Unlike typical western cakes, this Ukrainian Christmas cake is made from yeasted dough, and is perhaps best thought of as sweet, rich, luscious filled bread. There are three different fillings that are layered into the cake. We recommend that you make them ahead of time.
Learn more about Ukrainian Christmas traditions and find even more vegan holiday meals at A Ukrainian Christmas Eve.
Poppy Seed Filling:
• 1 cup fresh ground poppy seed
• 1/2 cup water
• 1/4 cup ground almonds
• 2 tablespoons sugar
• 2 tablespoons honey
• 1 teaspoon allspice
• 1 pound of date puree
• 1-1/2 cups of apricot preserves
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1/2 pound walnuts, finely chopped
• 1/4 cup honey
Sweet Yeast Dough:
• 1-1/2 cups warm water
• 2 packages of dry yeast
• 3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon of sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon of salt
• 2/3 cup canola oil
• Zest of 1 lemon
• 4-1/2 to 5 cups of flour
Poppy Seed Filling
1. Add water to the ground poppy seed paste (fresh-grind your own using a poppy seed mill, as discussed in the Kutia recipe), and bring to a boil in a small saucepan.
2. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, or until it becomes thick.
3. Add in the ground almonds, sugar, and honey and cook for another 2 minutes.
4. Take off heat and mix in allspice. Let cool.
1. Stir together in a medium sized bowl. (We use compressed date puree that can be bought in little plastic-wrapped bricks at most Middle Eastern groceries.)
1. Stir together walnuts, sugar and vanilla. Add honey and mix well.
Once you have made the three fillings and have allowed them to cool completely, it is time to make the:
Sweet Yeast Dough
1. In a large bowl combine the water and 1 tablespoon sugar. Allow sugar to dissolve, and then add in the dry yeast. Let stand until foamy, about 10-15 minutes.
2. Add in the oil, sugar, and lemon zest and salt and mix well, either with an electric mixer or by hand with a whisk.
3. Add the flour one cup at a time and mix with a wooden spoon until a loose dough is formed.
4. Place dough on a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Keep the kneading surface lightly floured to keep the dough from sticking.
5. Place dough into a lightly oiled bowl, and turn dough to coat fully. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place about 2 hours or until doubled
6. Punch down dough. Divide into 4 equal pieces, and cover.
7. Using a floured rolling pin, take out a single piece of dough and roll into a 9 x 13 inch rectangle. Transfer to a large baking sheet covered with baking parchment. Spread the walnut filling over the dough, leaving a ½ inch border on all 4 sides.
8. Roll out a second piece of dough as before and place on top of the walnut filling. As before, spread the apricot and date filling over the second layer of dough.
9. Roll out the third piece of dough, and as before place it on top of the apricot and date filling. Spread this third layer of dough with the poppy seed filling.
10. Roll out the last piece of dough 1 inch larger on all sides than the previous layers, and place on top of the poppy seed filling. Bend the edges down and press into the border of the lower three layers.
11. Starting on one side, roll the sealed border of dough over on itself, working around all four edges. When finished, crimp the crust border around all four edges.
12. Cover the cake, and let rise for about 30-45 minutes, or until it just begins to look puffy. Prick the top crust with a fork in a few places to allow steam to escape, and place the cake into a 350 degrees Fahrenheit oven for 50-60 minutes.
13. Remove when the crust is well browned and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a rack. The cake will taste better if allowed to rest for a day in a refrigerator or other cool place. Cut into squares and serve.
Jeff Nekola has a PhD in Ecology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and has a passion for biodiversity in its many forms. You can learn more here.
Linda Fey’s first and finest childhood memories are of helping her mother and grandmother in the garden and then bringing in freshly picked produce to the dinner table. As an adult, she has over 20 years of experience in market gardening and teaches middle-school English. Visit www.LindaFey.com to view her writing about food and life.