Bird's Milk Cake with Mascarpone

Сказочное лакомство

Bird’s Milk is a confectionary and a cake known and loved all over Eastern Europe. There are different versions and different recipes in every country. As a cake, it’s mostly a white, rich souffle between a thin layer of delicate sponge on the bottom (or two thin layers of sponge) and a chocolate glaze on top. One generation passes recipes to the next for decades now. As the name suggests, it’s a delicacy compared to something from a fairy tale.

Советский автор

In 2007, Russia Beyond published a recipe created by Vladimir Guralnik, the head of the Praga restaurant confectionary shop in Moscow in the late 70s of the last century. Those are the Bird’s Milk cake flavors and textures we enjoyed in my youth.

Господин загуститель

В годы моей юности и конфеты, и торт “Птичье молоко” были дефицитом. Разумеется, многие пытались вопрозвести торт дома. Боже мой, я помню это жуткий рецепт в котром загустителем была манка, потому что она была в каждом доме, а об агаре тогда мало кто слышал кроме профессиональных кондитеров… Agar-agar was impossible to find during Soviet times. It is still not easily available, for I see recent comments to the Bird’s Milk recipes in Russian asking how to substitute agar-agar with gelatine.

Agar-agar is tricky. Its powder needs to be hydrated first. Then, the syrup has to be cooked to the right temperature, stirring to prevent agar-agar from burning on the bottom of the pan. Besides using an unusual ingredient, home cooks need to use a culinary thermometer, which is not a very common tool in a home kitchen.

Сходства и различия метода приготовления суфлейного слоя

The method is similar to making another famous Soviet confectionary, Zephyr. Разница в том, что вместо загущенного пектином фруктового пюре, мы используем больше белков и добавляем молочный жир. Этот молочный жир может быть взбитым сливочным маслом со сладким сгущеным молоком как в оригинальном рецепте, или маскарпоне — как в этом (автор версии Елена Айзикович).

Another striking similarity of the method is with Italian buttercream, which is more familiar to western home cooks. We start with Italian meringue, but the sugar syrup is mixed with agar-agar. Then, instead of softened butter, we add a softened Mascarpone (or, as in the original recipe, a butter whipped with condensed milk).

Bird's Milk Cake with Mascarpone

Prep Time45 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Eastern European
Keyword: agar-agar, bird's milk, cake, chocolate, mascarpone, meringue, soufflé, sponge
Servings: 6 portions
Calories: 445kcal

Ingredients

for sponge (8" diameter)

  • 60 g egg whole
  • 30 g sugar fine
  • 0.2 tsp salt fine
  • 36 g wheat flour all-purpose
  • 0.2 tsp baking powder
  • 8 g vegetable oil neutral flavor, e.g., avocado
  • 0.2 tsp vanilla extract

for souffle (2" thick)

  • 110 g egg whites room temperature
  • 0.5 tsp dry egg whites
  • 2 tsp agar powder Red Telephone brand
  • 80 ml water cold
  • 180 g sugar fine
  • 60 g glucose optional
  • 227 g mascarpone softened to room temperature

for sponge feed

  • 50 ml milk
  • 2 tsp sugar fine
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

for chocolate topping

  • 2 tbsp Valrhona Crunchy Chocolate Pearls
  • 2 tbsp chocolate to shave using Microplane

Instructions

for sponge

  • Preheat oven to 350F. In a small bowl, combine eggs, sugar and salt and whip into a thick cream-color foam.
    Note 1: One large egg is about 56g on average, without the shell. It is less than you need for the recipe.
    Note 2: Start hydrating the agar. In a saute pan, combine 80 ml of water and 2 tsp agar powder.
    Note 3: Make sure your Mascarpone is out of the refrigerator to become soft by the time you ready to use it.
    Making Sponge for Bird's Milk Cake
  • Add flour and baking powder t the foam and combine well with a spatula.
    Making Sponge for Bird's Milk Cake
  • Add oil and vanilla extract and combine well with a spatula.
    Making Sponge for Bird's Milk Cake
  • Line baking sheet with parchment paper. I discovered the best way of baking a sponge without leftovers by using a perforated ring. Spread evenly the batter inside the 8" D ring and bake for 15 minutes.
    Making Sponge for Bird's Milk Cake
  • Do not worry about the batter going through the perforation. It won't.
    Making Sponge for Bird's Milk Cake
  • When baked, cut the sponge separating it from the ring. Remove the ring.
    Making Sponge for Bird's Milk Cake
  • Flip the sponge parchment paper up and peel the paper. Let the sponge cool on the rack.
    Making Sponge for Bird's Milk Cake

for feeding the sponge

  • Use an 8" D cake mold with removable bottom. Place the sponge on the bottom.
    Note: Line the sides of the mold with an acetate cake collar for better-looking sides.
  • In a cup, combine milk, sugar, and vanilla extract. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Using a silicone brush, soak the sponge evenly.

for souffle

  • To make this part easy, you need a culinary thermometer and a stand mixer. In a bowl of a stand mixer, combine room temperature egg whites and dry egg whites and whip them on high speed until relatively thick and stop.
    Note: Since we have to whip the whites without sugar, dry egg whites stabilize the foam instead.
    Whipping Meringue for Bird's Milk cake
  • Add sugar and glucose to hydrated agar and place the pan over medium-high heat. Cook stirring until the temperature of the syrup is 240F.
    Note: Stirring is important for two reasons — it prevents agar from burning on the bottom of the pan and redistributes the heat evenly.
    Making agar-agar sugar syrup
  • Turn off the heat and give the syrup a few seconds to cool. Meanwhile, turn the mixer with the egg whites foam back on. Tilt the pan with the syrup to let it all collect on one side of the pan and slowly stream it down the side of the bowl with the mixer running on high speed. Watch the foam's volume to increase.
  • Stop the mixer, add softened to room temperature mascarpone. Whip it on high speed for about 30 seconds. The foam will slightly deflate and become more liquidy, which is expected. It is ready now to be transferred into the cake mold on top of the soaked sponge. Work quickly, because of agar that sets at room temperature. Make the top of the souffle smooth and even.
    Note: Fill all the bowls and pans you used for making souffle with warm water as soon as you can. It will make it easier to clean them later.

for toppings

  • You are welcome to make a traditional chocolate glaze, but for my taste, it overwhelms delicate flavors of mascarpone. Instead, try topping the souffle with shaved chocolate. I used strawberry and passion fruit chocolate shaved with fine Microplane and white chocolate pearls by Valrhona.

Nutrition

Calories: 445kcal | Carbohydrates: 56g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Cholesterol: 76mg | Sodium: 167mg | Potassium: 89mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 44g | Vitamin A: 597IU | Calcium: 74mg | Iron: 1mg
Bird's Milk Cake with Mascarpone