My blogging friends’ impressive layered cakes (check Zsuzsa’s Chocolate and Caramel Apple cakes and Mr. Three Cookies’s multi-layered Russian Honey Cake) brought back one of my sweetest childhood memories: a frugal layered cake called Stefanka, one of my favourite chocolate treats in those days. Contrary to Poppy Seed and Chocolate Cake, my eternal number one, but reserved for special occasions, Stefanka was a very simple and quick staple weekend chocolate treat.
The original cake calls for several layers of “real” baked pastry, usually made with honey (a common point with the Russian Honey Cake made by Mr. Three-Cookies) and two different filling versions exist: cocoa butter cream or custardy, white cream thickened with semolina. In the simplified, quick homely interpretation my mum preferred (very popular in households at the time) baked layers are replaced with Petit Beurre biscuits. The white cream option was of course out of question in a house full of chocoholics. My only modification in this cake is using my beloved chocolate ganache instead of the traditional cocoa butter cream, which I find too heavy and fatty (and also not very rich in chocolate flavours). “Stefanka” is in a way a diminutive of “Stefania” and I still remember how surprised I was by its obvious similarity in both name and composition to the Hungarian Stefània Cake I saw at Zsuzsa’s blog. I haven’t made any research yet, but I would love to discover the mysterious travels of this recipe until it became so popular in two different countries.
As I have already mentioned, this is a very easy cake (for me the only tricky part is distributing the cream evenly, as you can see at the photo above…. but this doesn’t influence the taste). In short, if you have square/rectangular biscuits, good chocolate, some cream in the fridge, then you have everything you need to prepare a delicious chocolate dessert. The soaking mixture for biscuits is not obligatory, but it makes the biscuits softer and adds a rummy flavour.
Other layered cakes you might also like:
the above mentioned Poppy Cake with Chocolate Ganache
and the ridiculously easy Apple Cake.
UPDATE! I would have forgotten the most challenging layered cake I have ever made:
the unusual, surprising Hungarian Zserbo (Gerbaud) of which I am particularly proud (I cannot say this alas about the photo…)
TIPS: If you have never seen Petit Beurre, it’s a rectangular butter biscuit; here is the link to some photos:
Any similar, neutral-tasting butter biscuit can be used instead of course as long as it’s rectangular or square.
If you don’t have any nuts to sprinkle on top (or if you don’t like nuts), crush one or two leftover biscuits and use them instead.
Addition of instant coffee to chocolate desserts is my regular habit, but it is not obligatory of course.
Preparation: 1 hour+ at least 5 hours in the fridge
Ingredients (serves 8):
1x 200 g/about 7 oz package of Petit Beurre biscuits (or similar, rectangular or square thin sweet biscuits)
Cream (chocolate ganache):
200 g/ about 7 oz good quality chocolate (dark, at least 70% cocoa)
170 ml/about 2/3 cup liquid cream (I have used 25% fat)
(1 teaspoon instant coffee)
Soaking mixture for biscuits (not obligatory):
1 small coffee cup of very strong black tea
3-4 tablespoons ml rum or other aromatic alcohol (or 1 teaspoon artificial rum flavouring)
1 tablespoon sugar
(walnuts to sprinkle on top)
Prepare the ganache.
Bring the cream to a boil. Put the pan aside and quickly stirring, incorporate the broken chocolate until it melts.
(Add the coffee, if using).
Put into the fridge for about one hour (it should thicken a bit, but be still a bit runny).
Place 5 biscuits in a row on a cutting board (or other hard rectangular surface) lined with baking paper.
Sprinkle them with 1 tablespoon of soaking mixture.
Spoon over the biscuits about 1/4 of the ganache (don’t worry if it leaks at the sides a bit).
Place another layer of 5 biscuits, but starting with half a biscuit and finishing with half a biscuit too (this way the spaces between biscuits are not in the same place and the cake will not desintegrate).
Sprinkle with soaking mixture, spoon over the ganache.
Cover with another layer of biscuits (this time starting with a whole biscuit) and repeat until you finish the fourth layer.
Sprinkle with soaking mixture and soon over it the remaining ganache.
Gather the ganache that leaked at the sides, smoothing it at the sides of the cake.
Sprinkle with walnuts or crushed biscuits.
Refrigerate for at least several hours (the best results are after a night in the fridge).