These Russian Mini Cakes “Potatoes” are the staple recipe of the Soviet and Russian cuisine. It’s extremely easy to make it with just a few ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry.
Hello, everyone! I am quite excited today because it’s March (I am not too excited about the flying time thing, though). Spring is almost here. I am also very exited to present you another recipe from Russian cuisine.
Don’t you worry – there’s no actual potato involved in this recipe :) This name refers only to the shape of these cakes that resemble potatoes. (Although it’s hard to find potatoes that are not already washed / cleaned in the stores. But imagine the potatoes which have just been dug out.)
What are Russian Mini Cakes “Potatoes”? Basically, it is a no bake dessert that resembles rum balls or similar cookie truffles. “Potatoes” (or “Kartroshka” in Russian) appeared in the beginning of the XX century as the way of utilizing stale unsold pastry. However, it turned into a famous dessert only after the establishing of the Soviet Union. The chefs made this recipe even cheaper by starting to utilize breadcrumbs and cake cut-offs. Since that was the time of extreme deficiency when people couldn’t afford any waste, this recipe immediately become the hit! According to a common urban legend, all the bread and desserts that people didn’t finish at the cafes and restaurants would be collected from their plates and turned into this delightful dessert…But let’s not think about this scenario! That’s just an urban legend, right?
As you can imagine, “Potatoes” quickly gained popularity among Russian people and found its way into every household (It was one of the most available desserts that you would be able to buy almost everywhere) and then people started to make this dessert at home (Only simple ingredients were needed!) In fact, the recipe was altered and simplified once again as people would use store-bought cookies instead of cake cut-offs.
So, there are two basic approaches to making these Russian Mini Cakes “Potatoes”.
- You can use cake cut-offs. Ideally you should bake a cake and let it dry out and become stale for at least 1 day.
- You can use store-bought cookies or biscuits which are neutral in taste (Like Maria or similar tea biscuits.)
As you will see from my recipe, I opted for the second way. After all, this dessert is meant to be a simple cheap treat that can be ready in less than 30 minutes. Baking a cake from scratch and then crumbling it just doesn’t fit into this concept, in my book.
Also, there are two approaches to the appearance of the dessert. The first, the authentic way, is to make the white cakes and then roll them into cocoa powder. The second, simplified, way is to incorporate the cacao powder in the “dough”, and then if desired, roll them in cacao as well. For this recipe, I opted for an authentic approach because, well, normally potatoes have white flesh, right? I also made a few “potatoes” which incorporated cacao into the “dough”. While both versions were delicious, we did like the traditional way the most. There’s something special in the contrast of the sweet white inside layer and the bitter cacao outer layer. When you make everything chocolatey, there’s not much going on in terms of the flavour profile.
One more thing. While decorating the “potatoes” is absolutely optional, those “potato eye” would certainly be a distinguishing mark of this dessert!
Besides, you can add some flavourings like ½ cup of toasted and finely chopped walnuts. While it’s also totally optional, I encourage you to incorporate a little drizzle of strong alcohol. Cognac is something that was used more often, but a little splash of brandy or rum will do! Why not, right?
I hope you like this story about another Russian recipe, and I hope you give these Russian Mini Cakes “Potatoes” a try. You can also try a similar recipe, Chocolate Salami.
- About 350 gr. neutral cookies or biscuits (Like Maria, digestive cookies, or similar tea biscuits) – always have a few extra cookies *(See notes)
- 1,5 sticks of butter (about 170 gr.), soften
- About 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk – always have a few extra spoons.
- 1-2 tbsp. of strong alcohol like cognac, brandy, or rum (optional)
- Optional: 1-3 tbsp. dark cacao, for the dark version
- Optional: ½ cup walnuts., toasted and finely chopped
- 3-4 tbsp. dark cacao powder, sifted
- 1 tbsp. powdered sugar, sifted
- Beat the butter with a mixer, until lighter, about 2 minutes. Stir in the sweetened condensed milk and beat for another 1-2 minutes, until well combined. Reserve 1 tbsp. of the cream, for the “eyes” if desired.
- Place biscuits into blender and pulse until they turn into fine crumbs.
- Take about 2/3 of the crumbs and mix with the cream. If using, add the cacao powder (for the dark version), walnuts, and alcohol. mix well, adding more of the reserved crumbs, until you get dough-like consistency. If you’re using nuts or cacao, you will need less of the crumbs. The mixture will be slightly sticky and soft but pliable. You can always chill it out for 20-30 minutes to make it firmer.
- Take a little piece of dough (around 3 tablespoons or less depending on desired size) at a time and roll it into a ball or oval shaped “potato”
- Sift the combination of cacao and powdered sugar in a small bowl and roll each ball in it. You might desire to repeat it once or twice, for a thicker coating.
- Using a pastry bag or small wooden stick, decorate with “potato eyes”, if desired.
- Arrange on a plate, cover, and let them cool in the fridge for 30-60 minutes (Although you can eat them right away, but they so taste better then cooled.)
Of course, the texture of store-bought cookies / biscuits vary, so you might need to adjust the consistency of your “dough”. It’s easy to do – just have a few extra cookies and spoons of condensed milk adding one of the ingredients to make it thicker or loosen up. Alternatively, you can incorporate some ground nuts, to make it thicker.