My Grandmother’s Recipe Book

The most meaningful and amazing gift I got this holiday season was this book of recipes that used to belong to my grandmother Clarissa (the one who gave her name to this blog):

recipe book

It was very hard to be a good cook in the Soviet Union because finding ingredients was a heroic feat. And even if you were lucky to find anything, you always had to stick to the same few items. People went out of their way to create inventive recipes and these recipes were treasured and passed from one person to another.

Grandmother Clarissa was a phenomenal cook and she collected all these recipes in a notebook that later passed to my mother. And now my mother gave it to me. Grandmother’s main area of cooking expertise was baking. She baked a new cake every week-end and they were invariably beautiful.

I also love to cook but one thing I never do is bake. I don’t like baked goods, and I believe that the best dessert one can have is a piece of sausage. N., on the other hand, loves desserts and is especially partial to cakes. So I told him that this year I will make a resolution to make every single recipe from Grandmother Clarissa’s recipe book. N. was so happy that he had tears in his eyes although I warned him that I can’t promise these desserts will start coming out right soon.

So here is the very first cake from Grandmother Clarissa’s book that I just baked. It’s called “A Black Man’s Kiss.” Don’t blame me, blame the Soviet people for the strange names of these desserts.


All of the elements tasted well separately. Now the cake will stand for 12 hours, and I will tell you how it tastes.

The recipe is under the fold.


2 eggs, 1 cup of kefir, 2 cups of sugar = mix them all well together

1 teaspoon of baking powder, 2 tablespoons of cocoa, 1 tablespoon of olive or vegetable oil = add to the mix and mix very well

2 cups of flour = add to the mix and mix well to create batter

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Take the cake out, let it cool down and cut it horizontally in two. Place filling (100g of butter + dulce de leche*) between the two halves of the cake.

Cover the cake with glaze (3 tablespoons of sour cream, 3 table spoons of sugar, 2 tablespoons of cocoa).

Decorate it with whatever you prefer and let it stand for several hours (12 is best).

* Dulce de leche is created by boiling a can of condensed milk. This was the most popular Soviet dessert and I was stunned to discover that it is also widely used in Latin America and even has a name of it own there.


29 thoughts on “My Grandmother’s Recipe Book”

      1. They look delicious! Btw I am trying your shrimp salad recipe today, but sadly, without the shrimp because I am expecting some vegetarians for dinner.


  1. Dear daughter, thanks for the wonderful post and the photo of my mother’s (your grandmother’s) recipe book!

    The only thing that I want to add is that your grandmother was not only a great baker: her soups as well as second courses were also unbelievable!

    As to my Mom’s cakes, the ones I loved most of all were “The Poor Student” (the cake was richer than all the riches of the world) and “Kutuzov” (when I tasted it for the first time I said that Kutuzov beat Napoleon). There were more, but I don’t know their English analogs. Well, it’s only natural because your grandmother had no analogs herself.

    Speaking of the name of the cake you are citing, the was meant as a joke, your grandmother had a terrific sense of humor. She could have named the cake “Black Kiss” – doesn’t it sound amazing? 🙂

    Thanks again, dear daughter!

    Your father.


  2. Do you think that would do well on its own without filling or glaze? I am not a fan of baked goods either but I am attracted to the idea of a cake without butter and with kefir.


    1. Without filling and glaze and tastes like sweetish bread loaf that could definitely be used at breakfast, for example.

      I will have quite a few recipes with kefir because it’s insanely popular in my country. I love it but only in the unmessed-with form. All of these flavored kefirs make me queasy.


  3. I am finally trying this in, I think, an 8.5×11 inch pan. 9×12 I guess. It has: whole wheat flour, raw sugar, caramel syrup for the cocoa, and a lot of grated lemon peel. Is intended as a breakfast thing. We will see how it works in 35 more minutes.


      1. Like the blond brownies that always result when I try to make recipes healthier. I should stick to the letter of recipe if I bake.

        Specifically though, too sweet. That comes in part from putting caramel syrup in place of the cocoa (it was what I had) but what is the chemical reaction if you half the sugar in a cake? Do you have to substitute something else to make sure it rises, cooks, and so on?


        1. I’m horrible at baking and all I know is that you have to use the exact proportions the recipe specifies or it won’t work. This is why I dislike baking. I can’t get creative and experiment. Everything becomes very mechanical.


      2. Yes, this is why good cooks and good bakers are disjunct sets. Baking is precision. I’ve baked some truly tricky stuff, but gods, it is boring.

        Z: if you replaced cocoa with caramel syrup and halved the sugar, you’re out a little moisture from the sugar, but you also need far less moisture because of the absent cocoa and the added caramel syrup, which is even moister than sugar. I’d skip a few tablespoons of kefir in the recipe to balance things out – say, 3/4 of the amount of caramel syrup you put in. However, I’m being a cook rather than a baker and eyeballing this, so I can’t guarantee good results.


  4. Update: very interesting, Stille. What I did this time was use all the sugar, and the caramel syrup as well. Now that they (what turned out to be a form of cookie bar, rather than a cake) are cold, they are good, and hearty because of the whole wheat flour, and very flavorful because of the raw sugar and all the lemon zest. So, I think I should do it again. This time, though, I threaten to leave out the cocoa, halve the sugar, and put in a cup of grated apples. Do you think? Will it make something more like a cake?


    1. I don’t know, I’m afraid – this is veering far away enough from the original recipe for me to understand what’s going on. You could try looking around for recipes that contain the amount of stuff you’re planning to put in this one, and see if they’re recipes for cakes or for something else I guess.


      1. I am more reckless. 😉 The current version did not turn out at all as expected, but then I do not know that what I expected was realistic. And now that these blond brownies are 18 hours old,they are really good and the lemon zest is infusing them really well. Bottom line is I would rather start by whisking eggs and sugar than by creaming butter and working sugar in, and I favor the kefir. One day, I will get around to trying this al pie de la letra, albeit without all the frosting.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s