Unbaked Layered Chocolate Cake (Stefanka)


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).



39 Replies to “Unbaked Layered Chocolate Cake (Stefanka)”

  1. layered cakes look so impressive! I can’t believe this is unbaked. I would say I’m going to try this, but if you remember, I’m trying to stop the cholate for a week at least haha.

  2. Thanks for the mention.
    This looks really really impressive, and sounds divine. A much more glamorous version of biscuit cake.
    And an interesting name. A bit like pavlova, named after a Russian girl.
    Both ganache and semolina based filling sound interesting, I will attempt this one.

    1. Thank you so much, Mr. Three-Cookies. It’s not glamorous at all though. Very easy and quick to prepare! I still have to try the semolina cream. It sounds very mysterious to me.

  3. Sissi… you’re killing me with your gorgeous desserts… and just look at those layers – they came out so well – very distinct. I could just see them all running together in my case… 😉 LOL. A patient baker, I am not. However, you’ve really encouraged me with your reassuring words of ease. Love the idea of a deep, rich espresso here too… yum…. I can almost taste it from here. The coffee and dipped biscuits reminds me a lot of tiramisu (my toes are actually curling right now ;-)). I wish we could sit down together for a warm brew and a slice of your heavenly cake Sissi – what a Christmas treat that would be!

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly, for all the compliments. The weather is awful: snow and no sun… and I cannot wait three days to take a photo! In short I’m not happy of the result once more.
      I am not patient either! This cake is really very easy and quick. I also wish we could enjoy a nice slice of cake together (and some of your beautiful winter salad before! so that we don’t feel too guilty 😉 ).

  4. This is a very elegant chocolate cake, Sissi, with the sophisticated additions of rum and coffee.

    All the cakes you’ve presented look amazing and in many ways remind me of similar cakes my mom used to make when I was growing up. Over the years we were spoiled with bakery cakes and my mom stopped making them, unfortunately. Remembering these home made desserts is very emotional for me. Thank you.

    1. Thank you so much for the compliment. I love adding rum to cakes. I remember my mum always used the artificial rum extract and I remember how different and elegant was the first cake I made with real rum instead!
      I am touched by what you say. As much as I love perfect professional cakes, they could never compare to a clumsy cake made at home with love.

      1. I hope that you don’t think I equate home-made with clumsy or in ANY way inadequate presentation or taste wise. My mother’s cakes were not elaborately decorated in the cookie cutter fashion of bakeries but, whether she sprinkled grated nuts, some shaved chocolate or just icing sugar over her cakes, they were wonderfully done and sadly appreciated more now that we know what we were blessed with … than at the time.

        1. My home-made stuff is very very often clumsy alas 😉 I sometimes need to prepare something twice in order to be able to present it on the web! I know many home cooks who make perfect and neat cakes though.

  5. I really like this Sissi. It reminds me of the wafer layers people used to fill with chocolate buttercream in Hungary. What do Petit Beurre biscuits taste like? It isn’t like honey grahams or are they? I was just wondering what I could use instead.

      1. I have just updated the TIPS. I’m sorry I assumed it was so famous 😉 (It has existed in Poland for dozens of years and I assumed in North America too).

    1. Thank you so much, Zsuzsa. I know this wafer cake too! I loved it as a child and made it quite often (a child could do it, it was even easier than this one). It is called sometimes Pischinger (like the Austrian cake, so I suppose it came from Austria).
      I’m sorry I thought it was available all around the world… like Coca cola 😉 Petit beurre is very similar to what I saw at US Amazon called Butter Biscuits (Leibniz). This is the link to Petit Beurre photos: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petit_beurre
      I will add this to my post!

      1. Sissi you also reminded me of one of my childhood sweets. My grandma frowned on it, but I liked it when I had a slice at other people’s houses. I just saw it the other day at the local Austrian deli. I think I will buy a package and we can reminiscence. 🙂

  6. Another fantastic offering Sissi, after your last delicious chocolate treat! Visually, it’s an extraordinary thing – so pretty, and it looks rich and full of sheer unadulterated pleasure too! I’ll have to look but not touch… I’m doing well on my diet and keeping this around the house would be dietary suicide 😀

    1. Thank you so much, Charles. I am stopping now the sweets too because I have prepared too much of chocolate treats recently. Christmas season is always such a good excuse to have more of them…

  7. Sissi – you are driving me crazy with all of these chocolate treats! Chocolate truffles, chocolate terrine and now chocolate cake! I’m not a big cake eater (luckily because I’ll eat anything else sweet); however, if I were to eat cake, this would be it! It looks more chocolate than “cake” and the cake layers are so thin. Perfect! It’s beautiful! Your picture shows what an artist you are with making gorgeous treats!

    1. Thank you so much, MJ. You are very kind. I was really worried this photo wouldn’t be appetising (it was snowing all day when I made it, so the light was dark…). This is not “cakey” in a floury sense of cake course, but I couldn’t find any other name and it does look like a cake from a certain distance.

  8. Sissi, you are killing me with your gorgeous layer cake! yup, this is indeed a very easy cake, bookmarking to make. I would also prefer using chocolate ganache than buttercream. using biscuit for cake reminds of the British Choc Biscuit Cake, that Prince William have for his wedding. The biscuits is broken into pieces instead of layering..

    1. Thanks a lot, Shannon. I have never had British Biscuit Cake. I must check the recipe and try to prepare it one day too (if it’s not too difficult).

  9. Tea, coffee and chocolate … interesting mix. I love the sound of this cake … no bake! And it looks gorgeous! Now how great is that combination?
    Definitely will be trying this out once I get my hands on some butter biscuits.

    1. Thank you so much, Ping. I haven’t realised it contains the three ingredients… The coffee’s presence is difficult to detect (it just improves the chocolate’s taste in my opinion) and tea’s either…. Chocolate flavours are dominating really.
      You can use any kind of sweet biscuits, as long as they are rectangular or square.

  10. This kind of cake is really wellknown in Germany called “cold dog”. During 1920th a famous german cookie factory published the recipe for the customers to boost the sell of of their short bread cookies called Leibniz Keks. I am quite sure there are millions of people in Germany who had that cake as child. The only difference: Early on (keep in mind the times it was invented) they used cheap ingredients and not a good ganache made from excellent chocolate and cream. Usually it was made with a cream prepared from coconut fat, sugar and cocoa powder and brick chocolate or such. But of cause there were also some who made it similiar to yours. I did not have it in years – strange but it is really connected to childhood times and tastes.

    1. Hi, Kiki. I had no idea it had German origins! Thank you for sharing the history. I saw that Leibniz biscuits are practically identical with petit beurre too. The cream you mention sounds however more appetising than the ingredients of nNutella (recently I learnt it contains huge amounts of palm oil…).

  11. Thank you again Sissi for bringing back a wonderful food memory; my dear Mother used to make creams with cream of wheat too, I can just about remember its buttery, unique taste.
    Your cakes look wonderful, I’m intrigued with the Gerbaud, so beautiful; if I’m not mistaken the ‘cake’ is more biscuity than cakey? Perhaps I’ll try my hand at this wonderful cake for Christmas Eve!

    1. Thank you very much for the compliments, Eva. Gerbaud was really difficult to prepare (it requires some dexterity I lack), but the taste was extraordinary and surprisingly complex (I still remember I felt very distinct coffee taste but there was no coffee in the cake!). I still remember I finished half of it on my own almost (luckily I have a Hungarian friend who took a huge part home!).
      The cake is not spongy or floury at all (in Gerbaud). Something like soft biscuits…

  12. Sissi, this layered cake looks fabulous….and I absolutely like the idea that no baking is needed to accomplish such a lovely dessert.
    Thanks for sharing the recipe and have a great week!

  13. First thing first, Sissi, this cake looks so gorgeous, and I want to say your photography is as beautiful as your cake!! As a person who never made layered cake, I just simply admire all these wonderful layered cake and it seems like a lot of work to make the layer so perfectly. I love this cake, the look, flavor, texture, everything looks elegant.

    Hope you are enjoying this holiday season Sissi. Sorry I’m always running behind. Thinking of you this holiday season. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Nami. I thought the light was flat and awful here… (Cloudy snowy day…). When you have biscuits as layers, the cake is very easy 😉 I used to help my mum to prepare it a long time ago, so it’s not difficult.
      I’m completely lost before Christmas too… Thank you for kind words. I think of you too!

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