The so-called “Praga” (or “Prague”) cake – a high, festive chocolate layer cake with a buttercream made with cocoa and condensed milk – was among the brightest highlights of my Soviet childhood. Yet, it took me twenty years to make my own for the first time this fall. Now a layer cake is more effort than I care to exert these days, so when I make it, I bake it either in the form of a sheet cake or as cupcakes, with the latter option being my favorite. This particular buttercream is really what defines Praga cake as such.
Since I don’t have an original cake recipe to share, use this frosting with your own favorite chocolate cake. My go-to version is The Pioneer Woman‘s Best Chocolate Sheet Cake, which is as elementary to prepare as it is extraordinary.
You start with condensed milk, the heart and soul of just about any buttercream in the Old Country. We’re going to make enough frosting for two dozen cupcakes or one large sheet cake, so we’ll be using 1 1/2 of these cans.
We’ll also be needing some dutch-process cocoa.
And – I bet you really didn’t see this one coming – BUTTER! Whole 3 sticks of it.
Start by whipping room-temperature butter until fluffy. I used a whisk, but a paddle attachment, in my opinion, actually works better – I just couldn’t find it at the time.
Once that’s done, gradually beat in the milk. I went about half a can or so at a time, mixing after each addition. It will be pretty runny at this point, but have faith…
…for we are going to gradually thicken it with 10 tablespoons of cocoa, which we will beat in, two tablespoons at a time, and continue to beat until everything is sort of fluffy. If your butter was very soft, like mine, chill your frosting a bit before spreading it over a cooled cake or cupcakes.
Now no matter how your ideology makes you feel about sweetened condensed milk, this frosting is excruciatingly delicious, so let go of your prejudices and give it a try. Oh, and the organtic brands? Garbage. For the purest taste, go for the good-old Eagle Brand or ShurFine (Eagle Brand works a little better for this).
- 1 1/2 cans sweetened condensed milk
- 3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 10 T dutch-process cocoa
Whip butter until fluffy. Add sweetened condensed milk in 1/2-can increments, mixing after each addition. Beat in the cocoa, 2 T at a time, and continue beating until the mixture is just fluffy. If your butter was very soft, chill the frosting slightly to make it more spreadable. Spread over cooled cake or cupcakes.
Note: If you are making a layer cake, know that rather than spreading the last layer with the same frosting, it is customary to coat the finished Praga with ganache or some ganache-like glaze. To this end, check out my milk chocolate version.