Russian Mini Cakes “Potatoes”

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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”.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.


11 thoughts on “Russian Mini Cakes “Potatoes”

  1. Kelsie | the itsy-bitsy kitchen says:

    These are soooo fun, Ben! I love when you share Russian recipes! And these sound delicious. I mean cookie crumbs and sweetened condensed milk? So totally delicious!

  2. Leanne says:

    I was a little thrown off by the name, but after reading through, it all makes sense! I’m pretty glad they’re more like rum balls than potatoes! lol. It’s only early morning here, but I’m wishing I had one to go with my coffee right now!

  3. Marissa says:

    You are always introducing me to new things, Ben! These little ‘potatoes’ are adorable and sound so delicious. I love the history of how they came to be – what an industrious way to not let pastries go to waste.

  4. David @ Spiced says:

    Ben, you are the master of making foods that look like other things! I still remember your photos for the chocolate salame. And I recall a cookie that looked like a nut, too. Pretty fun! So these “potatoes” sound like the Russian version of cake pops…a fun way to use extra scraps of cake. Fortunately we can use cookies instead as that makes it a lot easier. And the “eyes” are a fun addition. I’ve never heard of these before, but I like ’em!
    David @ Spiced recently posted…Bacon-Wrapped Chicken ThighsMy Profile

  5. Eline says:

    Brilliant! I have been on the lookout for a kartoschka recipe for ages!! I have always freestyled (with various degrees of succes). Will definitely try yours. I saw a really beautiful version on a Russian website where pine nuts were used to imitate the sprouting of potatoes.

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