A Baked Queen: Marvelous Marlenka Magic

“The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams.” Henry David Thoreau

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Marlenka’s story goes like that…Marlenka is an ancient Armenian recipe that recently came to light in Czech Republic, where an Armenian pastry chef, Geyorg Avetisjan became famous making this honey cake  in 1995, that he called Marlenka – after his wife and daughter. The heavenly dessert is similar to ethnic Hungarian honey cakes with a little bit more nuts. Also similar to another cake from the area, Medovnik,  Marlenka has luscious layers of nuts, creamy filling and soft cake, however, the thing about Marlenka is that its icing and layers are made from something very close in flavour to caramel, and that touch of luxury is the secret. It is incredibly popular in Czech Republic, Slovakia and neighbouring countries like Hungary.
My story goes like that… I have got a fantastic Slovekian Godmother, whose equally fantastic daughter will soon be the godmother of my own little princess. Their showering visit seemed like the perfect occasion to make Marlenka, and my partner in crime, my sister Eva and I have rolled our sleeves up…

“Love is like honey; you cannot share it without getting some on your heart’s fingers.” Matshona Dhliwayo

I give anyone that: making Marlenka is not for the fainthearted…but Oh my Good God it worth all the effort – every bite and every bit is sheer magic!

Ingredients
For the cake layers
100 g butter
3 tbsp honey
300 g icing sugar
1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp vinegar
2 eggs, beaten
700 g flour
3 tbsp cocoa powder
For the caramel
1000 ml milk
300 g sugar
vanilla extract
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
For the cream
250 g butter
300 ml milk
300 ml cream
100 g cornflour
2 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp sugar

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Method
Place the butter, honey and sugar in a saucepan and heat gently. Immediately mix in 2 eggs, stir until it dissolves into runny, homogeneous liquid and take it off the heat. Cool it slightly, then add bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. It will start to froth up. Mix in the flour and the cocoa powder and knead it into a smooth dough. Divide into 6 equal balls. Roll them into thin, equal sized rectangles on separate sheets of floured baking paper. Place a layer on the back of a baking tin, together with the baking paper. Prickle with fork randomly and bake on preheated 170 degrees C oven for 6-8 minutes. Repeat with all layers. Place them on a large wooden board. After a minute of cooling, turn upside down, take off the baking paper, trim the edges so the become straight and save the trimmings. Cool for a couple of hours, placed on each other.
To make the caramel, place the milk, sugar, vanilla and bicarbonate of soda into a heavy saucepan and stirring constantly, bring into boil. When boiled take the heat to absolute minimum and simmer for two hours, stirring frequently. Half of its volume will evaporate and it will become creamy and dense. Cool then cream together with the butter. Make the pastry cream mix cream with 200 ml of milk and bring into boil in a saucepan. Whisk cornflour, yolks, sugar and vanilla extract together with 100 ml milk and stirring constantly pour it into cream mixture. Cook until thickened and cool. When the pastry cream and the buttery caramel are both cool, whisk it into a smooth, silky cream filling and assemble the cake. Place alternating pastry and cream layers onto each other. Leave enough cream filling to cover the cake and top it with the pastry trimmings broken into fine pieces.

“It is the honey which makes us cruel enough to ignore the death of a bee.” Munia Khan

2 thoughts on “A Baked Queen: Marvelous Marlenka Magic

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