PREPARATION OF SLAVA CAKE
Making of the slava cake is a nice family tradition and very nice memory for children who will, watching their mother do it, later transfer it to their home. Young girls should be able to replace their mothers in this work as well, to gain experience while they are still young.
The slava cake is usually made the day before the slava. After the hostess has taken a bath and put on clean clothes, she will make the sign of the cross and pray the Lord’s prayer in silence, and then start the procedure.
Crush to powder 20-30 grams of yeast in a pot that contains one liter, pour half a cup of lukewarm milk over it and squeeze yeast between your fingers so there are no lumps. Then you add a little salt, one spoonful of sugar and some flour to get thin pastry. Put the pot near the cooker and leave it until yeast expands and fill the pot.
Meanwhile you sift one or one and a half kilograms of flour, put it in a mixing pot (preferably use this pot only for mixing the slava cake) and heat it well near the cooker. When the yeast has grown start mixing. Make a little hole in the middle of the flour, add the yeast, four yolks, 2-3 spoonfuls of sugar, a little scraped lemon skin and a few drops of the blessed water (which the priest blessed for the slava) and mix it all together adding a little milk, to get pastry of a normal density. While kneading you add bits of melted butter, and also from time to time soak your palms in melted butter and knead the ingredients with oily hands (use approximately one hundred grams of butter).
You should keep kneading until the pastry starts to separate from your fingers and fills with bubbles or boils. When the pastry is kneaded enough, take it out of the pot, sprinkle the pot bottom with flour and put the pastry back in, make a sign of the cross over it, cover it with a couple of clean napkins and leave it on a dry place to grow.
When the pastry has doubled its size roll it carefully out on a board, sprinkle with flour, give it a shape of a round bread lightly with your hands and put it in a round mould, which was previously covered with a thin coat of butter and sprinkled with flour. During this second kneading beware not to squeeze nor knead the pastry a lot, for in that case the cake will not grow. Cover again the mould with a cake with napkins and leave it in a warm place to grow again. When it has risen enough, spread its surface with a mixed egg and adorn it with adornments made from the same pastry.
First you put a cross on top of the whole cake (made from two pencil-shaped pieces of pastry placed on one another to form a cross).
Then you frame the cake with a plait, on top of which you make a wreath. The wreath is usually made when you mill a piece of pastry and then cut it in small pencil-shaped rolls. Each roll is cut twice along its length (so you get three tentacles). These rolls are placed over the plait so that each next roll overlaps the previous one a little; and you do it until you frame the whole cake and get a wreath around the cross in that way. Score both the wreath and the cross lightly with scissors to make the cake look even more picturesque.
Now you put the poskurica (like a small round bread) in the middle of the cross. You also place it over the wreath at the ends of each of the four tentacles of the cross (five poskuricas all together).
Later on you adorn the cake with other adornments made of pastry not containing any animal product which you knead of flour and some water. Do not spread egg over these adornments, just leave them white. The adornments represent the wishes of the hostess – what she wants to have in her home: birds (doves) represent health and joy. A bunch stands for the hope that crops be prolific; flowers (roses) mean beauty, purity and sweet smell of soul and that children grow to be as beautiful and pure as roses; (then, if you wish abundance in your home you make a small barrel, than a small glass, than a book etc.). These adornments are placed in fields between the tentacles of the cross, and it is enough to put one adornment in each of the four fields to make the cake beautiful.
But the most important adornment of the slava cake is a square-shaped sign with a cross in the middle and the inscription IS HS NI KA, Greek for: Jesus Christ conquers, between the cross’s tentacles. There is a special wooden seal (which every hostess should have) to imprint this sign. The animal product free pastry is flattened and imprinted with this sign by a seal, previously dipped in flour. The sign is carved around the edges from the rest of the pastry and places on every poskurica.
The outward appearance of the cake and the way of making the adornments depend solely on the skillfulness of the hostess, but one has to know that the cake should never be overcrowded with adornments.
Make the sign of the cross on the adorned cake, put it in a heated oven and bake it on controlled fire. Do not open the oven for the first ten minutes, and later turn the cake round from time to time so it grows equally on every side. Take care that the cake does not burn. As soon as its surface reddens cover it with a sheet of clean white paper and continue the baking. When it separates from the mould it is baked, but leave it in low heat for ten more minutes to finish the process. A well-risen and baked cake must not be heavy. As soon as you take it out the oven pour a little lukewarm water in which you previously dissolved a little sugar carefully over it (it makes the surface of the cake glossy) and take the cake out on a clean plate.
You can also make an animal-free cake when the slava falls on a fasting day. It is made exactly the same as the normal cake, but you do not use milk, eggs and butter.