The Radisavljevic Slavski Kolac
Each Serbian family has a unique Slava Cake
Slava cake is really a sweet bread made with yeast, rather than a typical cake. It is made once a year and is one of the two symbolic foods that must be served during a family's Slava if the celebration is to be complete. The other essential symbolic food that is prepared is zjito, which is made from wheat. In this article I will share the recipe my mother-in-law, Paula Radisavljevic, passed on to me, and I will show you how we decorate our cake. If you are not yet familiar with the Slava holiday, you will want to read my article about Slava to see why we make the Slava Cake and how it fits into the celebration.
Have you ever seen or eaten Slava Cake ?
Please Taket he Poll about Slava Bread (or Cake)
It is a sacred food that is eaten by the family and close friends who celebrate Slava together. Only a few of our friends have participated in this family communion, for that is what it actually is. In Serbian Orthodox families, it is common for a priest to bless the Slava bread at some point before it is eaten. In our family, that doesn't happen, but we do recognize that the wine poured on the broken bread is symbolic of the body and blood of Christ for the atonement for our sins. In our family, we do this with breakfast on the second day of Slava, when we are normally alone. To learn more about when and how this is eaten in our family, check my hub on Slava, but please vote before you leave.
Set the Mood with Music
What equipment and utensils you will need to have before you start.
If you already cook and bake a lot, you probably have most of what you need already. Here's what I use.
1. A large, round pan for baking the Slava bread. I use a three-quart Pyrex baking dish. My mother-in-law used an round enamel -coated pan about the same size. I like the glass because I can see when the bread has browned at the bottom.
2. An electric mixer or very large mixing bowl.
3. A bowl for heating the milk and butter in the microwave or a heavy 2-quart saucepan for heating it on the stove top.
4. Measuring cups for both liquids and solids.
5. A kitchen scale
6. Custard cups for separating the eggs as needed, unless you've got a better way.
7. A smaller, 1 1/2 half quart glass mixing bowl.'
8. A kneading board or what I use -- a pastry cloth -- for kneading the bread
9. A rolling pin, a pastry brush, and a small, sharp non-serrated knife
10. Wooden spoons
11. A grater for extracting lemon rind
12. Most essential -- the family's wooden stamp with the sacred symbols that is passed from generation to generation -- for decorating the cake. .
Prepare Your Lemon Rind
Getting the Ingredients ready
First, assemble the equipment and utensils that are not handy so that you won't have to look for them at the time you need them. See the list above. While you are making sure you have everything ready, get the eggs out of the refrigerator so they will be at room temperature when you need them.
Then check to see if you have all these ingredients on hand:
4 1/4 scant cups of flour (500 grams)
1 stick butter
1 package dry yeast , dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water with 1 t. granulated sugar
200 ml milk (about 1 cup
1/2 cup sugar (6-10 grams), according to taste
1 egg and 2 egg yolks, at room temperature
1 Tablespoon freshly grated lemon rind (see picture)
1 teaspoon salt.
One bunch of blooming basil sprigs, tied together to decorate top of cake. (optional if you can't get one.)
Separating the Eggs Can Be Tricky
Instructions for Separating the Eggs
I start by laying out four custard cups. I crack the eggs,one at a time, being careful not to break the yolks, over the first custard cup, and slightly separate my fingers so it will hold the yolk and let the whites run out. When nothing is left in my hand but the yolk, I put the yolk in an empty custard cup. Then I break another egg the same way, holding it over one of the other empty cups. If all goes well, and the yolk doesn't break, I put that yolk with the first yolk and put the white with the other white. Then I break the third egg and put it into the bowl with the yolks. If one of the first egg yolks broke, it would be left as is in one of the empty cups and later used as the third egg. The fourth cup is in case more than one egg yolk breaks.
This is my method. You may have a simpler one. When you finish, if all goes well, you will have one cup with two egg yolks and one complete egg and another cup with two egg whites, which you can refrigerate until you decide to make divinity or macaroons or meringue. Be sure to click on the other pictures below, in order, for the rest of the directions.
Preparing the dough for the Slava Cake
How to Knead Dough
Watch an expert do it if you've never done it before. It's hard to describe in just words. I learned from my mother.
Getting the dough ready to rise
Getting the Dough Ready to Rise
After you have mixed your dough, it is ready to knead.(If you have never done this, watch the video above.) When you have kneaded it until it is smooth and elastic, it's ready for the first rising.
Grease a bowl that is twice the size of your dough ball. Rub the top of the dough ball onto the greased surface so it will pick up some of the grease, and then turn it over so the greasy side is on top. Heat a clean tea towel or smooth dish towel until it is very hot and cover the bread with it. Put it in a warm place, about 90 degrees, to rise until it is doubled in size. How long this takes depends upon the weather, the temperature of the room, and the kind of yeast you used.
While the dough is rising, you can start making the decorations. When the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and move it into the greased baking dish you will use. Grease the top again as you did with the first rising. Cover. If you didn't finish the decorations yet, you'd better hurry. They need to go on when the dough is almost risen this time around. When you put the decorations on the cake, allow room for the additional rising that will take place when the cake bakes.
When the cake is decorated, bake it in an oven preheated to 350 for at least 30 minutes. It should be browned on all surfaces. Be sure and test with cake tester, and don't forget to poke under the decorations at the top center, since that is likely to be the one place that isn't as done as the rest. It sometimes takes our Slava cake 45 minutes or longer to finish baking. .
Pick the Finishing Touch From Your Garden, As I Did
Instructions for Decorating the Slava Cake.
These instructions correspond to the matching numbers in the photos below. There was not room to write them under the photos.
- First one must make a stiff dough of flour and water. My husband starts with 1 - 1/1/2 cups flour and adds just enough water to make a pliable dough. He mixes well with a wooden spoon and kneads it a little on the floured pastry cloth on the table to make it smooth. It doesn't have to be elastic, since you just want it so it is easy to roll out. Pat down the ball you have kneaded, and roll out the dough to about 1/16 of an inch.
- When the dough is rolled out, Kosta uses the wooden stamp passed down through his family to make five impressions. These are then cut out to go on the center and in the 12, 3, 6, and 9 clock positions on the top of the cake.
- Then he makes some doves. When the kids helped, everyone's dove turned out to be unique, as talents vary. Each person attempted to mold a dove with a head, beak, eyes, and feathers and tail. You can see them in the finished cake above. Either poppy or caraway seeds are used to make the eyes. In this picture, the little balls will become the doves.
- In this picture, the ball is destined to be a dove,. The little things above it are part of a wreath that will go all the way around, connecting the stamped squares. In the right corner you can catch some ot the detail on the stamped square, which spells out in the Greek letters IC, XC, NI and KA, which stand for "Jesus Christ the Victor."
- Here Kosta appears to be working on the parts that will become the wreath. These will be interwoven with each other as they go around so that each one covers a part of the one ahead of it. Again, check the finished cake at the end of this series.
- The light was not ideal here, but you can see the doves being formed. Sometimes they turn out more like turkeys, but maybe you can do better. I don't even attempt it. It's always the men and the kids who did it at our house.
- Kosta uses the pastry brush to moisten the part of the decoration that will touch the surface of the cake to help make it stick. This is the close-up.
- This is an overview of the same thing. I sure wish I'd had my Flip back then so I could have this in motion.
- Now the decorations Kosta made are all on the cake.
- The finishing touch is a bouquet of basil, which I picked and dried during the summer. This is traditional, but we went many years without having it on there, and if you don't have it and can't get it, it probably won't be the end of the world. I didn't see any on some of the Slava cakes in shown in the links below.
Decorating the Slava Cake
Find out more about slavski kolac or Serbian Slava Cake
Slava cakes are as unique as the families who make them. These links will tall you more about them and show you some of the variations.
- Slavski Kolac
This is a very brief description with a picture and links to more Eastern European recipes.
- Krsna Slava
This article describes the Slava holiday itself in its historical and religious aspects, and puts the Slava cake into its religious and cultural context as many Serbian Orthodox families celebrate it
Only Serbs Celebrate Slava
Do You Make Your Slava Cake in a Different Way?
Of course, I wouldn't expect you to make Slavski Kolac unless you are a Serb. If you aren't would you like to tell us about a traditional food you make from your culture for a special holiday. Or maybe you'd just like to let me know you were here, since I always like to know who's come by.
Are you all ready to try making slavski kolac now?
Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Paso Robles, CA on April 14, 2016:
poetryman, I was born and raised in California and my parents didn't have any cultural traditions from other countries. The Serbian traditions are interesting, but they are sure more work that I was used to -- especially less than a week before Christmas.
poetryman6969 on May 10, 2015:
What an interesting food. I enjoy foods that have an historic or religious context.
Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Paso Robles, CA on December 01, 2012:
@Scarlettohairy: Glad I was able to share something new to you.
Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on November 30, 2012:
This looks very interesting. I'd never heard of Slavski Kolac before now.
anonymous on May 10, 2012:
WhiteOak50 on September 13, 2010:
What a fantantic recipe! Thanks for sharing it!
Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Paso Robles, CA on September 12, 2010:
@SandyMertens: Sandy, you are very brave. It's actually quite easy, if you aren't too elaborate with the decorations on top. You an actually use symbols that are meaningful to your own family. I imagine you would not have the wooden stamp that is the basis for the traditional decoration, but the fish symbol means pretty much the same thing, unless you are Orthodox.
Sandy Mertens from Frozen Tundra on September 12, 2010:
It is an interesting recipe. I would like to try this. Thanks.