Ukrainians will tell you that for the past 50 years the food you bring back home from the capital is the Kyiv cake.

Crunchy and nutty meringue combined with plenty of buttery cream for contrast, its taste provides a comforting memory from childhood for many Kyivans, when the delicacy was the finale of a festive family dinner that all children craved.

Back in Soviet days, it was often hard to get. But in the current era of plenty, the Roshen factory churns out 350,000 of these treats per month – roughly enough for one in 10 residents of Kyiv and its suburbs to have a cake per month.

However, plenty of them still get eaten outside the capital. You will find dozens of places selling Kyiv cake by the railway station, and plenty of them are dutifully shipped to loved ones outside the capital, despite a short shelf life of just 72 hours from the production date.


The cake comes in a distinctive white-and-green box tied with a ribbon, featuring chestnut tree leaves and fruit, the symbol of Kyiv. Although the box has been redesigned since Soviet times, the basic concept remains the same.

These days it comes in two sizes: the bigger box containing a one-kilo cake costs around Hr 90, while the half-size treat goes for Hr 45. Sometimes the price will be higher, if the shop decides to earn a higher markup.

Kyiv cake is a popular target for “food pirates.” Because of its popularity, confectionaries will make cakes that look similar, but taste different.

To make sure you get the original, you have to run through a check list of features. First, check the packaging carefully.

The original cake comes with a red ribbon, and the production date is burnt into the box with a laser – never taped, written by hand or stamped-on in ink.

The fake cake will most likely be wetter than the original, and will most likely contain peanuts instead of hazelnuts. The nuts might even be raw rather than roasted.

The recipe changed about a decade after it was invented, and probably the original cake was a genial dessert. I personally don’t enjoy the Kyiv cake, but nevertheless I’m sure it is a great artifact, a symbol of Kyiv.


– Alla Zakonova, a food critic living in Kyiv

The official Kyiv cake is made by Roshen factory only, the heir of copyrighted foods of what used to be Karl Marx factory in Kyiv.

Built in 1886 in the southern area of Kyiv, the building stands to this day and is now a popular tour destination for schools.

Its fairly-tale Christmas lights decoration adds plenty of festive cheer to the otherwise dull industrial area of Kyiv.

The factory is owned by Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s 13th-richest man, according to the most recent list by Korrespondent magazine. He bought it when it was privatized in 1994.

Legend has it that the cake was invented by accident, as a result of a mistake made by factory workers. “Many people believe that there was some mistake, but that’s nothing but a city legend,” says Marina Shiyan, spokeswoman for Roshen confectionary.

“It took long and purposeful work to invent a new cake recipe.”

That was back in 1956, but its official birthday is Dec. 13, 1974 – the day the factory received a patent.

Since then, there was only one major change in the recipe: the expensive cashew nuts that originally lent their silky nuttiness to the meringue layers have now been replaced with cheaper hazelnuts, which grow locally.


Roshen’s Shiyan says all factory workers sign a non-disclosure agreement in order to keep the trademark recipe in secret.

Alla Zakonova, a food critic living in Kyiv, says you won’t find the original Kyiv cake these days.

“The recipe changed about a decade after it was invented, and probably the original cake was a genial dessert,” Zakonova says. “I personally don’t enjoy the Kyiv cake, but nevertheless I’m sure it is a great artifact, a symbol of Kyiv.”

It takes Roshen a full day and night to make a fresh portion of the edible symbol of Kyiv.

The meringue layers are baked during the day, and then confectioners spend the night decorating the cake with cream by hand.

“There was a time when every worker had their own ‘creaming’ style, but now the decoration is unified, and each confectioner spends several months just learning the pattern,” Shiyan says.

Kyiv Post staff writer Olga Rudenko can be reached at [email protected].


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