Pauline’s Cookbook is a wonderful blog maintained by Tonya Shuster. As she describes it, it’s a “memoir of sorts about my grandmother’s life, woven around the gift of a handmade pastry cookbook she cherished for nearly 80 years”. The story is so poignant and so beautifully told, I’m not going to spoil it by retelling it in my own words – read it here on the page named after Pauline’s advice ‘Life is short, enjoy yourself’. Pauline was born in Croatia in 1913 to Slovakian parents, and died aged 94 in 2007. I love sites like this, but especially this one as I have a passionate affinity with this part of the world from being a student in Zagreb in my 20s.
I found the site looking for a recipe. When I was in Prague last year, I went to the Krásny ztráty cafe for afternoon tea with a Czech friend, who recommended the honey cake there. Prague honey cake is something of a legend, because of the extraordinary story of how a bit of bome-baking turned into a multimillion pound business (see a cut-and-paste of the story here). It is also one of the most delicious and unusual cakes I’ve ever eaten. It has a bewitching flavour and texture, and it’s hard to work out exactly how it’s done. It has the feel of a cake with a long history.
And it is. Thanks to Tonya Shuster’s labour of love, which is based on Pauline’s friend’s labour of love, here’s the recipe for Medovnik or ‘honey cake’ which retains lovely idiosyncrasies of the original like “2 women’s handfuls of raisins”.