Olga Rogacheva remembers baking with her family from a very early age. Growing up in Russia, she recalls helping make the cream of her favourite birthday cake, the Napoleon. Back then, she would eat half the cream in the process, but now she’s the owner of the only Russian bakery in Sydney.
With various pastries and cakes labelled with foreign names, it can be hard to choose something from the window at Izba. Olga recommends the Medovik (honey cake), an old Russian classic full of stories dating back to the 1800s. This cake was first created for the Empress Elizabeth, wife of the Emperor Alexander I, who detested the taste of honey until the day she tried this scrumptious recipe. For Olga, however, the honey cake has a more personal connection. She tells me that about 70% of customers come to Izba for her honey cake, which she feels is a sort of tribute because the recipe she uses is her grandmother’s.
“It’s really dear to me because my grandmother went through a war and she survived the Holocaust; she’s been through a lot.”
She explains to me that when her grandmother and great grandmother were refugees during the German and Austrian occupation in World War II, the only thing that would make her grandmother happy was when her mother would bake her a honey cake.
It’s this kind of history and family tradition that gives Izba a sense of true authenticity. It’s no wonder so many people are spreading the word about this one-year-old bakery. Olga talks about her gratitude for the residents of Newtown, who embraced the new business with open arms.
“People here are very open and we knew that this area out of all areas would give a go to new things.”
It seems that Olga has created the perfect fusion of Russia and Newtown. Inside Izba, a bright mural and an assortment of Russian trinkets create a perfect balance of old Russian tradition and modern Newtown coolness. But it took a lot of work to get to this point. She talks to me about the early days of the business when they had difficulty getting their hands on Russian ingredients.
“We experimented a lot in the beginning. Obviously some of the components are different, you know, different texture and their outcome would be different.”
Thankfully, her talented team of pastry chefs (each with 8 years experience) were able to adapt her recipes and produce amazing tasting food.
After my chat with Olga I sat down for a traditional blini ($7) filled with beef and caramelised onion. A blini is more than just a pancake or crepe, let me tell you. Served with either sweet or savoury fillings a blini is baked with yeast which gives it a light and airy texture. Accompanied with a hearty serving of sour cream, this dish had me forgetting all about stodgy pancakes!
For dessert, I had to try the famous honey cake ($9.50 for large slice) of course! Now, I’m not a fan of honey but let me start by saying, I absolutely loved this dish. The cake consists of sheets of crumbly biscuit-like honey pastry separated by a smooth cream cheese filling. After my blini I only ordered a “bite-sized” piece, but I wish I’d ordered more! It was so delicious!
If I had it my way and a bigger stomach I’d have tried everything in the bakery. Among the treats I didn’t get to taste were the Ptichye Moloko cake (Bird’s Milk Cake $8.50) made from an almond-hazelnut sponge and a caramelised condensed milk mousse filling, and the Izba Cake ($9.00) made with amareno cherries and vanilla sour cream. The Izba Cake is named after Russia’s traditional huts which, alongside the Great Wall of China and Egyptian pyramids, are considered one of the best engineering marvels of all time. It’s rolled dough is stacked carefully to mimic the structure of the Izba’s wooden logs while the triangular shape imitates the Izba’s roof. I assure you that the next time I’m in Newtown I’ll be sampling some more of what this bakery offers.
With the amount of success that Izba Russian Treats has received, Olga has decided to expand the business into another store. Following June this year, keep your eyes open in Broadway Shopping Centre for a brand new Izba store! Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
Izba Russian Treats
579 King Street, Newtown, Sydney
Phone: (02) 9557 9437
I Ate My Way Through dined as guests of Izba