Aurel Pop remembers the first time he bought his own pastry.
He was a kid living in Romania. Even though he was only 5 or 6, he’d been saving up money. For what, he can’t exactly remember, but here’s what he does recall about that day:
“I remember walking home from the nearest playground after playing soccer all day with my buddies. It was at the local elementary school, which was very originally named ?coala Generala Numarul 2, which translates as Elementary School #2. On my way home, I walked by one of the few patisseries that existed in my town. It was called Cofetaria Tineretului. Until that day I had never entered a bakery without one of my parents or my older sister. Going to such a place wasn’t an everyday thing. It was always reserved for special occasions like birthdays, the end of the school year, or school festivities.
So that day I decided to break the rule, take some money from my savings (I was always saving money for something) and to treat myself and my buddy with a cake. I paid 2 lei (old Romanian currency) and it was one of the best feelings in the world. I remember punching my buddy for stealing the cherry from the top and taking too big of a bite from the whipped cream.”
Pop, who lives in Austin now, shared this story last week on his blog, GourmetCubicle.com, as well as the recipe for this cupcake-like treat made with a yeast-risen dough that, after baking, is dipped in a rum syrup and filled with whipped cream and topped with jam.
This was the cake, he writes, that he had every year for his neighbor’s birthday (March 5, he still remembers) and his mom’s (Nov. 15). He had savarina on his first real date, but he also remembers eating it when his sister started dating a guy named Burzo. On their first date, Burzo bought Pop two savarina so that Pop would leave the couple alone for 10 minutes to hold hands. On their second date, Burzo upped the ante to four cakes so that Pop would disobey his father’s instructions to go with them to the movies. “As a kid I thought that savarina was the best cake ever made, and I’ll tell you that I still think it’s one of the best.”
In a few weeks, Pop will return to Romania with his girlfriend to introduce her to his family and, of course, the culinary delights of home, including his mom’s cooking, his father’s “awful homemade wine” and a savarina or two.
Romanian Savarin Cake (Savarina)
The baking time depends on the size of the cakes, but it shouldn’t take more than 25 minutes.
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 oz. dry yeast (1 packet)
1 Tbsp. sugar
9 oz. (about 2 cups) cake flour
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2 Tbsp. oil (peanut oil, canola oil or softened butter)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark rum (or 2 Tbsp. rum extract)
2 tsp. lemon zest (lime or orange)
2 cups whipping cream
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 inch vanilla pod, seeds scraped out (or 1/8 tsp. vanilla extract)
2 tsp. lemon zest (or orange)
2 Tbsp. jelly (sour cherry or blueberry)
Heat milk to around 110 degrees. Add yeast and sugar and mix well. Set aside for about 2-3 minutes until the milk starts to bloom (you’ll see it bubble up).
In a large mixing bowl combine flour, eggs, yolks, oil and bloomed yeast-milk mixture. Using a spatula, gently stir and mix the dough until it becomes smooth and silky. Add salt and stir one more time. Cover mixing bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 20-30 minutes until the dough doubles in size.
In the meantime prepare the syrup. In a medium sauce pan, mix water and sugar and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved, about 2-3 minutes. Add rum and lemon zest and boil for 2 more minutes. Remove from the heat and let the syrup cool.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place parchment baking liners in a muffin pan. Fill each muffin cup about 3/4 full. Allow it to rise for a second time until the dough rises close to the top, about 10-15 minutes. Place the muffin pan in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let them cool.
In the meantime, in a large metal bowl mix sugar, vanilla seeds, lemon zest and whipping cream. Using a whisk or a hand mixer, whisk until you get stiff peaks.
When the cakes are cool, flip them upside down and cut them crosswise about one inch from the top (flat side) to make a little lid. Immerse the cakes in the rum syrup and let them soak for about 30 seconds each. Spoon whipped cream into a pastry bag. Pipe whipped cream between the layers of the cake. Using a knife, carefully spread jelly on the top of each cake.
Place the savarin cakes in the refrigerator for an hour before serving. Yields 10-12 cakes.
— Aurel Pop, GourmetCubicle.com