Crepe Cake with Sweet Cheese, Raisins and Raspberries (Solozhenyk)

I love nothing more than to pour a cup of tea and to flip through my great-grandmother Olena’s recipe books. Although there are many good cooks in my family, Olena was uncontested in her expertise and passion. I was a toddler when she passed away, but my mother and aunt’s stories and Olena’s handwritten books give shape to the woman of whom I only have a few sepia tinted photographs. Our family lore wouldn’t be complete without stories of Olena’s garlicky pork roasts, bright yellow sponge cakes filled with vanilla cream and raspberry compotes.

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My favorites among Olena’s recipes are the forgotten old dishes that got lost during the decades of Soviet food shortages, standardization of the cuisine and obliteration of regional traditions. Some of it was forced by the state to create a market for commercial products; some of it was a part of a natural process as more women joined the work force and no longer had time to prepare complex meals. Olena’s recipes belong to another generation, but this is not to say that all of them are time consuming, extravagant affairs. For instance, her solozhenyk, crepe cake filled with lemony cheese garnished with raspberries, is elegant, but it’s also inexpensive and easy to make.

Solozhenyk is a Ukrainian dessert made from crepe or thin sponge cake batter. In old cookbooks, it appears in all sorts of guises and is garnished with different types of fruit. Olena also has recipes for apple and cherry solozhenyk decorated with Italian meringue. But it was her cheese solozhenyk that caught my attention, because it’s essentially deconstructed cheese and raisin crepes (nalysnyky in Ukrainian or cheese blintzes), a dish I adore.

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Making a crepe cake is even quicker than rolling individual crepes around the filing into neat logs. Olena suggests using fresh white cheese, which was commonly made at home, but farmer’s cheese, Polish twaróg, Russian tvorog, quark, fromage blanc or even ricotta all work well. The cheese shouldn’t be too runny (drain it in a sieve to remove excess liquid) and it should have a delicate flavor.

madeira raisins2solozhenyk5

Even if you don’t make the cake, I urge you to try the vanilla and Madeira wine perfumed raisins. It takes minutes to put together, but the boozy raisins last for months and can be used as an aromatic garnish for cakes, crepes, yogurt and fruit salads. Maidera is a type of fortified wine, and I prefer to use it instead of rum to macerate dry fruit. The flavor is milder, more caramelized, with natural dark vanilla undertones. The raisins are delicious and so is the macerating liquid.

Olena suggests garnishing the cake with raspberries, but of course, other berries or even orange segments would complement the lemon and vanilla flavors perfectly. Pistachio slivers were my decorative addition, but I think that Olena would approve.

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Solozhenyk (Crepe Cake with Sweet Cheese, Raisins and Raspberries)

I deliberately avoided giving the amount of sugar, because it depends on the type of cheese you can find. If you’re using ricotta, a sweet, mild cheese, you may need less sugar than if you’re using much more assertive farmer’s cheese. To sharpen ricotta, I recommend adding a teaspoon of lemon juice.

If you don’t have time to make Madeira raisins or wish to skip alcohol entirely, soak raisins in orange juice with a little bit of vanilla extract for at least an hour or overnight (start it as soon as you make the crepe batter). It will add a richer dimension of flavor.

Crepes (makes 20 8″ crepes)

200 g (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose or pastry flour
4 egg yolks and 2 egg whites
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups of milk and 1/4 cup of water
2 Tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Sweet Cheese Filling

1.5 lb (~750g) fresh white cheese (ricotta, farmers cheese, fromage blanc, quark)
Sugar to taste
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon

Madeira raisins (see below), fresh raspberries and pistachios for garnish

Beat egg yolks with softened butter, sugar, salt and vanilla (if using). Add sieved flour and 1 cup of milk. Mix well and add the rest of milk and 1/4 cup of water. Stir well. Let the batter rest for at least an hour or overnight in a cool spot. Add egg whites whipped to soft foam just before you’re ready to make crepes. The finished crepe dough should be the consistency of heavy cream and without lumps. If the batter appears too thick, add more water. Overly thick batter makes tough crepes.

Pass the cheese through a sieve and mix with sugar, lemon zest and vanilla. Taste and add more sugar, if neeed. Keep in mind that the crepes aren’t too sweet, so if you want your cake to be sweet, adjust the sugar quantity accordingly. Set the filling aside.

Stir the crepe batter well. Place a nonstick or seasoned 8-inch crepe pan over medium heat. Brush the surface with oil or clarified butter, and once the pan heats up, add a ladleful of batter and swirl just to cover the surface. Cook until the bottom just begins to brown, about 30 seconds, then lift an edge with a thin spatula and flip the crepe. Cook on the other side for 10 seconds. Flip the crepe onto a plate. Continue until you use up the dough. Stir the batter well before ladling it onto the pan. You should have 20 crepes.

Save the best looking crepe for the top of the cake and set aside. Lay 1 crepe on a cake plate. Cover the crepe with the cheese filling (about 1/4 cup). Sprinkle a few raisins over the filling, add another crepe and repeat to make a neat stack. Garnish with fresh raspberries and pistachios. Enjoy!

Madeira Raisins

1 cup of raisins
Madeira wine to cover
1/4 piece of vanilla bean, split in half

Rinse raisins and let them dry. Cover with Madeira and add the vanilla bean. The flavor starts to develop after 24 hours, but it gets better the longer the raisins steep. For this reason, I suggest making a double batch.

Photography © Bois de Jasmin

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53 Comments

  • Hamamelis: Back from Oman (a package is on its way to you V.) and reading this lovely recipe. Good to wean off of the delicious food we had (but not helping in shedding a few pounds…). The idea to steep the raisins is a great one, maybe also good as a gift in a nice container. My mother used to make pancake pie, but that was much less sophisticated, her pancakes were thick, and the pie was just cold pancakes with layers of jam in between them. Nevertheless we devoured the cake, and cold pancakes remain a favourite. Thank you for posting it!
    Oman was fantastic, I will report in the next Scent diary! February 25, 2015 at 7:43am Reply

    • Sandra: I have wanted to visit Oman. Do any perfume shopping there? February 25, 2015 at 8:51am Reply

      • Hamamelis: Yes…! Besides some authentic attars, including a lovely rose oil in a typical Arabic container attached to a key ring (I bought it in a gasstation), both my husband and myself bought the mini Amouage collection, I just couldn’t make up my mind so this was the solution. I can thoroughly recommend Oman, it is beautiful, fragrances everywhere, absolutely safe, clean and very different (at least from where I live)! February 25, 2015 at 9:15am Reply

        • Cornelia Blimber: Looking forward to your Oman adventures! February 25, 2015 at 10:53am Reply

        • Victoria: That’s how I felt about it. So much to discover, and lots of interesting places for a perfume lover. February 25, 2015 at 11:04am Reply

          • Karen: I, too, am looking forward to your report on Oman – fragrance and non-fragrance activities! February 25, 2015 at 3:03pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you! I can’t wait to hear about your Oman adventures. 🙂

      Your mom’s pancake pie sounds wonderful. What can be better than pancakes with jam, except that many of them! February 25, 2015 at 10:57am Reply

  • Brenda: What a wonderful recipe! It is above my expertise as a cook…but that does not mean I am not able to imagine it’s lovely presentation and taste. I was especially warmed by your photo of those beautiful hand written recipes They show such passion, caring and thoughtfulness…absolute treasures. I have a friend who enlarged and framed one of her mothers recipes …splotches, butter stains and all…and it hangs beautifully in her kitchen. These glimpses into another women’s time – and daily life – are such a gift. I need to go back and look again! Thank you… February 25, 2015 at 8:33am Reply

    • Victoria: I love your friend’s idea. These family notebooks are such a treasure, especially since I don’t have other mementos of her. You definitely can see what Olena was like, what she was interested in, what beauty preparations she noted, etc. Her books have herbal blends as well as facial treatments, not just recipes. February 25, 2015 at 11:02am Reply

  • Irina: This looks (and I bet it smells) heavenly. I wish there was a perfume with these notes!

    Your Ukrainian recipes and your photos of them are one of my favorite parts of your blog <3 February 25, 2015 at 8:37am Reply

    • Victoria: The Madeira raisins really should be a perfume accord. The fragrance is so heady, since wine, dried fruit and vanilla are full of complex, aromatic notes.

      Thank you, Irina! I’m very happy to hear this. February 25, 2015 at 11:03am Reply

  • Marsha: Victoria, I never cease to be amazed at what treasures you post about your grandma or your great-grandma! February 25, 2015 at 9:34am Reply

    • Victoria: Imagine that these books were misplaced during one of our many moves and were nearly lost.

      The best childhood memory is of my grandmother making crepes, and we’d be sitting around and waiting with jam and sour cream to eat crepes straight off the pan. Of course, it’s not practical to do this when it’s just me and my husband, but crepes really taste best seconds after they’re cooked. February 25, 2015 at 11:10am Reply

      • Kate: I have similar memories, in my case not crepes, but scones into which my grandmother would grate orange peel. We used to eat them warm from the oven with fresh butter melting into them, and raspberry jam. She passed away 25 years ago but I still miss her. These memories are priceless.

        Can’t wait to try your recipe Victoria! February 25, 2015 at 3:36pm Reply

        • Victoria: Your description is so vivid, I imagines tasting these orange scented scones dripping with butter myself.

          My paternal grandmother wasn’t such an inventive or expert cook as woman on my mother’s side, but I recall with such clarity some of her dishes. For instance, she made little potato pies stuffed with mushrooms that we ate with sour cream. I have been trying to recreate the flavor and texture of that mushroom filling, but nothing really comes close. She also made savory oatmeal porridge with bacon and black pepper that I use to prefer to the sweet version with jam and butter. February 25, 2015 at 5:47pm Reply

      • Marsha: Goodness, I’m certainly happy for you that you found them! I also really need to owe you a thank you for that post about improving your sense of smell. Mine has radically improved since I started doing the things you recommended. February 26, 2015 at 8:56am Reply

        • Victoria: I’m so delighted to hear this! Yes, those little exercises really work. But the best part is that they’re fun to do. Enjoy it! February 26, 2015 at 3:29pm Reply

  • Neva: Great recipe! I have to try it out as soon as possible. Recently I discovered a shop selling ready made pancakes just waiting to be filled with whatever you like, so I eat more pancakes than ever. I prefer vegetables and fish (salmon) fillings. But when it comes to sweet pancakes, there’s nothing like the combination of fresh cheese, lemon and raisins! My Mother makes the cheese filling, rolls it into the pancakes, pours a mixture of sour creem with an egg yolk and some confectioners’ sugar over it and bakes it in the oven. The Madeira Raisins sound great as an addition. Thanks for the good idea! February 25, 2015 at 9:49am Reply

    • Victoria: Your mother’s recipe is waiting to be tried. At home, we usually simply rolled crepes around different fillings and ate them cold, but the baked version sounds even better. Another friend shared her mother’s recipe the other day, but I haven’t tried it. You spread cold crepes thinly with a little bit of sour cream, stack them and bake them till the top is golden. That also sounds delicious. February 25, 2015 at 11:12am Reply

    • rainboweyes: That’s exactly the same way my Mum made nalesniki (crepes) with Polish twaróg filling. We ate them warm, drizzled with melted butter. February 25, 2015 at 12:17pm Reply

      • rainboweyes: What’s the literal meaning of solozhenyk, by the way? February 25, 2015 at 12:17pm Reply

        • Victoria: The root of the word is “solodkyj”, sweet, so it literally means “something sweetened.” February 25, 2015 at 12:52pm Reply

      • Victoria: My friend from Lviv mentioned a moment ago after she read my post that her grandmother stuffed crepes, arranged them into a pyramid, layered the whole thing with sour cream and baked it. Then the pyramid would be sliced like a cake and eaten with more sour cream on the side. February 25, 2015 at 12:56pm Reply

  • Tijana: Yummmmmm! I love this!!!! Will have to make it – thanks for sharing! 🙂 February 25, 2015 at 9:54am Reply

    • Victoria: Please let me know how it turns out!

      My mom makes crepes every Sunday for lunch, which is a nice tradition. Not that I can stick to any tradition this consistently, but I like the idea. 🙂 February 25, 2015 at 11:16am Reply

  • Mel: How would this recipe work with whipped cream instead of cheese? I’m not a cheese lover. btw, I love all of your recipes. I’ve been making the chicken kofta for so long that I can literally manifest fake memories of growing up with it in Mississippi! February 25, 2015 at 2:37pm Reply

    • Victoria: It would work really well! The Madeira raisins and cream already sound like a tasty combination.

      I’m laughing over your fake memory comment. Very glad that you liked the recipe. February 25, 2015 at 2:49pm Reply

  • Karen: Beautiful photos and the recipe sounds wonderful! February 25, 2015 at 3:06pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you! I made it already a couple of times, and I really like the combination of flavors. Plus, it’s not an overly heavy or sweet dessert. February 25, 2015 at 5:40pm Reply

  • Austenfan: I love crepes in any shape or form and this sounds very, very tasty. Thanks! February 25, 2015 at 3:53pm Reply

    • Victoria: Me too! I’m thinking of trying her apple solozhenyk next. Essentially, it’s the same thing as this cake, but the apple sauce is used as filling. February 25, 2015 at 5:48pm Reply

  • Hannah: I was obsessed with making crepe cakes for a while. Within a month, I made strawberry, matcha, rosewater with pomegranate seeds. I’ll make this one, too.
    I’ve been thinking about making another crepe cake. My current obsession is curds so I want to make one with a curd between the layers. I made a cardamom orange curd, so I considered making the crepes to make a cake but somehow (ie my mom) the curd has disappeared. February 25, 2015 at 6:03pm Reply

    • Victoria: Hannah, your crepe cakes sound heavenly, especially the idea of using orange cardamom curd. I will definitely have to try that. Cardamom is one of my favorite spices. I’m not surprised that your mom found it too tempting. February 26, 2015 at 6:42am Reply

      • Hannah: I made the cake the day before yesterday. Since I don’t have madeira, I used port. I also used ricotta. I think I’d like it better with quark.

        Your crepe recipe is a little bit different from the one I use. It’s easier to get consistent crepes with this one. March 5, 2015 at 7:28pm Reply

        • Victoria: I’m very glad to hear that you’ve tried it. If you live in Germany, quark should be easy to get, and yes, it’s much better than ricotta, because it’s tart. But it’s a matter of taste. I prefer my desserts not too sweet. March 7, 2015 at 8:22am Reply

  • Andy: This sounds delicious and easy! No madeira around, so I’ll substitute something else when I get around to trying this–I’m thinking perhaps I’ll use an orange liqueur for soaking the raisins instead. February 25, 2015 at 7:57pm Reply

    • Victoria: You can use any liqueur or spirits you want. Madeira wine lasts for ages in the cupboard, so it’s a perfect liquor to have on hand for cooking. It has a nutty, caramelized, dry fig flavor. Maybe, too rich for me to enjoy it straight, but in desserts it’s perfect.

      Sherry would also work really well. February 26, 2015 at 6:45am Reply

      • Hannah: Would port work? February 28, 2015 at 6:15pm Reply

        • Victoria: Yes, it definitely would! March 7, 2015 at 8:13am Reply

  • Anka: Thank you for the recipe and those pictures!!!
    I am in the mood to try the cake with melted chocolate (or nutella…) in between and bananas on top. February 26, 2015 at 3:27am Reply

    • rainboweyes: Bananas and Nutella, yum! February 26, 2015 at 3:57am Reply

      • Victoria: P.S. Anka, thanks to your inspiration, I made a nutella and banana sandwich for breakfast. 🙂 February 26, 2015 at 6:49am Reply

    • Victoria: I should have mentioned that this cake covered with dark chocolate glaze becomes something quite decadent. But when I made it last week, it was a quick after-work affair, so I skipped glazing. February 26, 2015 at 6:48am Reply

  • The Blue Squid: Wow! This sounds easy, fun, delicious, adaptable, and not something I would have thought of by myself. Therefore, for me, it is a perfect recipe. I will have to try it next time someone says “Bring a plate”. Thanks, as always 🙂 February 26, 2015 at 6:56am Reply

    • Victoria: This cake serves 8 people generously and 10 people easily (especially if you add a fruit salad on the side). I collected several crepe cake recipes, but the idea of using creamy cheese filling has never occurred to me. Well, grandmothers know best! 🙂 February 26, 2015 at 7:25am Reply

  • spe: Fabulous post and I am especially touched by the book photo. It’s lovely to see actual handwriting! February 26, 2015 at 9:48am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you. I love these books, because she clearly took care writing them down. Some of them are written in store bought notebooks, but others in handmade ones. February 26, 2015 at 3:31pm Reply

  • Aurora: It’s several recipes in one, so much inspiration in this post, thank you, thank you, thank you, for sharing your family lore… and the photos are swoon worthy.

    I made crepes on Shrove Tuesday according to my mother’s recipe, but next time I will try your great grandmother’s solozhenyk, another pretty Ukrainian word. February 26, 2015 at 12:40pm Reply

    • Victoria: In the Orthodox tradition, the whole week before Lent is the week for making pancakes and eating rich things. Or in Poland–for eating donuts. My local store sold such delicious ones with apricot filling.

      The crepes from this recipe must be among my favorites. Although I use several different recipes, these are the softest and most delicate. And because there is butter in the batter, they’re easy to flip. What is your mother’s recipe for crepes? February 26, 2015 at 3:34pm Reply

      • Aurora: Hello, Victoria: In the essentially French recipe from my mother, the main differences are that the 3 eggs are used whole, add to the flour and the pinch of salt, then add the milk, then the juice of one orange , then 3 tblsps of olive oil, then 3 tblsps of rum. I think this recipe works especially well for savoury crepes and I am so looking forward to make your recipe. I love the idea of a sweet cheese filling with the raisins and Madeira, so decadent. February 28, 2015 at 5:50am Reply

        • Aurora: sorry, looking forward to ‘making’ March 2, 2015 at 5:51am Reply

        • Victoria: Thank you! I love the combination of rum and orange blossom water, and I’ll definitely try your mom’s recipe next. March 7, 2015 at 8:11am Reply

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