Irina is my compatriot. Originally from Kohtla-Yarve, a town in the Eastern part of Estonia that has a very high percentage of ethnic Russians, she came to the UK 14 years ago at the time when many of … ‘us’ were looking for new places to live, new ways to live.
Ira used to be a professional ice-skating trainer – oh, the glory of Soviet days. Now she is retired and bakes for pleasure for all the willing friends and family.
Irina’s ‘Caramel-Walnut Napoleon’ won the competition with such aplomb! Many commented how delicate, flaky and sitinctive the cake was. There’s actually caramel in this Napoleon but I think it’s the combination of condensed milk and walnuts that create this caramel-y flavour, with a refreshing hint of bitterness.
I also think she partly won people over because of the exquisite decorations of sugar flowers Ira created for her Napoleon.
‘ I just saw once some unusual sugar decorations in a magazine. I hardly spoke any English at the time, but I was so interested that I got to translating the instructions for making these flowers with a dictionary! Slowly, slowly I learnt how to make sugar flowers myself. I love creating sugar decorations!’
Irina Gujajeva’s Caramel and Walnut Napoleon.
2 cups of flour
200 gr of margarine or butter, room temperature
1 cup of cold water
1 egg, whisked
1 tsp of lemon juice
Pinch of salt
1 can of condensed milk
100 gr of soft butter
200 gr of ground walnuts
How to make:
– Pour flour onto your table. Add margarine or butter and cut it up with a knife to mix with the flour. You create a crumble of the sort (note from Russian Revels: another way of doing this would be to put flour in a large bowl, add softened cubes of butter and with your finger tips crumble the mixture until it resemble large breadcrumbs).
– Make a little well in the mixture, pour cold water. Add the egg, lemon juice and salt. Mix all carefully but thoroughly.
– Divide the dough into 5-6 parts, cover with clingfilm and chill in a fridge for 30 mins.
– In the meantime mix condensed milk and butter in a large bowl.
– Heat the oven to 200 C.
– Now take a ball or two of dough, on a lightly floured surface roll them out to about 2 mm width. Cut out a circle to a diameter of approx 23 cms.
– Bake for about five minutes until lovely golden colour.
– Take the circles out the oven once baked, and cool on a rack.
How to assemble:
– Place one circle on a plate. Spread with the cream liberally. Sprinkle with walnuts.
– Repeat for the remaining circles. Before putting the cream on on the last one, push the pastry down a bit with both palms. Then spread the cream and finish with lots of walnuts.
– Important to leave the cake overnight in a fridge to get all the flavours mingling.