It’s not Russian but it is a slice! Seemingly sometimes known as ‘Tipsy Cake’ in the US, this is an old school way that bakeries battled food waste by utilising leftover and stale cakes. Trust me, its much more appetising than that sounds and best of all, Russian Slice is incredibly simple to make. Oh, and always a bonus – its boozy as heck!
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So what is a Russian Slice? It is basically a way for bakeries to use up stale cake crumbs and resell them. Not the most appetising sounding recipe when put like that but trust me, they contain a significant amount of booze and are perfectly moist (sorry).
I know them from the Humber/North East Lincolnshire region and haven’t seen them sold much further afield but do let me know in the comments if you have! Some versions have a pastry base but the version that I grew up with just has a feathered chocolate icing with no ‘base’ as such. I’ve stuck with what I know!
I started to research a recipe online and actually came up with very little. I established that it may be an American invention known as ‘tipsy cake’ but none of the recipes I could find seemed to resemble the iced version I knew.
The best option I could find came from the website of The Ginger Bread Lad but his site has since disappeared. I adapted that recipe to emulate my remembered version a little better, especially with the addition of sherry icing and pink cake.
Update: Russian Slice Origins
A reader kindly sent me a link to Atlas Obscura which talks about the potential origins of Louisiana Russian Cake.
Russian cake, also known as Creole trifle, has been a Louisiana tradition since the 19th century. But few bakeries today sell this “cake,” which is made by taking assorted bakery confection scraps and pressing them together into a cake tin. Liberal splashes of rum moisten the cake, and jelly or other infused syrups are used as binding agents. It is assembled in special molds with separate bottoms, and bags of flour or sugar are typically placed on top of the covered cake to press it solidly into the mold.Atlas Obscura
This would certainly tally with the slice that I know and love and is also inline with another reference I found in an old New Orleans cookbook that I was gifted a couple of years ago.
There is much more information in the article and it is certainly worth a read if you are a geek about these things like me! Thank you very much to Dave Stringer for sending me the information.
Make it a Feast
I truly believe that you can make any dish into a proper feast! Whether thats a feast for one after work on a Tuesday, a casual feast for four on a Friday evening or a feast for 12 for a special occasion!
My Russian Slices are very versatile. I include them in Afternoon Tea Feasts alongside Scones, savouries like my Sausage Rolls or Quiche Lorraine and other sweet treats like my Mini Sticky Toffee Cakes, Chocolate Muscovado Cake and/or Victoria Sponge.
Don’t forget to head over to my Feast Collection pages to find all of my tips and tricks to help you host a fun and stress-free feast. Plus remember to check out my recipe index to create your own awesome Feast!
There is nothing especially fancy about any of the ingredients in this Russian Slice recipe.
Of course with it originally being called ‘Tipsy Cake’ I do include sweet sherry in the recipe. You could substitute this for any slightly sweet alcohol such as golden rum, bourbon or even something more flavourful like Malibu for a coconutty twist. If you’re not into alcohol in your cakes, you could also use a fruit juice like orange juice. Lemon juice would give the slice a lovely fresh zing.
Apricot jam is used as the flavour is fairly minimal but again you could substitute this for any other flavour jam. Just expect that you will get some of the flavour coming through. I think that using a ginger jam would be especially lovely. If you fancy making your own jam, have a look at the brilliant recipes from Fab Food 4 All. So many options!
Make it Vegetarian
Great news! This Russian Slice recipe is suitable for vegetarians without any substitutions needed.
Make it Vegan
There are just a few swaps needed to make this recipe vegan.
- I would start by making a specifically vegan sponge batter like this one from Free From Farmhouse and then picking up my recipe from step 4. You could alternatively buy a vegan sponge cake and start at step 9.
- Ensure that the sherry you use or alternative alcohol is suitable for vegans.
- Substitute the dark chocolate for a vegan dark chocolate.
Make it Allergy Friendly
This Russian Slice recipe is free from nuts.
Egg or Dairy Free: To avoid an egg or dairy allergy, follow the guidelines above to make the Russian Slice vegan.
Gluten Free: Substitute the self raising flour with gluten free flour and add in the appropriate amount of gluten free baking powder (usually 1 tbsp per 100g flour). Alternatively, start with shop-bought gluten free cakes.
Please note that this recipe may contain other allergens not referred to above and any variations suggested have not been tested unless otherwise stated. For more information regarding any dietary information provided on this website, please refer to my Nutritional Disclaimer.
Equipment Notes for Russian Slice
You can use any tins/tin to bake the cakes in. There is no requirement for a certain shape or size. Just make sure the batter comes at least 1cm up the side of the tin or you will make biscuit and not cake!
If you don’t have a microwave you can melt the chocolate in a small saucepan over a low heat on the hob.
If you don’t have any small disposable piping bags, you can pop the white icing into a small sandwich bag and carefully cut off one corner. This is difficult when sandwich bags are gusseted so try to look for some non-gusseted ones like my favourite Ikea bags. (Don’t buy them from Amazon!).
A good large sharp knife is ideal for cutting the slices. The sharper and thinner the blade, the neater cut you will achieve. I keep my knives good and sharp with a knife steel. They’re surprisingly easy to use one you get the rhythm.
A comprehensive list of the equipment used to make this recipe is included in the main recipe card below. Click on any item to see an example. There are no hard and fast rules so many items can be sensibly substituted to achieve the same results.
To see more of my recommended equipment items for new bakers, have a look at my post featuring all the essential equipment you might need.
It is also perfect inspiration for gifts for a budding baker in your life!
Because the Russian Slices are so moist, they will keep for a good week in an airtight container. They are therefore an excellent choice if you need to take a bake to an event but can’t bake immediately before. They’re also perfect to keep in a cake tin in the house for elevenses over the week.
It would be helpful to bake the sponges a day or two before you want to assemble the slices but you can just leave them out for a few hours to dry in a pinch.
Leftover Russian Slice
The slices will freeze beautifully, even fully iced. I would however freeze them as a slab rather than pre-cut into slices. Half now and half for another time maybe?
Russian Slice Tips
I’m not usually a fan of the all-in-one method sponge method but as the texture of this sponge is ultimately compromised by its treatment, I don’t think the extra effort of using the creaming method is worth it.
Over-baking the sponges may feel unnatural but you do want them to be dry!
It really doesn’t matter about keeping the cake colours super separate – its all ultimately going to be marbled together so don’t panic too much.
Piping isn’t my forte either so don’t worry about trying to make the feathered icing look amazing. Once the slices are cut, you’ll be surprised how professional even the shonkiest of icing can look.
This Russian Slice recipe is such fun to make, I really hope you enjoy making a taste of my childhood as much as I enjoyed creating it. Whats your favourite childhood treat that you’d like to recreate? Let me know!
Don’t forget to let me know in the comments if you try making this recipe – I want to know what you think and if you made any substitutions, how did it turn out?
Still Have Questions?
Simple! Just contact me and I will do my best to help as quickly as I am able. Head over to my Contact Me page, any of my social media channels or post a comment at the bottom of this page and I’ll see what I can do.
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More Simple Sweet Bakes
More Chocolate Recipes
- 250 g Salted Butter
- 250 g Caster Sugar (Superfine Sugar)
- 4 Egg
- 250 g Self Raising Flour (Self-Rising)
- 2 tbsp Cocoa Powder (Dutch Processed)
- 2 tbsp Skimmed Milk
- 1 tbsp Vanilla Extract
- 0.5 tsp Red Food Colouring
- 8 tbsp Apricot Jam
- 5 tbsp Sherry - cheap stuff
- 50 g Dark Chocolate (Bittersweet) - cheap stuff
- 4 tbsp Sherry - More cheap stuff!!
- 100 g Icing Sugar (Confectioner’s Sugar)
Making the Cakes (Skip if using leftovers or shop-bought cake)
- Preheat the oven to 180c or equivalent.
- Line a brownie pan with parchment paper.
- Add 250g Butter, 250g Caster Sugar, 4 Eggs and 250g Self Raising Flour to a large mixing bowl and beat together until fully combined and a bit airy.
- Scoop just under half of the mixture into a medium mixing bowl. Add 2 tbsp Cocoa Powder and 2 tbsp Skimmed Milk to the removed mix and beat to combine.
- Add 1 tbsp Vanilla Extract to the remaining original mixture and beat in.
- Scoop half of the vanilla cake mix into a small mixing bowl and add 1/2 tsp Red Food Colouring.
- Spoon all of the 3 cake batters into the lined brownie pan. A little mixing around the edges/joins won’t hurt.
- Bake the cake for about 25/30 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Then give it a further 5 minutes to get a bit drier. So counter-intuitive!
- Once the cakes are cool enough to touch, tear them up into chunks and leave them on a cooling rack to cool and dry out. Leaving them for a couple of days, out, but under a fly cover would be ideal.
Construct the Slice
- Line a small roasting tray with parchment paper.
- When you’re ready to make the slices, use your fingers to crumble each colour of cake into separate mixing bowls. You are aiming for a breadcrumb size pieces but some larger pieces won’t hurt.
- Warm 8 tbsp Apricot Jam in a small bowl and mix in 5 tbsp Sherry.
- Split the boozy jam between the bowls. Mix each to damp consistency.
- Spoon the mixtures into the lined tin in a haphazard fashion, pressing it down as you go to create a block of marbled boozy cake crumbs.
Ice the Slice
- Melt 50g Dark Chocolate in the microwave and leave to cool a little. Or melt it in a small pan on the hob.
- Mix 4 tbsp Sweet Sherry and 50g Icing Sugar into the chocolate and beat until smooth and lump free. Add a little extra sherry or icing sugar to achieve the consistency of runny honey.
- In a separate bowl, combine 50g Icing Sugar with a little water to make a slightly runnier white icing. Put this in a sandwich bag or disposable piping bag.
- Pour the chocolate icing over the cake and smooth out to the edges.
- Snip the end off the piping bag or corner off the sandwich bag and pipe the white icing in horizontal stripes over the chocolate icing.
- Start with the middle stripe and work outwards to make sure the stripes are vaguely even before you run out of icing with only half covered! Saying this, there is nothing to stop you making up some more white icing if you need.
- Run a skewer up and down the length of the tin in even stripes to create the feather effect.
- Put the whole cake into the fridge for the icing to set and the cake mix to firm up. A couple of hours will do it. You can cheat with a bit of freezer time if you need to, just don’t forget about it!
- Slice into 16 pieces. I trimmed off the edges for presentation but there is no real reason to do this in real life.