The Symphonic Juncture

A [Symphonist]: "The one who is not afraid to raise the primal force."

- Boris Asafiev (1917)

Russian Recipe Sunday! No.1, Торт Медовик [Honey Cake]

I woke up this morning, the seventh of February in the [hopefully improved] year of 2021, with a latent seed of confectionary interest deposited into my consciousness from a slumber that proved itself to be necessary due to the previous night's work forestalling my usual bedtime of 10:30 pm. Granted, I usually end up staying for an hour and reading, but that's tangential to the greater, baking narrative unfolding here! In light of my attempt to learn the Russian language, I wanted to infuse my learning with some 'real-world', application-based practice, and what better way to do so than to cook, bake, and learn culture through food!


Because I like to pride myself on 'I can get you fat, but not full' [a self-chide I gladly make at my own expense], I figured the best, inaugural recipe would be found in the sweet department of the Russian cultural consciousness, and boy am I glad I chose that route! From Tula Gingerbread [Тульский пряник] and Pigeon-milk cakes [Торт "Птичье молоко"], to one of the most famous Russian desserts there is, a tendrical, fried-dough dish called Chack-Chack [Чак-Чак], the Russian culture and their diverse array of desserts, easy to eat and hard to make in some cases, rival and, in other cases, blow out of the water even the very best Georgian peach cobbler or New Orleans banana boat [two things I love btw!].


However, today I chose to attempt to create the 19th-century dessert 'Honey Cake,' originally made by a young chef looking to make his mark in the Russian Imperial Courts at the servitude of Alexander 1st. History tells us, via Russia Beyond(2017), that Empress Elizabeth Alexeievna was not fond of the flavor of honey to such an extent that it 'drove her mad,' although I must wonder how much was hysterics and how much was simply bourgeois fanaticism. Regardless, this unknown, culinary master decided to take up the duty of preparing a dessert that would finally succumb Elizabeth to the sensual deliciousness of honey and its locality-based flavors, explained by Stephanie Rosenbaum as, "the flower transmuted, its scent and beauty transformed into aroma and taste."



Considered the 'tsar of Russian cakes,' Торт Медовик was an Imperial favorite then and was a Soviet favorite as well, popular among housewives and their families due to the extremely small ingredient list [tort: only 7, spread:1-4], all which were available even during the hardest of times, i.e., milk, sugar, flour, etc. Now, with the onset of choice and exorbitant amounts of substance options available in almost every town, city, or collective across the continental US and abroad, numerous variations to the original recipe have been created. One being condensed milk and sour cream, the original using only sour cream, another being a vanilla-based custard, and another still being typical buttercream frosting.


I opted-in for the custard variation this time but, unbeknownst to me prior to the recipe's conclusion, the original does in-fact only call for a heavy layer of sour cream. This recipe, while not being technically challenging, takes well more than the prescribed 90 minutes that Zira's Anastasia Pulina stipulates as, due to the tort's 8-layer structure, one has to bake each layer in a successive fashion, this only happening after the making of the dough, a process which involves water-boiling [a newish technique for me]. BUT, once all the layers are out and cooled, one then is responsible for making the coating of their choice, Anastasia opting-in for the sour cream route while I indeed when the sweeter direction. For that recipe, I used MaryanaTastyFood's recipe via Cook Pad, a 6-ingredient custard which uses a wholly-Russian ingredient, vanilla-sugar, a type of sugar unfamiliar to me until its presence within this recipe. Essentially, it is vanilla extract-infused granulated sugar pre-