Kyiv Cake and others delights

The gastronomic scene of the Ukranian capital is more and more rich. Our storytell, with a recipe

by Marina Mayevska
The Kyiv Cake from the restaurant Klukva i Brukva

The Kyiv Cake from the restaurant Klukva i Brukva.

Kyiv Kitchen? The first thing that comes to mind is the truly famous Chicken Kiev, but definitely not everything here tastes like chicken. When the local market (bazar) is full of fresh produce from the surrounding villages, one goes for green borsch with sorrel and nettles (no beets, no tomato), fresh cheeses, freshwater fish, Danube herring. We do add sour cream on top of everything, from salad and borsch to sweet cherry varenyky (pierogi), puff cheese fritters or "lazy" cheese dumplings, and, made of milk from green pasture, it makes a difference.

Along with indulgent Ukrainian foods, over the centuries Kyiv has adopted all that you might know from Russian and Jewish cuisines. The chicken Kiev itself is almost definitely linked to the cuisine of the Russian court and, quite probably, to creations of Carême, who had been at service there. During the Soviet time Georgian restaurants conquered all the big cities, and since then they play an important role.

The Kyiv Chicken

The Kyiv Chicken

We love discovering and absorbing new tastes, and it seems to be inherent to Kyiv that historically grew up around a milestone as the city of travelling merchants. Recent openings include modern take on Chinese cuisine, Peruvian, Mexican, Scandinavian, Georgian restaurants.

Today’s Kyiv food culture boasts a unique gastronomic community of restaurateurs, gourmet travelers, chefs, artists, bloggers, journalists, who meet up on a regular basis to cook together. The idea of Gastrosreda (the name of the society) is to bring in new flavors, taste, learn and discuss. The topics of the past events included Georgian, Asian, Greek, Alpine, Jewish, Spanish, Italian (or more precisely formulated Tuscan, or Amalfitan), "new US", healthy, vegetarian cuisines as well as food and wine matching, organic, cocktails. Ukrainian cuisine is scrutinized under seasons and regional ingredients. Restaurants stand in line to welcome the gathering that meets every time in a new place, also on wineries, and travels abroad.

However open-minded one may be, when it comes down to Chicken Kiev, any variation will be suspicious of fraud. Only "the proper" version has a chance to be appreciated - "proper" is the key word of the local culinary small talk. Jerusalem hummus or Turkish coffee, it must be made properly, in a proper place.  Not to mention their ingredients.

The same holds even more about another locally iconic treat – the Kyiv Cake, arguably but strongly believed to be as famous, as its glorious namesake, the cutlet.

Originated in the 50s in the Karl Marx confectionary factory (today’s Roshen corporation), the cake is made ever since. Its special feature is the meringue with nuts, based on slightly soured egg whites. The layers of cream remind of Kyiv architecture, from Ukrainian baroque to the early XX century style. And the overwhelming sweetness is utterly convincing that ‘a light dessert’ is an oxymoron, like ‘the living dead’.

Another version of the Kyiv Cake

Another version of the Kyiv Cake

Kyiv Cake
by Julia Angelova, Odessan confectioner and family café co-owner

2 eggs
2 egg yolks
200 g sugar
400 g softened butter

Whisk eggs and yolks with a mixer until foamy. Heat sugar and 200 ml water to 121°C to get syrup. Combined syrup with the egg mixture: pour in with a thin stream and continue whisking until the mixture is chilled to room temperature. Gently fold in the softened butter. Continue whisking until smooth. Add vanilla for flavor. Then a ready-made meringue (500 g) can be used. Crumble it into large chunks. Mix with toasted, peeled and slightly crushed nuts (250 g), carefully, and spread into a mold. Top with cream and chill overnight in the freezer. Decorate and keep chilled until serving. Typical decorations of the cake are cream, more crumbles, and candied fruit, another Kyiv’s historic specialty. The cream can be divided into two parts, flavored with cognac and cocoa.


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