In Croatia we love our cakes, and we have a lot to love. There is so many beautiful cakes, big and small, with the most awesome fillings and names that make them all the more attractive. (Like they needed any help).
An average Croatian woman will make a variety of cakes for each holiday, and will often be heavily influenced by the part of Croatia she comes from. My parents are from Dalmatia, and the cakes I grew up with are almost completely different than all of my friends had growing up in Zagreb, or some other parts of Croatia. Seriously, cakes could not be more different from each other if you compare Eastern Croatia, Slavonija, from Southern Croatia, where Dalmatia is.
It was always a treat to visit some friends for Christmas or Easter and try the yummy cakes their parents made, and my favorites were always Mađarica and Breskvice. The first one is basically this cake, but with the addition of chocolate in the filling, and I can't decide which one I like more, it pretty much depends on the mood and your preference. The other one is pretty much two round cookies filled with a walnut and jam filling and glued together, than rolled in syrup and sugar to resemble little peaches. Which the name in Croatian literally translates. Breskvice means little peaches. I started making them for every Christmas since moving here and I can't wait to share them with you!
But lets get back to the first one now. Mađarica always seemed like the most difficult thing in the world to me. It consists from many thin layers, and since I've never seen it done, I could never imagine how I could roll a cake dough so thin (or cut it) and make this thing work. And how so many of my friends moms are making it look so easy. Forward to last week when a friend of mine, Tihana, that literally just moved to Dubai, (but lived here for a long time) and is also from Zagreb like me, invited me to her house to watch her mom make this little gem!
Teta Ljiljana is known for her Mađarica, and I was really excited to watch and learn. And eat.
She made it look really not hard at all, and that day I was sure I would be able to make it with no problems. After a few days I was wondering if I would be able to make it so it resembles anything normal and edible. Today, as I am writing this I'm already desperate, so it's time to get down to business.
The reason why this Mađarica became 'Bijela Pita' or Bijela Mađarica, is because in good company you tend to talk a lot and forget things, so we forgot the chocolate for the filling. And it suited me just fine, this was a perfect and moist cake, mild in flavor, but the most perfect thing for when you are in the mood for sweet, but you don't want chocolate, not ice-cream because you don't want cold, not danish becauseit is little on the dry side of what you want, you just want something moist and cakey. Yup. This is it. Yum!
I thought I was going to cut my hubby's fingers off when he went for the last one!!! :))))
Bijela Pita or Bijela Mađarica
by Teta Ljiljana
600 grams of flour, about 5 cups
1 tsp of baking powder
220 grams of butter, 2 sticks, room temperature
200 grams of sugar, 1 cup
1 Tbsp of Vanila sugar (if you can find it, 2 small bags)
6 rounded Tbsp of sour cream
extra butter and flour for the pan
Put all of the ingredients into a bowl and combine with your hand. Work the butter in well and put into the fridge for a few minutes while you are preparing for the next step.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. You will need a quarter size cookie sheet pan, or something similar in size.
Butter and then flour the outside bottom of the pan really well, this is where you will bake your layers on. You only need to do this once before the first layer.
You will be making six layers, perhaps seven, if you collect enough little scraps of extra dough when making the first six. The more the merrier.
Take your dough out of the fridge and put it onto the floured work surface. Re-knead the dough and cut it into six equal pieces. Leave one piece out and put the rest into separate zip lock bags.
Constantly adding flour and turning the dough, roll it very thin, to less than 1/8", and until your dough layer is just little bigger than the back of your pan. Try to roll it into the rectangular shape the best that you can, this might take little practicing.
Using the rolling pin, transfer your dough layer onto the cookie sheet pan, and then carefully cut all around the edge of the pan with a small knife, so you are left with almost a perfect rectangular layer of dough. (save that extra dough!)
Bake it for 10 to 15 minutes. You are looking for a barely visible darkening of the edges. Barely.
Here comes the tricky part. You need to designate the space where you will pile up your cake layers and you need something like a big butcher board to weigh it down until they are completely cool (best over night). Bring your first baked layer here and smack the pan on the surface, it will release it so it slides off easily. Cover the layer with the board and put the next rolled out dough layer on the cookie sheet, cut around and bake. It goes pretty quick, because while one is baking, you are rolling out the dough for the next one.
When they are all done, hopefully you will have seven good cake layers to work with once the filling is done. It is crucial that they are completely cooled before even thinking of spreading the filling on them.
400 grams of sugar, 2 cups
1 liter of milk, 4 1/4 cups
about 130 grams of corn starch (1 cup), but you might need a bit more if you think your filling isn't thickening enough.
330 grams of butter, 3 sticks, room temperature.
Since your cake layers need to cool of completely, I recommend making this filling one you are done with them, or even the next day. It makes everything seem much easier to tell you the truth.
Put the sugar and 4 cups of milk into the pan and cook on medium heat. Take you remaining 1/4 of milk and mix it with the corn starch and add it to the milk and sugar once it gets to the soft boil stage. Lower the heat and constantly mixing cook it until it thickens. (It will thicken quite a bit more once cooled, too). Then remove from the heat, transfer into the bowl and continue to mix while it's cooling down. Maybe get your kids to help with this, your arms will get tired :)
It also needs to be fully cooled off before adding the butter.
When you are ready, mix the butter until soft and creamy and then add the butter bit by bit into the cream while mixing it, its easiest if you do this in your stand up mixer.
This is your filling and don't eat it all before it gets on the cake. It's yummy!
To finish the cake, place the first cake layer on a board or a cookie sheet and take about 5 spoonfuls of filling that you will carefully spread all over. It needs to be pretty much the same thickness as the cake layer is so you will have to eyeball it. Put the next cake layer on and repeat adding the filling and do this until the last cake layer is on. Now, put the board you were weighing the cake layers with back on the top, and leave it for at least five hours, or best over night.
You can finish it with just powdered sugar, or if you want, with a white chocolate glaze.
Cut very thinly the rims of the cake to remove any imperfections, before cutting the whole cake in about two by two (or little smaller) inch cubes.
It sounds like quite a bit of work, all written down, and lots can go wrong...but practice makes perfect, and I plan to practice a lot. This is such a lovely cake and I can't wait to make my own, perhaps with chocolate next time.
Thank you Teta Ljiljana!