Ukrainian Christmas Honey Cake (Medivnyk)

Ukrainian Christmas honey cake recipe

The Spruce / Katarina Zunic

  • Total: 2 hrs
  • Prep: 30 mins
  • Cook: 90 mins
  • Servings: 16 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
285 Calories
11g Fat
47g Carbs
4g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 16
Amount per serving
Calories 285
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 11g 14%
Saturated Fat 2g 9%
Cholesterol 57mg 19%
Sodium 351mg 15%
Total Carbohydrate 47g 17%
Dietary Fiber 2g 7%
Protein 4g
Calcium 67mg 5%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This recipe for Ukrainian Christmas honey cake or medivnyk and other honey pastries are traditional for Christmas, New Year's, and Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah).

The scarcity of sugar in the old days inspired Ukraine bakers to experiment with honey in baked goods and to good effect. There are as many versions of medivnyk as there are families. Some are made with sour cream, some with almonds or other nuts, and others with chocolate. Some are even yeast-raised.

What remains constant is the use of honey, preferably buckwheat honey. Honey pastries need a few days to ripen for flavors to be at their best, so be patient.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup honey (preferably buckwheat honey)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup dark raisins
  • 1/2 cup currants
  • 1/2 cup dates (chopped)
  • 1 cup walnuts (chopped or nuts of choice like almonds or pecans)
  • 3 cups cake flour (divided)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick/4 ounces softened butter (or parve margarine)
  • 1 cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 4 large eggs (room temperature and separated)
  • 1/4 cup strong coffee

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for Ukrainian Christmas honey cake
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  2. In a small saucepan, mix together honey, cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg, and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and cool to lukewarm.

    Melt spices
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  3. Heat oven to 300 F. Lightly coat two 8 x 4-inch loaf pans with cooking spray.

    Lightly coat pan
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  4. In a medium bowl, combine raisins, currants, dates, nuts of choice, and 2 tablespoons of the flour. Mix well and set aside.

    Add currants, dates
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  5. In a separate medium bowl, mix together remaining flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

    Mix flour
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  6. In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream together butter or parve margarine and brown sugar.

    Cream together brown sugar and butter
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  7. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

    Add egg yolks
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  8. Mix in the lukewarm honey mixture.

    Mix in honey mixture
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  9. Add flour and coffee alternately until well mixed.

    Add flour
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  10. Stir in fruit-nut mixture.

    Stir in fruit and nut
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  11. Beat the egg whites until stiff.

    Beat egg whites
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  12. Fold into the batter.

    Fold into batter
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  13. Bake about 1 1/2 hours or until toothpick tests clean.

    Bake Ukrainian bread
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  14. Allow to stand at room temperature, covered, a few days before serving.

    Allow to cool and serve
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic

Tip

Replacing sugar with honey in recipes is not a one-to-one conversion. When baking, use pure honey for up to half the granulated sugar in a recipe. Additionally, for each 1 cup of honey used:

  • Reduce any liquid by 1/4 cup
  • Add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • Reduce oven temperature by 25 degrees