These little lumps of sweetness are the taste of Soviet childhood.

These little lumps of sweetness are the taste of Soviet childhood.


One of the rites of culinary passage for foreigners in Russia is the first time they are introduced to a “chocolate potato,” one of the iconic dishes of Soviet cuisine. It was served in restaurants and student cafeterias, and often made at home. Made of crushed dry cookies or breadcrumbs mixed with butter, condensed milk and cocoa, these confections with an incongruous name are delicious. Today for millions of people in the CIS they are the taste of childhood.

Most people think that the chocolate potato is a Soviet invention. Recycling leftover cake crusts to produce inexpensive culinary happiness was surely the idea of the party bosses. But it turns out that this Soviet classic was actually born earlier.

But even if it was invented earlier, the catering industry valued this dessert for it practicality. “Recipes for pastries and cakes didn’t factor in the bits trimmed off. We had to use the scraps somehow, for example to make chocolate potatoes, to make up for the weight missing from the big cakes,” wrote Robert Kengis, author of many Soviet confectionary books. So we owe the wide-spread distribution of this dessert to the standard economy and quality control practiced in Soviet cafeterias.

Home cooks didn’t have to worry about scraps or crumbs, so we made this dessert with Jubilee cookies or vanilla-flavored rusks. Recipes passed from hand to hand, and every home cook had, as usual, her own recipe that she considered the best.

                                                            Pavel and Olga Syutkin

Chocolate Potatoes


For the sponge cake

  • 3 eggs
  • 100g (1/2 c) sugar
  • 90g (3/4 c) flour

For frosting

  • 150g (1¼ sticks or 10 Tbsp) butter at room temperature
  • 180 g (generous ½ c) condensed milk
  • 1 Tbsp brandy or rum (to taste)

For dusting

  • 3 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3 Tbsp powdered sugar


  • Preheat the oven to 170˚C (340˚F).
  • Beat the eggs and sugar until they form a stiff white foam.
  • Sift the flour over the beaten eggs and mix in gently.
  • Line a pan with baking paper and pour in the dough.
  • Place in the preheated oven and bake for 35 minutes; test with a dry toothpick.
  • Take the cake out of the oven and leave in the pan for 8-10 hours so that the sponge cools and stabilizes.
  • When the cake is thoroughly cool, prepare the frosting. Beat the butter to a fluffy white mass, and then add condensed milk in small portions while continuing to beat.
  • Break the cake into pieces and grate or crush in a food processor.
  • Add the frosting, saving a bit for decoration, mixed with a bit or cognac or rum. Stir the mixture.
  • Divide the mixture into 8-10 equal pieces and shape into “potatoes.”
  • Mix the cocoa with the powdered sugar and sprinkle over the potatoes. Let the cakes rest for 15-20 minutes and sprinkle again.
  • Put the rest of the frosting in a plastic bag and snip off a small corner. Make small indentations on the potatoes and fill with a bit of frosting to make sprouts.
  • Put the potatoes in the refrigerator 2-3 hours before serving.

                                                            Pavel and Olga Syutkin

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