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Romanian Lemon Cake (Snow White-Alba ca Zapada)

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Romanian Lemon Cake (Snow White-Alba ca Zapada)

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600 gr Flour
220 gr Butter room temperature
2 Eggs
200 gr Sugar
1 Tbsp vanila sugar if you can find it, 2 small bags
6 rounded Tbsp sour cream min 20% fat
1 teaspoon baker's ammonia dissolved in 4 tbsp of cold milk
from 1 lemon lemon zest

extra butter and flour for the pan
200 gr Sugar
1 l Milk
130 gr corn starch or semolina, but you might need a bit more if you think your filling isn't thickening enough
250-300 gr Butter room temperature
1-2 lemons lemon zest

1 vanilla bean
  • Medium


  • Dough:

  • Filling:



Alba ca Zapada (Snow white cake) is a traditional Romanian cake that can be found in several other Balkan countries’ cuisine. It is also called Lemon, due to the substantial amount of lemon used (both peel and juice). It is called Snow White because it is white but also because of the fluffiness of the cream, like snow. Alba ca Zapada is usually made for the holidays and various other celebrations, such as birthdays and weddings.

For country folk who mainly work in agriculture and are less wealthy than those in the big cities, this cake was considered a dessert. That’s because it doesn’t cost much to make and quite often all the ingredients are readily available at home.

Neither is it complicated to make! The dough is very simple – just mix it up and roll it out, and the filling is one the easiest creams to make. And that’s it. Well, and taking cake layers in and out of the oven, but with a little bit of patience, you’ll have yourself one amazing dessert.

How to Make the Dough:

  1. Before you start, make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature. Put them all into a bowl and combine with your hand, working the butter in well. Once you have a good dough, put it in the fridge for a few minutes while you are prepare for the next step.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. You will need a quarter sized cookie pan, or something similar in size (16×22 inches).
  3. You will bake your layers on the bottom of the pan so first butter and flour it really well. You only need to do this once before putting on the first layer. You will be making 4 layers.
  4. Take your dough out of the fridge and put it onto a floured work surface.
  5. Re-knead the dough and cut it into 4 equal pieces. Leave one piece out and put the rest into separate zip lock bags.
  6. Constantly adding flour and turning the dough, roll it very thin, to less than 1/8″, and until your dough layer is just little bigger than the back of your pan. Try to roll it into a rectangular shape the best that you can, this might take little practice.
  7. Using the rolling pin, transfer your dough layer onto the cookie sheet pan, and then carefully cut all around the edge of the pan with a small knife so you are left with an almost perfect rectangular layer of dough (don’t throw out the trimmings!).
  8. Bake it for 10 to 15 minutes. You are looking for a barely visible darkening (slightly golden) around the edges.
  9. You need to designate a space where you can pile up your cake layers, and you need something like a big butcher’s board to weigh it down until they are completely cool (best over night). Hot tip: One trick before baking the sheets is to use your tray as a template and cut the 4 rolled out sheets to the exact size/shape – this makes the final assembly much faster, easier and neater
  10. Now put the next rolled out dough layer on the cookie sheet, cut around and bake. It goes pretty quick, because while one is baking, you are rolling out the dough for the next one.
  11. When they are all done, hopefully you will have 4 good cake layers to work with once the filling is done. It is crucial that they are completely cool before you even thinking of spreading the filling on them.

How to Make the Filling:

  1. Since your cake layers need to cool completely, I recommend making this filling when they are cooked, or even the next day. It makes everything seem much easier, to tell you the truth.
  2. The procedure  for the filling is the same as when making a regular pudding.
  3. Put the sugar, the vanilla bean cut in 2, the lemon zest, and the 750 ml of the milk into the pan and cook on a medium heat.
  4. Take you remaining 250 ml of milk and mix it with the corn starch to obtain a thick yet pourable paste and add it to the milk and sugar once it gets to the soft boil stage. Lower the heat and constantly stir until it thickens. (It will thicken quite a bit more once cooled, too). Then remove from the heat, transfer into a bowl and continue to mix while it’s cooling down. Cover the pudding with a piece of cling film directly over the surface, this will prevent the pudding from forming a skin. It also needs to be fully cooled off before adding the butter.
  5. While the mixture is cooling, take the butter out of the refrigerator and let it come at room temperature.
  6. It is very important that both the mixture and the butter have the same temperature (room temperature) when you start mixing them. Otherwise, the buttercream will curdle.
  7. Also, make sure that you don’t taste the lemon buttercream while mixing it, the spit from your fingers will also cause the buttercream to curdle.
  8. So, once the butter have reached room temperature, beat the soft butter until pale and fluffy.
  9. After the mixture had cooled , mix it with the freshly squeezed lemon juice. The cream becomes more fluid and has a very pleasant, sour taste. Start with about 8 tablespoons and add the remaining juice to taste. I always add all the 10 tablespoons, I love the buttercream to be really lemony.
  10. Slowly start adding the mixture, one tablespoon at a time, to the butter while beating all the time. Mix well. This is your filling so don’t eat it all before it gets on the cake.

How to Assemble the Cake:

  1. Divide the lemon buttercream into 3 equal portions and cover 3 cake layers with the buttercream. Use the nicest looking layer to place on top of the cake.
  2. Place the first cake layer on a board or a cookie sheet and take about 5 spoonfuls of filling to carefully spread all over.
  3. It needs to be pretty much the same thickness as the cake layer is so you will have to eyeball it. Put the next cake layer on and repeat, adding the filling, and putting on the cake layer.
  4. Now, put the board you were weighing the cake layers with back on the top, and leave it for at least five hours, or best over night. The lemon buttercream cake needs time to become really tender and develop the flavor.
  5. You can finish it with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, or, if you want, with a white chocolate glaze.
  6. Cut around the rim of the cake very thinly to remove any imperfections, then cut the whole cake into about two by two (or smaller) inch cubes.
  7. It sounds like quite a bit of work, all written down, and lots can go wrong… but practice makes perfect and it is worth the practice.

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