Ukrainian Christmas Date, Walnut, and Poppy Seed Cake Recipe

Updated on December 14, 2017
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Are you tired of that wretched fruit cake that gets dragged out every holiday season? The one that appears like it came from last year and was simply preserved and not eaten until now, wretchedly bad and horrible too? Then this Ukrainian Christmas cake is like a fruit cake, except that it is actually good! Composed of layers of dates and marmalade, poppyseed filling, and a walnut and meringue filling, all sandwiched between individual layers and baked into a gloriously large layered cake like a rustic peasant's torte. This cake makes for a large and satisfying treat.

This recipe is adapted from Please to the Table, The Russian Cookbook, by Anya von Bremzen.

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  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup milk, heated to around 105 degrees f
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup + 1/2 cup + 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 lemon zest of
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 12 ounce can solo brand poppy seed filing
  • 16 oz chopped dates
  • 1 cup marmalade preserves
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 oz finely chopped walnuts
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted and allowed to cool to warm


  1. Prepare the yeast first. Heat the milk to 105 degrees f, then combine the milk, 2 packages of yeast, and 1 tablespoon of sugar in a large bowl. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, until it becomes creamy.
  2. Proceed to egg the egg yolks, the butter which has been melted and cooled to warm, the lemon zest, and 1/2 cup of sugar, and mix together well. Then add 3 cups of flour, adding 1 cup at a time and stirring well after each addition. The result should be dough which is soft and not too thick, but which doesn't stick.
  3. Using a floured surface, energetically kneed the dough until it is smooth and elastic, during 7 minutes. This is an important step and make sure that the dough is well kned, or else it will not rise as desired. When done, shape the dough into a ball, place in a buttered bowel, cover with a linen or cotton kitchen towel, and allow to rise in a warm space for 1 1/4 hours. Punch down the dough at the end, and it is not ready to use now or it can be kept in a refrigerator for later use in up to 24 hours.
  4. Divide the dough into 4 equal portions, although it might be best to have one slightly larger than the other 3. Then roll out the dough into a large rectangle, at least 11x8 inches or as large as possible really. Drape one over the top of a large baking sheet, while keeping the remaining dough covered.
  5. Whisk 1 egg white until it is frothy. Then stir in the poppy seed filling and mix well. Spread this mixture over the dough, leaving at least a 1/2 inch border on all of the sides.
  6. Roll out a second piece of dough, the same as previously done, placing on top of the poppy seed filling. Combine the dates and the marmalade preserves together, then spread these over this second layer.
  7. Roll out a third piece of dough, the same as previously done, placing on top of the dates and marmalade. Beat the remaining 2 egg whites until they are a meringue, add in the 1/2 cup sugar and the 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and beat until incorporated. Then add in the 6 oz of finely cut walnut pieces. Spread this over the third piece of dough.
  8. Roll out a fourth piece of dough, so that it is slightly larger than the others. Place it over the walnut filling, and press it together to the edges of the bottom layer so that it is firmly sealed.
  9. Allow the cake to let stand and rise in a warm place for 30 minutes, covered with paper towels. Then preheat the oven to 350 degrees. If possible, brush with an egg wash, and then bake for 45 minutes. Cool completely on a rack before consumption.

© 2017 Ryan Thomas


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