Mliekova Torta (Milk Cake)
A wonderful friend was dropping over the other day, and I wanted to treat her to a slice of one of Pauline’s cakes. Being lazy as usual on a Sunday morning, I left this task to the last possible minute. Scanning through my grandma’s recipes, I found Mliekova Torta and thought it seemed fast, tasty and easy, and indeed it was. It’s got a thick, flan-like batter, and was great with a cup of coffee. However, I don’t remember Pauline making this cake; do any of you?
I tried to find similar flan recipes, but did not find anything in Slovak or even from Eastern Europe close to this. There is the famous Spanish Tres Leches Cake and seems to be from around the same time period, early 1900s. A white cake is made, and then holes are pierced in the top and a mixture of evaporated milk, condensed milk and cream is poured over it, and the milks soak into the cake as the cake sets in the fridge. It is then served with whipped cream. And I found several heritage recipes for Hot Milk Cake, originating in the South. If you like Whoppers, you can try adding malted power and making a Malted Milk Cake. My mom used to make a Chocolate Sour Milk Cake, and it was delicious – this is a fun recipe from a delightful cooking website, The English Kitchen. But these are more on the cake side, not flan-like.
I think Mliekova Torta is most similar to the French dessert served in spring, Clafoutis. The only real difference is that the French flan calls for sour cherries (available only for a short time in the spring) that are sprinkled in with the pits still in, and it uses 3 whole eggs and a bit less milk. The pits need to stay in because they impart a strong cherry flavor in the flan. Countess Bendicte de St. Exupery introduced me to Cherry Clafoutis years ago when we first stayed at Chateax Cardoux, their French Chateau in Southwest France. Since discovering that I had my very own sour cherry tree in Canada, it is now one of my favorite spring desserts to make. I’m interested to find out if there are sour cherry trees in Vojvodina, and if desserts like this are still made there.
I had to play with the amount of sugar and flour, as the original recipe is not precise, and I’m not sure I got it exactly right, but my son Will loved it just as it was. The egg whites need to be beaten to a stiff peak, and the other ingredients need to be folded in carefully so that the cake rises properly. Pauline’s original recipe was somewhat vague:
Mix together a stiff froth, from 4 egg-whites, half a litre of milk, 4 spoonfuls of melted lard, 1 spoonful of soda bicarbonate, as much flour as is necessary (make it as thick as a sponge cake) and as much sugar as one would like.
My adjusted version of the recipe is below, with measurements for sugar and flour that are similar to that of the clafoutis:
- 4 egg whites
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2 cups milk, room temperature
- 4 tbsp butter, melted
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 cup flour
- Sift flour and baking soda in a bowl
- Mix in milk and butter, slowly do that there are no lumps
- Whip egg whites with sugar to a stiff peak
- Fold milk mixture into egg whites
- Pour into greased 8×8 square cake pan
- Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 min
- Cool, then serve sprinkled with powdered sugar and serve with fruit such as strawberries
Or go ahead and drop some sour cherries in and be like the French. Bon apetit!