Marlenka – Honey Cake

Traditional Slovak Honey Cake is a delicious & flavorful layered cake with the main ingredient being Honey. Popular in many Eastern European countries, Ukraine & Russia, each having their own, a slightly different version of the same cake, is this Honey cake prepared mostly around Christmas or during cold, winter months.

To make Marlenka, you first must dedicate several hours of your day and a good amount of patience to wait for the cake to infuse the flavors overnight. Freshly baked honey sponge, when right from the oven, hardens very quickly but the moisture of the filling softens it again over time. I make my Marlenka with eight layers of honey sponge which must be baked separately, one after another – hence the lengthy preparation. Sponge or perhaps rather, the honey biscuit is first cooked on a stovetop and only after that rolled into a square or rectangle and baked afterward.

I prepare my Marlenka for special occasions and always around Christmas time to infuse my home with sweet flavors of honey and nuts. Tangy and sour cream filling spread on a sweet sponge is a great sweetness-balancing combination that results in a very comforting flavor and taste


INGREDIENTS

Honey Sponge

110g Butter, unsalted

150g Sugar, white

Two Eggs, whole, at room temperature 

85g Honey

2 Teaspoons Baking Soda 

420g – 460g Flour, white, all purpose 

A Pinch of Salt

Cream

230g Mascarpone  Cheese, cold, out of fridge 

220g Heavy Cream, cold, out of fridge

120g – 150g Condensed Milk, depends on your sweetness preference

260g Sour Cream 


METHOD

1. Cream: Start with preparing cream that needs to chill in the fridge. Whisk together ingredients for the cream (230g Mascarpone Cheese, 220g Heavy Cream & 120g Condensed Milk) besides the Sour Cream. Start whisking slowly and once the mascarpone “softens” and incorporates nicely with other ingredients, start whisking faster. Do not over-whisk!!! Watch your cream carefully during the whisking and do not whisk on high speed for more than 2 minutes (a sign of over-whisking is that cream starts to separate into a solid & liquid part). Once your cream thickened, manually & gently stir in sour cream

2. Sponge: Melt your butter in a medium-size saucepan or cooking pot on low heat. Once the butter is almost melted add sugar. Keep stirring and mixing (always on low heat) until sugar is dissolved in a warm butter (takes around a minute or two). Now stir in honey and baking soda and mix until nicely incorporated. Turn off the heat, stir in 2 whole eggs and mix fast until fully incorporated (eggs must be at room temperature – not cold, otherwise they will scramble !!!). Once eggs are mixed in, turn the heat back on (very low) and keep whisking or mixing (using a wooden spatula or whisk) permanently for the next 7-10 minutes until the whole mixture is frothy and pale in color

3. Take the mixture off the heat and add flour in three additions. After each addition, mix the flour with a wooden spoon until fully incorporated. After the third addition, it might be tough to mix with a wooden spoon so I usually start mixing and kneading with my hand. Start with 420g flour and go up to 480 – 500g. You must get a nice elastic dough that you’re able to roll out with a rolling pin and that’s not sticking to your hand or on the work desk

4. Divide your warm dough into eight, equal-size pieces and roll each piece out into the shape of your baking pan (I usually use a square 8×8 inch baking pan but you can use round-shape as well). Bake each rolled out dough separately on your baking pan lined with a parchment paper (that you can reuse) for 3.5 – 4 minutes at 350°Fahrenheit. You know that the sponge is baked when it’s slightly brown on the top & bottom. The sponge will be first very soft but it will harden after a couple of minutes. Bake offcuts separately after you’re done with baking 8 individual sponges. Let your honey sponges cool down before spreading the cream on it. Grind the offcuts in a blender – they will be used to cover the top & sides of the cake

5. Once honey biscuits are completely cooled and the cream is well-chilled, start alternating the layers of biscuits and the cream, starting with a biscuit and ending with the cream. Sprinkle ground offcuts on the top (they should be sandy-like texture, option – you can sprinkle the cake with ground nuts as well) and let the whole cake rest overnight in the fridge to soften & infuse the sponge. Enjoy the next day 

Dobrú chuť,
Lenka

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