Over the Holiday weekend, mom, Grandma (or “Baka” in Croatian) and I got together to start baking our Croatian Christmas Cookies! My Baka was telling me about a cake recipe that she wanted to try with me that she got from our Teta (Aunt) Milka. Baka mentioned that Teta Milka often bakes this recipe for Christmas, and once she mentioned it’s made with 12 eggs, I was like “WHAT?!, I’m intrigued”. The next day after we finished our first round of cookie baking, we started baking this cake together. It’s not often that I get the opportunity to bake something new with my Grandma, and I really, really enjoyed this time together learning something new from her.
This cake is like a Croatian version of angel food cake. It’s SO light, airy and soft with a nutty flavor – but the filling is where it’s at! I love this filling so much – it’s tangy, lemony, sweet and creamy. Don’t let this lightness fool you though, this is a rich cake! I was also amazed to see how much we transformed the eggs during this recipe, I had no idea that eggs could do what they did when we made this recipe. If you’re GF, this recipe could easily be made gluten-free given the ability to easily substitute the 2 tbsp of flour with a gluten-free flour. The other thing I love about this recipe is how adaptable it can be with flavors. You could use different liquors and citruses to create delicious combinations. One that my Baka mentioned was to use orange juice instead of lemon along with an orange liquor instead of rum. Give this recipe a go and see for yourself – it’s an easy one!
Prep Time: 20 minutes // Cook Time: 20 minutes // Yield: ~10 slices
- 12 eggs, separated (1 bowl for yolks, 1 bowl for whites)
- 12 tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp flour
- 3 cups ground walnuts (*optional: extra for decorating)
- 2 tsp rum (or a different alcohol of your choice)
- 12 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1 stick butter, unsalted, at room temperature
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- Juice from 1/2 of lemon
- Preheat the oven to 375 then line the bottom of three 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper, followed by coating the pans with baking spray. *You could also use large, rectangle baking dishes and when ready to assemble just cut and stack the cakes in whatever style you desire.
- Add the 12 egg yolks into a large mixing bowl (or stand mixer) along with the 12 tbsp of sugar and beat together on high speed until they form a thick light-yellow mixture. Set aside, then begin whipping the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Add the flour into the egg whites and mix together just enough to combine the flour.
- Add the rum into the ground nuts and whisk together. Alternate between adding the nuts and the egg whites into the egg-yolk mixture, folding together gently and being mindful as to not over-mix. Pour the batter into the baking dishes evenly and bake for 20 minutes until lightly golden brown and the top-middle of the cake does not jiggle. Allow the cakes to cool.
- While the cakes are cooling, begin your filling by beating the cream cheese and butter together. Then add the vanilla, powdered sugar and lemon juice until well-combined. Place the filling in the fridge until ready to use.
- To assemble the cakes, place 1 cake layer on your serving platter and layer the filling on top of the cake. Place the second cake overtop, covering the top with filling, then repeat the process with the third layer. Spread the filling over the entire cake. You can serve it like this, or you can gently pat in any extra ground nuts you may have around the cake for more texture. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.
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