According to legend, Russian Cake, known as Creole Trifle, dates back to 1872, when the Russian Grand Duke Alexis Alexandrovich Romanov visited New Orleans for Mardi Gras (the song “If I Ever Cease to Love” was written for the very same occasion). The trifle is made with leftover pieces of cake, pie crust, muffins, and cookies which are moistened with a binder (in this case seedless raspberry jam, anise flavouring and rum). It may well be that the original Russian cake used vodka and not rum, but this is not verified.

You can still find delicious Russian Cakes today in many of the local bakeries in New Orleans. If it is made well, the side view of a slice of their Russian Cake would reveal a breath-taking, unspoiled arabesque of colours, flavours and textures made up of the pieces of cakes, and held together by the thin red binder. As the cake is eaten it should reveale each of the original flavours and textures of the various cakes and other ingredients, to be as distinctive as they originally had been as well as the unique and complimentary flavour of the binder. A simply awesome culinary achievement.

What You Need

  • 1 (18 ounce) box Duncan Hines yellow cake mix (6-8 cups diced cake pieces) or 1 almond cake mix (6-8 cups diced cake pieces)
  • 1 cup water (or as specified in cake mix directions)
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil (or as specified in cake mix directions)
  • 2 -3 eggs (or as specified in cake mix directions)
  • 8 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam
  • 1 -1 1/2 cup white rum (will depend on amount of cake pieces)
  • 1 teaspoon anise flavouring (look for the real stuff)
  • red food colouring (just in case, the jam wasn’t red enough)
  • buttercream frosting
  • coloured sprinkles (the spherical kind)

Now Get Cooking

  1. Mix rum, anise, jam and (optionally) the food color with a wire whisk until everything is well integrated; the alcohol in the rum helps dissolve the jam quickly so it shouldn’t be more than 30 seconds.
  2. Place cake pieces in a dish and pour evenly over the top, then place bowl in fridge for a few hours or overnight (covered). The more cake pieces you use for the inside, the denser and heavier the cake will be. Russian cakes can weigh several pounds, and seem very heavy for their size.
  3. When ready to assemble cake, bake the boxed cake according to instructions in a 9-inch cake pan. When cool, split the cake evenly down the middle. Place one half in a 9-inch springform pan (one used for cheesecakes) and “fill” with the soaked cake pieces. Try to get this as even as possible.
  4. Place top layer over “filling” and cover with plastic wrapping with the plastic touching the top of the cake. A clean cake pan can be placed over the top of this and weigh it down with jars from the fridge. This is to make sure that the cake was flat but also allows some of the juice from the middle to seep into the top and bottom layer thereby binding the cake together.
  5. Place in fridge overnight (make sure it’s covered). The next day, frost the top and cover with sprinkles.