Editor’s Note: Our colleague and fellow foodie, Debi Lander, who is a valued contributor to realfoodtraveler.com, has recently taken the plunge and is living in Europe for six months. For the duration of her stay, Debi has agreed to be RFT’s European Correspondent, bringing us stories of her adventures including the interesting foods she encounters.
Beloved Lake Bled in Slovenia attracts tourists with its thousand-year-old castle perched atop a steep, 426-foot high cliff and a gorgeous green-blue lake. The lake sports a flyspeck of an island, just barely big enough to fit a church and bell tower. Almost every visitor takes a flat-bottomed Pletna boat to get there, then climbs 99 steps toward the church to ring the “wishing bell,” a 16th-century chime that is supposed to grant requests.
The Julian Alps and forest surround Lake Bled; an idyllic setting that draws romantic couples, outdoor enthusiasts, photographers and those seeking relaxation. Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital city, lies just an hour away.
In addition to marveling at the island, Lake Bled is renown for its cream cakes. Ištvan Lukačevič, who came from Serbia as the pastry chef and later became manager of the Hotel Park, is credited as the inventor. He tested recipes for years before finally succeeding with the ultimate creation, now know as the Lake Bled Cream Cake.
If you placed all the slices of cream cake sold over the years, they would line the five-mile lake circumference with a 23-foot high wall. Each year the Park Café alone sells around 500,000 slices and, during the resort town’s last 60 years, more than 13 million cream cakes have been sold.
Experience or Recipe?
Many locals claim there is no secret to the recipe, it’s experience that matters, and the chefs at Bled have plenty of that. However, the Sava Hotel in Lake Bled reports that “Seven is the fairytale number, the secret behind this legendary dessert. To make the original Bled cream cake, puff pastry is folded seven times and left to rest overnight so it is even lighter when baked in the morning. A light egg custard is boiled for precisely seven minutes before stiffly beaten egg whites are added to it and the mixture is poured over the first layer of delicate puff pastry. The delicious custard cream is topped with a layer of whipped cream and covered with a second layer of puff pastry, which is then dusted with vanilla sugar.” The original Bled cream cakes are still made strictly to the recipe perfected by the pastry chef in the 1940s.
Thanks to a recent granting, the Bled Cream Cake is now a dish with a protected designation of origin. It only comes from the patisseries at Lake Bled like champagne only comes from the Champagne district of France.
According to the official Lake Bled website: The cake’s golden crispy crust is made from butter dough (mixed with butter, not margarine), a delicious vanilla cream of exactly the right consistency (with exactly the right amount of flour – if there is too much the cakes are no good; too little, they collapse after cutting), topped with whipped cream and a crispy layer of butter dough and finally, last but not least, a good dusting of icing sugar.
I tasted a luscious, velvety cream cake at the Bled Castle Restaurant and savored every mouthful of the decadent sweet. A slice is so rich, however, I had to ask to take mine away to finish later.
Lake Bled offers sweet memories to its local and international visitors, but the hungry ones leave with even sweeter memories —those of the Lake Bled cream cake.—Story and photos by Debi Lander, RFT Contributor and European Correspondent