere*, so the cake stayed kind of caddywompus. Totally delicious though, and if you take the photos after you slice it, you can get an attractive angle on it. ;^)

  226. Kathleen B.

    This is an extraordinary thing. I’ve had this very weird recipe on my list for a while, and this weekend wound up being the time! The recipe feels much less like making a cake than a very strange combination of candy making, bread baking, cookies, pastry, all rolled up with a healthy dose of alchemy and a whole lot of cussing. At no point does it feel like making a cake. But it is… extraordinary.

    A few notes:
    – This is a very stressful project. Do not think, because you were warned, that you are prepared. You are not prepared. This is a 24-hour emotional roller-coaster. There will be cussing, and anxiety, and mystification, and frustration, but the journey is worth it.
    – The layers are very, very thin. You will stress about how thin they are. They are not too thin. They are perfect.
    – Mine wanted to fall over in the fridge during the first hour-long rest, but I put a cake keeper lid over it and it just wound up leaning against the side. Much simpler than trying to assemble it inside a vessel or cake ring.
    – Do NOT forget about the cake during that first rest! In fact, check on it closer to the 1-hour mark than the 3-hour mark, depending on how cold your fridge is. The layers will start to adhere to each other as they absorb the moisture from the frosting, and they will get progressively more difficult to nudge back into place the longer it sits. At the 2-hour mark, my layers almost refused to move.
    – 3/4 cup wound up being a tad too much icing between the layers – not because of it oozing out (there was much oozing), but because I was running the risk of running out of icing before I got to the top. Fortunately, the proportions are very forgiving.
    – I’m not remotely artistically inclined, so I used sticker dots, jar lids, and poker chips to create a polka-dot pattern on top with the crumbs. No free-hand parchment paper crafting required!

    Thanks for the recipe, Deb – this is, by far, the weirdest thing I have ever baked, and it was magnificent.

  227. Leigh

    Hi Deb! I’ve recently learned that I can no longer have gluten in my diet. Do you have any suggestions for a gluten free flour to use in place for this recipe?

    Thank you so much! Smitten Kitchen is the best!

  228. I just noticed your “other side of the world” section of the recipes. How very thoughtful of us opposite season fans on the other side of the world! Thank you. x

  229. Beth

    I made this over the weekend for a friend’s birthday. I won’t lie – it was a bit of a pain, but it was absolutely delicious.

    I didn’t want to deal with the melting “frosting,” and decided to do the following:
    1. de leche-d the condensed milk
    2. did 2/3 sour cream and 1/3 whipped cream, which I folded into the sour cream / dulce de leche mixture
    3. instead of parchment, I tucked saran wrap under the base layer. When I was done layering and frosting the cake, I simply gathered the saran wrap over the top of the cake and popped it into the fridge overnight. No scooping/re-frosting necessary. I checked it the next morning and it looked fine, so I let it be. I de-wrapped it for dessert that night and simply smoothed everything out with an offset spatula before topping with the ground up scraps and serving

    Everyone loved it. Thank you!


    I made this for my husbands birthday today and it was a complete success!!!!
    After reading many of the comments about the sour cream icing, I tried a technique I recently learned of in the cook book Indian-ish by Priya Krishna.
    In the book she makes this AMAZING cardamom saffron yogurt. To make the yogurt she strains it overnight in the fridge with coffee filters lining a strainer. This created a super thick and rich yogert.
    I thought this might work with sour cream and it 100% did!

    After straining the sour cream over night, it was indeed much thicker and a whole lot less runny than I was expecting from the details in the recipe. Next time I make this recipe I may make a cup or 2 more of the icing since it doesn’t flow to the edges and drip as much as in your original recipe.

  231. P

    Awesome! I will definitely be making this again.

    Some alterations- my family ate some of the sour cream I bought for taco night so I only had 1/3 of the amount in the recipe. I just did a 1/3 of the rest of the ingredients which was the perfect amount for 6 layers of a 6 inch cake, probably a better size for just the 4 of us. My filling was pretty thick and didn’t ooze out of the layers at all, so I covered the top and sides with whipped cream. I also ate all the cookie scraps while making the cake so I blended up some graham crackers to sprinkle on top.

  232. Dayna

    I made this cake a few years ago for my 30th birthday party. One of my friends thought it was so delicious that she burst in to tears while eating it! This cake now has a very strange legacy of being a dessert so good it could bring you to tears. Highly recommend!

  233. Elizabeth

    A friend sent me a recipe from the Moscow Times (I can send you the URL) that uincludes cinnamon, cloves, ginger, allspice and frehly ground pepper. What did your many advisors suggest about adding spices? (no criticism of those advisors intended).

    1. deb

      That wasn’t the way my family knew it but with Russian cooking, especially, there isn’t one “correct” recipe, it’s the way you grew up with it.

    2. Maria

      I made it when I was in high school back in USSR. The reason for making it is because even with empty shelves you could find all the ingredients. I never even heard of these spices until I moved to Canada. Our (Russian) cooking doesn’t utilize spices. So these new recipes are not ancestral or original.

  234. Claire

    I added a bit of cream of tartar to the filling and it didn’t go all oozy on me and it still made the cookies really soft.

  235. Maria

    Thank you for Russian recipes! Have been using your recipes for few years now and only now realizing you are married to a Russian explant! I just made the honey cake from a you tube video since my recipe has been lost in multiple cross country moves. Thank you for Sharlotka, we used to make it as a quick tea cake if someone unexpectedly stopped by. My Canadian kids love pelemeni and eat them by the bucket.

  236. I’m so excited about this recipe! I lived in Russia for a few years and couldn’t get enough of “Medovik”. It takes a while to make but is totally worth it in the end, and it’s best fresh, but not too fresh, so everything soaks in. Thankyou!

  237. This cake was delicious! I loved the presentation from the many layers to the crumbs coating the exterior and my family loved it as well. The cake was not too sweet and was so unique. My only issue was that I found that with the amount of dough in the recipe as is, I could only comfortably make a 6 inch cake with the 8 prescribed layers. I’m not sure if my layers were too thick or if there was another issue but next time I think I would like to scale the recipe up by 1.25 just to give myself a bit more wiggle room.

  238. Tessa

    This cake was so delicious. We made it for my daughters first birthday. It was not too sweet and just so cute. I thought my husband explained it perfectly as tasting like the last bites of a cheesecake (which is my favorite part).

  239. Ali S

    I missed the step of chilling for 1-3 hours and then repositioning and let it chip overnight. Now, it’s a bit lopsided. Anything I can do to shift it upright – it did not respond the gentle nudging.

  240. Yana

    My mother used to make this cake over 30 years ago in Bulgaria. I know the dough is quite stiff, she would make the cookies, set it aside and in a few days make the cake with creme angaise? They have come up with a fancy name for the cake : “Bird’s milk”, which is the fancies of all thing imaginable in communist Bulgaria.
    Thank you for the recipe, I was looking for it, but turned out “bird’s milk”is not very popular. :]

  241. Zubaida t s

    Perfect recipe, before two other recipe and i was not satisfied. This one is a keeper , thanks for coming with this perfect honey cake recipe. Do you have a choclate version of this ?

  242. LD

    I think this recipe could definitely go into the “sweet projects” section. And also, maybe there should be an additional cake section for cakes with a gazillion skinny layers, so I can have them all in one place to make them all. :)

    This was delicious. I’m glad I made it once, though the prospect of finishing was rather daunting. I’d definitely agree with the graham cracker and stroopwafel descriptor. Next time I may add some cream cheese just to thicken the frosting up a bit!

  243. Anna

    Hi Deb,
    I made this once before years ago (8 years ago) and now just did it again. I think you need to double the condensed milk amount or reduce the sour cream? I was successful at whipping up the above, 4 cups sour cream and one can condensed. My filling whipped, it was not leaky like in your photo above but the condensed milk taste is totally not present. The filling tastes like sweetened, airy sour cream and I have a ton of it left. I used 1/3 cup for each layer as stated above but ended up with 1/2 the amount of filling left over. Let me know what you think. The layers are perfect and taste perfect but I cannot seem to get the filling right.

  244. Kristin

    Hooray!!!! Finally made this; well, a half recipe (6” layers) gluten free test…and it was AMAZING! Yes, a puddly mess but it all worked out after the overnight rest in fridge. I used my own blend of gf flour (mostly oat and brown rice flour with smaller amounts of tapioca and potato starches, flax meal and xanthan gum). I did have to add extra flour. Dough was quite sticky to roll out but I managed ok using a little extra tapioca starch. Used Tillamook sour cream. Should have been more generous with filling between layers. Planning to make this for my twin brother’s and my 50th birthday in April. Flying to Germany to celebrate with him. Will prebake cookie layers and freeze them and then assemble in Germany. Bet I’ll find some gorgeous sour cream over there. Yay! Thank you so much for this fabulous recipe Deb!

  245. Bridgit

    I’ve made this as is, and it is so wonderful. Once, there were leftovers a few days later, and I cut them into little squares (3/4 of an in or so), put them on a platter and took them to a second party—almost like petit fours. They were a hit.
    Last week it was HOT, so I made a half batch of filling, used graham crackers, and stacked them into a parchment lined loaf cake with strawberry slices. I started w a thin layer of filling, then crackers, strawberries, scant 1/2 cup filling, then back to graham crackers. We only left it in the fridge for about 4 hours, and it was delicious, but could have used a few more house in the fridge.

  246. Sarah

    I’m a little uncertain if my dough is the right consistency — it’s more of a stiff cookie dough than a stiffer, kneadable bread dough. It shouldn’t form a ball, right? it should still be on the wetter side?

  247. Nancy

    Wow – just made this for Rosh Hashanah – it turned out amazing! Incredibly delicious! It definitely looked like a mess at first, but I hung in there (per the excellent directions) and it ultimately turned into a beautiful thing. I even did the flower stencil on top. Really loved it! I think it will be a Rosh Hashanah staple from now on.

  248. Hi Miss Smitten! This is probably the most impressive thing I’ve ever made and has been my partners birthday cake every year since 2016! Alas, a recent coeliac diagnosis makes this delicious little tradition a tummy ache cake.. Wondering if I could just sub equal amounts gf flour?
    Getting my head around the art of gf baking.

  249. Tatyana Shekhel

    I believe you forgot the baking soda !!? in the directions part. My grandmother made this cake for us almost every birthday . She taught me as well. It was a slightly different method she used but I wanted to try it your way . The cream was more of a custard and not sour cream based I’m curious to see how it will turn out :)

  250. Jessica

    I made this cake yesterday and finished it today for my husbands birthday. Haven’t tried it yet but I will say it is absolutely the messiest cake Ive ever made.
    A couple extra tips for anyone who wants to try this:
    Besides putting the parchment paper under the first cookie/cake layer when assembling, I’d highly suggest putting the cake plate in a cookie sheet to catch all of the filling that’s going to spill out everywhere.
    Secondly, next time I would use an open springform pan without the bottom to keep the layers from completely sliding off of each other.
    Third, I would check the cake after 30 minutes of being in the fridge because when I checked it after 1.5 hours the cookie/cake layers had already absorbed too much liquid to be able to straighten them out without completely destroying them. So my cake ended up being pretty wonky.
    Fourth, I would reserve some of the filling for the next day to help cover any spots. I ended up trimming my cake to try to make it a little more round and even so having extra filling would be helpful.
    Also, I obviously haven’t tried this but maybe making the filling ahead and letting it sit to thicken before assembling may be helpful?
    I’ll make this cake again but I’ll be editing how it’s done and changing up the filling to my liking, it really just tastes like slightly sweet sour cream and not like the honey cakes I’ve had before.

    1. Luca

      … just put it in a round cake form, that can be opened on the side. No mess and in the morning you can just open the ring and eat it all the cake

  251. Amy

    I don’t know what I did wrong. my dough ended up the consistency of paste. not a dough that I could roll out–even between two sheets of parchment. there’s no way to separate the parchment and not have a disaster on my hands. I’m so sad about this. not sure if I’m going to try again

      1. John DiCiaccio

        Thanks for your comment. Glad I wasn’t the only one.
        I kept to the recipe but used flour to handle the dough. It would have been nearly impossible without it. It was sticky. I pressed it into shape within a cake mold with no bottom. Worked very well.

    1. John DiCiaccio

      Amy, my dough was a bit pasty also. I used a bit of flour to make handling it easier and also found it impossible to roll between two pieces of parchment.

      I ended up using a cake ring and parchment and after spreading it out with my hands used the ring to press it against the edges.

      See my full comment where I go into greater detail. Worth the effort.

  252. John DiCiaccio

    Great Recipe Deb! Thank you!!
    As others mentioned I used a stand mixer with whisk attachment on high and drizzled in slowly the eggs then switched to paddle when adding flour and other ingredients. Worked very well for me!

    I did use an 8″ cake ring with no bottom to form the cookies and instead of rolling between parchment paper I used my hand as if you were making a pizza and then placed it inside the ring pressed it to the edges to get the right shape. The dough easily formed to the edges. My dough consistency was more like play dough consistency. Baked them for 7 minutes as you suggested.

    When they came out of the oven I fit the cake ring around one more time and trimmed a bit off so that it fit. They were perfectly formed. Let them cool completely on a rack.

    I then and lined the cake ring with 4″ tall acetate and put it on a piece of parchment. I placed the first cookie and 1 1/2 scoops (#10) of filling and used a bench cutter to smooth it inside the ring pressing down tightly on the next cookie to make sure it was evenly spread to the edged and level. Repeated till all 8 layers were inside the mold. It came to the top of the acetate.

    Put it in the fridge overnight and then easily removed the cake ring then peeled away the acetate. It was firm and very uniform.

    I’m guessing that you were trying to appeal to more people by not using a cake ring but they are not expensive. One could use a springform pan as well. The acetate is very handy to have and again not expensive and its reusable. Does this make sense?

    Really appreciate all the work you went through on this and many other recipes of yours I’ve followed. Yours are my go-to place when I want to bake something new.

  253. Olga

    I make this cake over and over again. Thank you for this recipe! Brings back memories of the cake my grandmother used to make.
    My family prefers just sour cream and icing sugar for the filling.
    Thank you again!

  254. Elizabeth Leonard

    So…. Could I use the stand mixer with a whisk attachment to “keep mixing” as I add the eggs to the honey mixture?

    Signed, tired arms

    1. Alex

      Yes! When finished with cooking honey and butter mixture, I transfer it into the bowl of the stand up mixer. It cools it enough so it doesn’t cook the eggs. Add the eggs while mixing. Works like a charm!

  255. Angela

    Huge hit with the family for Rosh Hashanah. Normally the dry store bought honey cake barely gets touched but always shows up. This year people ate this up and were stunned by the layers. I highly recommend this recipe!

  256. Alex

    This is genuinely the best, most comprehensive recipe for Medovik.
    I’m from Russia and never heard of Smetannik in my 27 years there.
    My mom however was famous for her Medovik.
    Yours is very authentic!
    The only thing I do differently is use a jar of sour cream (16 oz) and instead of the second one, I use 8 oz of mascarpone and 8 oz of butter. Soften the butter, whip it with a full jar of condensed milk, add sour cream and then room temp mascarpone. Do not overheat mascarpone. I assemble the cake on a plate, thank you for telling us to use parchment paper, a game changer! But I make sure my layers fit inside the ring for a 9” spring form. That keeps them from sliding in the fridge. Butter ensures the frosting stays in place too. In few hours, when the cake is solid, take off the ring, schmear the sides with leftover frosting and sprinkle with crumbs. All done!

    1. Alex

      I started adding lemon juice into the dough and lemon zest and vanilla into the cream. Acid elevates the taste a little. Normally you can’t even tell it is there.

  257. Josephine

    This didn’t quite work, even though I only used 1/2 cup of filling per layer I ran out of sour cream mixture to ice the sides. Also my filling was firm enough to not spill out even though I let the sour cream come to room temp all day, possibly a difference in Australian sour cream? Anyway, not sure what I have produced but disappointed.