Russian dolls

Russian dolls

Lime and vodka syrup cake

The Birthday Cake Book
Laura Edwards

These are bound to delight and will keep for a few days once made. Although I am not sure my five sugar Russian dolls would actually fit inside each other, they are still enchanting and fun to make, most especially the painting. It can be as simple or detailed as artistic talent and time allows! If you would rather, you could always draw the designs on the dolls using edible pens.

For the cake


Quantity Ingredient
100g unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for the tin
250g self-raising flour, sifted
30g cornflour
pinch salt
4 eggs, lightly beaten
300g golden caster sugar
1 lime, finely zested and juiced
150g creme fraiche

For the syrup

Quantity Ingredient
30g golden caster sugar
1/2 tablespoon vodka
1/2 lime, finely zested and juiced

For the buttercream

Quantity Ingredient
100g unsalted butter, softened
100g icing sugar, sifted
1/2 lime, finely zested
1 tablespoon vodka, to taste

To decorate

Quantity Ingredient
1.3kg white sugarpaste
selection food colour pastes, (see note)

Special equipment

Quantity Ingredient
15 cm round thin cake board, cut into 4 circles: 5.5 cm; 5 cm; 4.5 cm; 3.5 cm
set round cutters
fine paint brushes
edible glue


  1. To bake, preheat the oven to 160°C/fan 150°C. Butter a 20 cm square cake tin and line the base with baking parchment.
  2. Sift the flour, cornflour and salt together and set aside. Using the whisk attachment of an electric mixer, or a bowl and electric whisk, beat together the eggs, sugar and lime zest until light and fluffy and slightly thickened (this may take a good five minutes). Very gently fold in the crème fraîche, then the flour mixture, the melted butter and lastly the lime juice.
  3. Pour the cake batter into the prepared tin and bake for 50–60 minutes, or until a skewer emerges clean. Cool completely in the tin.
  4. For the syrup, melt together the sugar, vodka and lime zest and juice in a small pan. Bring to a boil, then set aside to cool.
  5. To make the buttercream, beat the butter until really pale and fluffy. Add the icing sugar and lime zest. Beat for at least five minutes until light and creamy, adding the vodka slowly towards the end.
  6. Once the cake is completely cold, turn it out of the tin, remove the papers and chill for a few hours or overnight in the fridge. Cut out four doll templates from paper; mine were 10 cm high, 8 cm, 7 cm and 6 cm. (I made four cake dolls; only three are shown in the photo.) Turn the cake flat-side up and lay the templates over it. With a sharp knife, cut out each body. Sculpt each one to shape, brush very lightly with the vodka syrup, then cover with a thin layer of the buttercream. Stand up each doll on the cut-out discs from the thin cake board – largest doll on the largest card – adhering with a little buttercream.
  7. To cover each doll with sugarpaste, roll out a circle of sugarpaste 7 mm thick, large enough to cover her sides too. Lay the centre of the circle of paste over the doll’s head, and ease over her body. Rub to shape and mould with your hands; the sugarpaste is very malleable. Repeat with each doll. Mould a tiny doll, about 3.5 cm high, from sugarpaste alone.
  8. To make the sugar bases, roll out the remaining sugarpaste to 1.5 cm thick and cut out four circles: 7.5 cm, 7 cm, 6 cm and 5.5 cm. Indent them horizontally around the edge. Allow the dolls to dry overnight, so the sugarpaste becomes dry enough to paint.
  9. Paint the lower half of the base black and the upper part red. Then, using a very fine brush, outline the design on each doll in black. Then paint each doll. The designs are usually all a little different and individual, so don’t aim for perfection. It is probably best to start with the face first and, if it goes wrong, just turn the doll around and try again! Place each doll on its base, sticking it on with edible glue.


  • I used black; Christmas red; baby blue; claret; Christmas green; mint green; melon.
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