Choosing what to cook for this week’s country, Poland, was easy – and once again, being a dish with flour in it, this was a Miranda job.
I first saw the recipe for the intriguingly named Plesniak (Polish mouldy cake) on Taste of Colours and have had it squirreled away, waiting for our Polish cooking mission, ever since. The different layers of this cake (pastry, chocolate pastry, cherries and meringue) looked so delicious that it seemed like a no-brainer. How could it go wrong?!
Well, it didn’t go wrong, but it was a little more complex than anticipated, and there were, admittedly, moments when I suspected it might be a disaster! There are five different layers in this cake, all of which require something slightly different. As such, before the recipe, here is my list of things it is helpful to know when making this cake:
– Make sure the butter is properly softened before attempting to mix it with all the dry ingredients.
– Be ready to get your hands dirty (covered in ‘mouldy’ dough, at least!).
– Pastry dough goes really hard when left in the fridge overnight.
– If the meringue mixture doesn’t quite form stiff peaks, it’s not a disaster (it’s not a pavlova!).
– If you don’t have one of those cherry pitting gadgets, stoning all those cherries takes a long time, but it’s worth it.
– Grating a solid block of pastry is hard work. Grating two is harder. You don’t want to attempt making this cake after an upper body workout.
– Grating two solid blocks of pastry also makes a mess of the bench and the floor.
Once you have all of that in mind, it’s time to crack on with making the cake. Be sure to start about six hours before you want to finish it (or, better yet, the night before).
Plesniak (Polish mouldy cake)
500g plain flour
3 egg yolks
4 egg whites
250g butter, softened
1 1/4 cup sugar
Dash of vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp baking cocoa
Approx 400g fresh cherries (or canned cherries)
1. Whisk together egg yolks and half the sugar until it’s a lemony yellow colour.
2. Mix together the flour, butter, baking powder, vanilla extract and egg yolk mixture until well blended.
3. Divide the dough into three equal pieces. Reserve one of the pieces and mix the cocoa into it until well blended. Wrap each piece of dough in cling film and put them in the fridge for at least 3 hours.
4. When you’re ready to prepare the cake, preheat the oven to 180C.
5. Beat the egg whites with the other half of the sugar into stiff peaks and set aside.
6. Take one piece of plain dough and use it to line the bottom of a large square/rectangular cake pan. Many recipes say 13 x 9 inch but there was no way I had enough pastry for that, so I used a 9 x 9 inch tin.
7. Spread the cherries on top of the dough.
8. Take the cocoa dough and grate it on top of the cherries.
9. Layer the whipped egg whites on top of the cocoa dough.
10. Grate the last piece of dough on top of the egg whites.
11. Bake for about 50 minutes until golden brown.
The name ‘mouldy cake’ is a curious one and no one seems entirely sure where it comes from. Some theories are that it is due to the different coloured layers, particularly the brown cocoa one. However, seeing how the meringue went all fluffy and almost spider web-esque made us wonder if that might have something to do with it… although there is a possibility that the meringue didn’t turn out quite how it was meant to.
Either way, it definitely didn’t taste mouldy, and the combination of crumbly, biscuity pastry, fresh cherries and sweet meringue was a winner!
Next up is Slovakia, which brings us to another dessert recipe we’ve had squirreled away since we saw the Hairy Bikers make it on their Bakeation around Europe. Zemlovka… we can’t wait to eat you.