In a brief detour from recipes of strictly friends-and-family provenance, I give you Mrs. Nováková’s bábovka. The intrepid Mrs. Nováková, doyenne/editor of the Czech section of the publishing house where I used to work, biked merrily to and from work in good weather, and poured homemade hazelnut liqueur for the office, in bad. Sharing an office with Mrs. N. and her team of three giggly (but very sweet) editorial assistants supplied a good eighty percent of my Czech vocabulary. The Czech and English sections occasionally bonded through our mutual love of 1,001 Baby Animals (from the house frontlist), and through mutual outrage at the typesetters and Chinese government censors.

Everyone seems to have a bábovka recipe–and Jakub’s aunt’s recipe is coming up, later this week–but this one is extraordinary, studded with rum-soaked raisins and flecked with orange zest. In a word, fantastic. (Thanks to Petra for sending the recipe–and to Mrs. N., for sharing it.) :)

Mrs. Nováková’s Tvarohová bábovka
Adapted from the original

bread crumbs
1 cup sugar
1 cup shortening or margarine
4 eggs, separated
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
9 oz. cream cheese
raisins soaked in orange juice (or in rum)
zest from 1/2 to 1 orange

Butter a Bundt pan and coat with breadcrumbs (as you would with flour). Set aside. Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mix together sugar, shortening (or margarine), 4 egg yolks, and vanilla. Sift together flour and baking powder; set aside. To the sugar and egg yolk mixture, add the cream cheese, flour and baking powder, raisins, and orange zest.

Whip the four egg whites into soft peaks. Fold into batter.

Bake at 325 degrees for approximately 45 minutes. (Poke with a cake tester or sharp knife to make sure it’s done.)

The last line of the recipe is Nikdy nezklame: Never disappoints. So any errors in this version are entirely mine.

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Go to your closest farmers’ market. Buy eggs. Break open, according to recipe. Marvel at the deep orange color. Proceed. The results are worth it.

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Batter and an errant orange.

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For Bábovka, you butter the pan and coat it not with flour but with fresh breadcrumbs. It’s a brilliantly subtle layer that vanishes as soon as you eat a piece of the cake–so the first taste you get isn’t sweet, but toasty and almost savory.

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If, unlike me, you have a handheld mixer and can beat the heck out of egg whites, your bábovka will look somewhat more lofty than this one. What I tend to think passes for soft peaks (done by hand in a bowl, by someone without Julia Child’s stamina or copper) clearly doesn’t cut it. But the cake still tastes amazing.

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In a fit of practicality, I froze half, but had to dig it out of the freezer two days later, since we’d devoured the first half of the cake. This morning, we chased the last of it around the platter and had it for breakfast, Prague style.

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