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Ptichye Moloko (Russian Bird’s Milk Cake) features layers of sponge cake, a light, creamy mousse-like filling, and decadent chocolate ganache on top.

ptichye moloko

I’ve been waiting for a while to share this incredibly special cake! Today is my birthday (shout-out to my fellow Libras!), and I am a firm believer that birthdays warrant cake. What better time to share this beauty, right?!

Ptichye Moloko, which translates to “Bird’s Milk”, is a Soviet-era Russian dessert with layers of sponge cake, mousse-like (or soufflé-like) sour cream filling, and chocolate ganache.

Its name, which refers to something that doesn’t exist, alludes to the fact that this delicacy of a cake is rare, unique, and special. Back in the 1980’s, Muscovites would stand in line with a number outside Praga Restaurant to buy this cake.

top view of cake on stand and slice on plate

Let’s make it at home!

This cake isn’t difficult to make. But take note, there are bake times and cool times that you need to be aware of. Read the recipe through before starting to get an idea of the timeline and you’ll be fine.

styled frame for russian cake

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • Impressive, restaurant-quality. This stunning cake will make you feel like you stepped into a bakery in Europe!
  • It’s a process to make, but it’s straightforward and not difficult. I’m sharing step-by-step photos to show you how approachable this cake is to make. Read the directions through before starting to get a feel for the process and you’ll be fine!
  • If you’ve been looking for a unique cake, bookmark this one! With a sponge cake base, rich and creamy mousse-like sour cream filling, and chocolate ganache on top, this is truly unlike anything I’ve ever had.
bird's milk cake recipe with chocolate flowers and gold glitter

What is Bird’s Milk Cake?

This decadent Russian cake is comprised of several layers.

For starters, there is a sponge cake layer. I’ve seen both vanilla and chocolate sponge used. Also, I’ve seen recipes that have multiple sponge layers. Here we use one vanilla sponge cake layer as the base of our Ptichye Moloko.

The really unique part of this cake is the creamy, yet light, mousse-like filling that’s often referred to as a soufflé layer. It’s made of sour cream that’s whipped until fluffy, sweetened, and set (similar to gelatin).

Atop the airy mousse filling is a rich chocolate glaze. A classic chocolate ganache only requires two ingredients, and it’s the easiest part of this recipe to make! I had a little ganache leftover so I let it chill a little in the fridge, whipped it, and piped it onto the top decoratively.

Additionally, this cake also sometimes has a layer of either custard, custard buttercream, or Russian buttercream. (If you’re not familiar with Russian buttercream, it’s essentially sweetened condensed milk incorporated into whipped butter. It’s absolutely decadent, rich, and delicious.) However, I thought this recipe was going to be indulgent enough without another layer added, so I left it out. If you prefer, go ahead and add a layer of custard, custard buttercream, or Russian buttercream.

bird's milk cake on wooden cake stand

Is This the Same as Bird’s Milk Candy?

No! This cake is very different than the candy.

In Polish, ptasie mleczko translates to “bird’s milk”. Back in 1936 in Warsaw, Poland, Jan Wendel came up with an airy meringue confection (similar to marshmallow) coated in chocolate glaze and named it ptasie mleczko.

In Russian, ptichye moloko also means “bird’s milk”. And in Russia this refers to the cake or the candy.

In Soviet-era USSR, in 1978 in Moscow’s Praga Restautant, Vladimir Guralnik transformed the popular candy into a cake of the same name. It grew in popularity, and the rest is history!

You can read more about bird’s milk on Wikipedia.

top view of ptichye moloko cake with gold glitter on wooden table

Why is it Called Bird’s Milk?

The legendary name of this cake is rife with folklore. The phrase “bird’s milk” refers to something precious, unique, and rare that’s almost impossible to obtain. The idea of bird’s milk being a delicacy actually dates back to ancient Greek and Roman writings.

You can read more about the origin of this cakes name on Folkways and Russia Beyond.

russian bird's milk cake recipe graphic

The Best Homemade Bird’s Milk Cake (Ptichye Moloko) Recipe

Ingredients

Sponge Cake Layer:

sponge cake ingredients
  • Eggs
  • Sugar
  • Flour
  • Cornstarch
  • Baking powder
  • Salt

Sour Cream Mousse Layer:

mousse filling ingredients
  • Sour cream
  • Sugar
  • Sweetened condensed milk
  • Vanilla
  • Powdered gelatin (although it bears noting that the original cake is set with agar-agar)
  • Milk
  • Butter
  • Salt

Chocolate Ganache:

  • 60% dark chocolate
  • Heavy whipping cream

Step-by-Step Instructions

How to Make Sponge Cake:

how to make sponge cake
  1. Add the eggs and sugar to a large bowl.
  2. Use a handheld electric beater to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  3. Sift in the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Use a rubber spatula to fold the dry ingredients into the wet, being careful not to over-mix.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  6. Bake at 350F in a lined 9-inch round, 3-inch deep springform pan lined with parchment paper until the cake is golden and puffed, about 20 to 30 minutes. Cool the cake completely, about 30 minutes.

How to Make Ptichye Moloko:

how to make bird's milk cake

Once the cake is cool, make the sour cream mousse layer.

  1. Add the sour cream and sugar to a large bowl. Use a handheld electric beater to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 7 to 10 minutes.
  2. Add the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla, and beat to combine. Set aside for now.
  3. Add the gelatin and milk to a saucepan over medium heat, whisking to combine. Bring to a boil, and then add the butter and salt. Continue cooking until the butter is melted, whisking frequently. Remove from the heat.
  4. Whisk 1 cup of the sour cream mixture into the gelatin mixture to cool the gelatin mixture a little.
  5. Now gradually drizzle the gelatin mixture into the sour cream mixture while whisking constantly. Continue whisking until it’s well-combined.
  6. Pour the sour cream mixture onto the cooled sponge cake. Pick the cake up a half inch or so from the countertop and gently drop it to release any trapped air bubbles; repeat this a couple times. Transfer the cake to the fridge to chill completely and set, about 4 hours. You’re ready to move onto the next step when the sour cream mixture is chilled and jelled. Once it’s jelled, remove the side of the springform pan and discard the parchment paper that was on the side. Place the cake on top of a wire rack set on a baking tray because we’ll be topping it with chocolate.

How to Make Chocolate Ganache Topping for Cake:

Once the sour cream mixture has jelled, make the chocolate ganache.

  1. Add the chopped chocolate to a bowl and pour in the hot cream.
  2. Let it sit for 2 minutes, and then gently stir to combine. The heat from the cream will be enough to melt the chocolate.
  3. Let the chocolate mixture cool briefly (about 3 to 5 minutes) and then pour it on top of the jelled sour cream mixture.
  4. Spread it around with an offset spatula or an icing spatula. Let it drip over the sides as much as you want.

Storage

Store this cake in the fridge in an airtight cake container or wrapped well for up to 4 days.

hand with forkful of cake

Cooks Tips

  • Read the entire recipe through before starting – this will make your workflow so much easier! Also, measure out all the ingredients before you begin.
  • Sponge cake is done baking when you press the top and the cake springs back. If you press the top and the indentation remains, it needs a little longer.
  • For an airy mousse-like texture, when you’re making the filling, be sure to beat the sour cream and sugar until light and fluffy! This takes about 7 to 10 minutes using a handheld electric mixer.
  • Spread the ganache onto the cake with an offset spatula or icing spatula so you can get the look you want. I like to let the chocolate drip over the edges just a little.
  • If you have leftover ganache, let it chill a little in the fridge, whip it, and pipe it onto the top decoratively. I also decorated the top with edible gold glitter!
slice of russian bird's milk cake on black plate

More Decadent Cakes to Make

russian sour cream gelatin cake with chocolate ganache

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Ptichye Moloko (Bird’s Milk Cake Recipe)

Prep Time45 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Other Time5 hours 30 minutes
Yields: 16 servings
Ptichye Moloko (Russian Bird’s Milk Cake) features layers of sponge cake, a light, creamy mousse-like filling, and decadent chocolate ganache on top.

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Ingredients
 

Sponge Cake Layer:

Sour Cream Mousse Layer:

Chocolate Ganache:

  • 12 ounces 60% dark chocolate chopped
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream heated to a simmer

Other:

Instructions
 

For the Sponge Cake:

  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Line the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round, 3-inch deep springform pan with parchment paper.
  • Add the eggs and sugar to a large bowl. Use a handheld electric beater to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Sift in the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt. Use a rubber spatula to fold the dry ingredients into the wet, being careful not to over-mix.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the cake is golden and puffed, about 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Cool the cake completely, about 30 minutes.

For the Sour Cream Mousse Layer:

  • Once the cake is cool, make the sour cream mousse layer.
  • Add the sour cream and sugar to a large bowl. Use a handheld electric beater to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla, and beat to combine. Set aside for now.
  • Add the gelatin and milk to a saucepan over medium heat, whisking to combine. Bring to a boil, and then add the butter and salt. Continue cooking until the butter is melted, whisking frequently. Remove from the heat.
  • Whisk 1 cup of the sour cream mixture into the gelatin mixture to cool the gelatin mixture a little. Now gradually drizzle the gelatin mixture into the sour cream mixture while whisking constantly. Continue whisking until it’s well-combined.
  • Pour the sour cream mixture onto the cooled sponge cake. Pick the cake up a half inch or so from the countertop and gently drop it to release any trapped air bubbles; repeat this a couple times. Transfer the cake to the fridge to chill completely and set, about 4 hours. You’re ready to move onto the next step when the sour cream mixture is chilled and jelled.
  • Once it’s jelled, remove the side of the springform pan and discard the parchment paper that was on the side. Place the cake on top of a wire rack set on a baking tray because we’ll be topping it with chocolate.

For the Chocolate Ganache:

  • Once the sour cream mixture has jelled, make the chocolate ganache.
  • Add the chopped chocolate to a bowl and pour in the hot cream. Let it sit for 2 minutes, and then gently stir to combine. The heat from the cream will be enough to melt the chocolate.
  • Let the chocolate mixture cool briefly (about 3 to 5 minutes) and then pour it on top of the jelled sour cream mixture, spreading it around with an offset spatula or an icing spatula. Let it drip over the sides as much as you want.
  • If you have extra chocolate ganache, chill it in the fridge, and then whip it. Transfer it to a piping bag fitted with a star tip and pipe decorations on top of the cake. If desired, decorate the top with edible luster dust and chocolate pearls.
  • Let the ganache set before slicing and serving (at least 1 hour in the fridge).

Notes

  • Recommendation: Read the entire recipe through before starting – this will make your workflow so much easier! Also, measure out all the ingredients before you begin.
  • To Get the Light and Airy Mousse-Like Texture: When you’re making the filling, be sure to beat the sour cream and sugar until light and fluffy! This takes about 7 to 10 minutes using a handheld electric mixer.
  • Make Sure to Let the Sour Cream Layer Chill and Set Completely: It must be fully chilled and set before moving on to the next step.
  • How to Tell When Sponge Cake is Done Baking: It’s done when you press the top and the cake springs back. If you press the top and the indentation remains, it needs a little longer.
  • If Your Pan Isn’t Deep Enough: I recommend using a 3-inch (or 4-inch if possible) cake pan because this cake is quite tall. If it doesn’t look like your pan is deep enough, you can easily remedy that. Once your cake is cooled, you can slice it in half horizontally. Place 1 half back into the pan and continue with the recipe; use the other half for something else. If you also have filling, you can crumble the extra cake into individual bowls and pour the extra filling on top.
  • When Making the Chocolate Ganache: Don’t stir aggressively because we don’t want to incorporate air into the chocolate. Spread the ganache onto the cake with an offset spatula or icing spatula so you can get the look you want. I like to let the chocolate drip over the edges just a little.
  • If You Have Leftover Ganache: Let it chill a little in the fridge, whip it, and pipe it onto the top decoratively. I also decorated the top with edible gold glitter!

Nutrition

Calories: 547kcal | Carbohydrates: 56g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 33g | Saturated Fat: 19g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 102mg | Sodium: 148mg | Potassium: 369mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 46g | Vitamin A: 826IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 174mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutritional information is automatically calculated and should be used as an approximate.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Russian
Keyword: Bird’s Milk Cake, Bird’s Milk Cake Recipe, Ptichye Moloko, Russian Bird’s Milk Cake

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bird's milk cake recipe pin
Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
About Faith

I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

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3 Comments

  1. Jan Wedel, owner of the E. Wedel Chocolate Company. After he came back from his voyages to France, asked himself “What could bring greater happiness to a man who already has everything? Maybe only bird milk.” And that’s how Ptasie Mleczko came to be in 1936.
    Unfortunately for the company, the trademark did not last forever. It expired in the 1950s (thanks to communism).
    During the Soviet era, in the 1960s, the brand ptichye moloko emerged in Russia. This term is still used to refer to both candies resembling ptasie mleczko and a soufflé cake. Instead of gelatin agar-agar is used as a thickener.

  2. Happy Birthday!! Your cake looks perfect and I can’t wait to make it this weekend!

    1. Meredith, Thank you so much, I hope you enjoy it! xo

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