The savarin cake or savarina, as we call it in Romania, is the cake of my childhood. As a matter of fact, I'm confident that it's the childhood cake of every Romanian my age. So many great memories are related to this dessert. 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. The light and fluffy cake oozing with sugar and rum, stuffed with fresh whipped cream and topped with tart jam. It's heavenly.
Savarina was the first cake I remember eating at a patisserie and it was the first cake that I ever paid for on my own. I must've been 5 or 6 years old at the time. 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 Școala Generală Numărul 2 (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 Cofetăria 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 (serbare, in Romanian).
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 payed 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.
Other significant life events related to savarina:
- my neighbor Gabriela's birthday (March 5th I still remember the day since we always had savarina for her birthday)
- first elementary school date with a girl (can't remember her name. I was a player back then. Making all the girls in school believe that I was a ninja helped my dating life enormously.)
- my sister's first date with a guy called Burzo (he bought me 2 savarine to leave him and my sister alone for 10 minutes so that they could hold hands.)
- my sister's second date with Burzo (he bribed me with 4 savarine to skip going to the movies with them. The price was higher because I had to break my dad's instructions of following my sister closely)
- first high school date with Andra (all the girls found out by then that I wasn't a ninja. The only girl willing to go out on a date with me was her.)
- my mom's birthday (because she always brought savarina home every November 15th)
Years have passed since those days, but every time I go to Romania I will have a savarina or two. In less than a month, I'm going home on a two week vacation, but this time Roni is going to join me too. She's going to meet my family, eat my mom's and Buna's amazing food, meet my college friends and drink my father's awful homemade wine. All of these combined with the fact that she's never been to Romania before makes it one of those special occasions to add to the list above.
Romanian Savarin Cake (Savarina)
Yields 10-12 cakes
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Inactive time: 30 minutes
- 5 oz whole milk
- 1/4 oz dry yeast (1 packet)
- 1 TBS sugar
- 9 oz cake flour (about 2 cups)
- 2 whole eggs, pasture raised
- 2 egg yolks, pasture raised
- 2 TBS oil (peanut oil, canola oil, or softened butter)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 cup water
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup dark rum (or 2 TBS rum essence)
- 2 tsp lemon zest (lime or orange)
- 2 cups whipping cream
- 2 TBS sugar
- 2 inch vanilla pod (or 1/8 tsp vanilla extract)
- 2 tsp lemon zest (or orange)
- 2 TBS jelly (sour cheery or blueberry)
- Heat milk to around 110F (45C). Add yeast, 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 it 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.
- Preheat oven to 360F (185F) degrees.
- Place parchment baking liners in a muffin pan. Using a spoon, 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 beans, lemon zest and whipping cream. Using a whisk or a hand mixer whisk until you get stiff peaks.
- When the cakes are cold, 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.
* The baking time depends on the size of the cakes, but it shouldn't take more than 25 minutes.
** For extra moist cakes make double the amount of rum syrup and soak for 1 minutes instead.