Sweet treats from Mother Russia in Newtown
Good news, dairy fans. There’s a new bakery café in town doing cakes that are hard to pronounce, exciting to eat and go big on sour cream. Izba Russian Treats has opened up on the southern end of King Street and there isn’t a macaron, mille feuille or mud cake in sight.
Owner Olga Rogacheva is an avid home baker: “In Russia people place a lot of importance on hospitality and how we receive people and it’s expressed in what we bake.” After moving to Australia from Yaroslavl in North West Russia three years ago, armed with her grandmother's recipes and a bunch of Soviet-era baking standards, she decided it was time Sydney broke through what she calls the ‘banana bread barrier’ and tried something new.
One of the most popular offerings is the café’s namesake confection, the Izba, which takes its construction cues from the traditional wooden cabins in Russia that go by the same name. Lines of Amarena cherries are wrapped in tubes of short, sweet biscuit dough and baked before being stacked into a pyramid and iced together with whipped, sweetened sour cream. You should also give the pancho a try. It's a chocolate cake sandwiched together with sour cream and tinned pineapple pieces. It tastes like those pineapple lumps you get from the mixed lolly counters and we want to try them again, after a little rest.
For a sweet treat that won’t cause a guilt spiral there are blinis. The dessert version sees a mixture of slightly tart cottage cheese and juicy sultanas wrapped up in two pancake blankets with extra cream on the side.
Need a savoury buffer before you hit the sweet stuff? Go for a golden pastry wedge of subtly creamy chicken pie. Or if you’re the kind of renegade who likes to straddle the sweet and savoury divide, order a beef piroshki: baked hot pockets of slightly sweet dough filled with a savoury mince and caramelised onion.
Izba first timers are favouring the ‘honey cake’ originally made for a member of the 19th Century Russian royal family but when folks are feeling a bit more adventurous Rogacheva steers them towards the kartoshka. “It’s a crumbled biscuit with butter cream and we make them the traditional Russian way. They don’t look super attractive – but people who try them haven’t looked back.”
Sydney loves a late-night sweet treat (Messina queues, we’re looking at you) and now these smart folks on the western end of town are upping the game with cakes that come from Russia, with love.