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The hidden delights of the lowly potato (or, my new favorite Russian dessert)

September 22, 2017

Teofila Cruz-Uribe in a cafe in St. Petersburg eating the Russian dessert kartoshka

Teofila Cruz-Uribe with a kartoshka dessert, St. Petersburg, Russia

The unassuming name “картошка” (or  картофель), meaning “potato”, not only indicates the popular root vegetable staple in Russia – it is also the name of a popular no-bake chocolate early Soviet-era dessert that was created as a way for Soviet public cafeterias (or столовая) to utilize leftover cake crumbs and cut-offs. Simply mix the crumbs with cocoa powder, butter, and condensed milk (sometimes adding a splash of cognac), roll into small potato-shaped balls, roll in cocoa powder (sometimes topping with dots of white frosting), and then place in the refrigerator to cool. It has the consistency, texture, and taste of a slightly more chocolatey and soft tootsie roll (at least to me) and it isn’t as dense or heavy as it looks. My favorite place to get these traditional little ‘potatoes’ in St. Petersburg is a very popular local chain of higher-end bakeries “Север” or ‘North’. But careful! Very popular with the locals, this bakery offers a wide array of traditional Russian and European desserts (I am also partial to the “медовик” or layered honey cake) and there is no small chance that you will leave having bought a lot more than you intended!

the Russian dessert kartosha (or potato)

“картошка” (or картофель) (translation: potato)

Teofila Cruz-Uribe is a Master’s student in Russian, East European & Central Asian Studies and Museology.  She is an Ellison Center Foreign Language & Area Studies (FLAS) Fellow in Russian (2016-2018), and used her Summer 2017 FLAS Fellowship to study Russian with the School of Russian & Asian Studies in St. Petersburg, Russia.