This Russian Bird’s Milk Cake recipe (ptichye moloko) is made with delicate mousse, covered in rich chocolate ganache, and garnished with bright berries. A true Slavic classic!
Bird’s Milk Cake (Ptichye Moloko) is a very common and beloved Russian dessert made with light, airy layers of cream, cacao custard, and chocolate ganache. Most people that grew up in a Slavic household dream about its luscious, creamy texture and pray one of their family members will bring it to the next big get-together!
Wondering about Bird’s Milk Cake history and origin? You’re not alone. The name is a bit strange and eyebrow- raising (spoiler alert: no bird’s milk is required!). It was born out of a Slavic folktale surrounding the mythological milk birds of paradise feed to their baby chicks.
According to the legend, eligible maidens would challenge their suitors to find the elusive milk and bring it back to them. This of course was impossible, but you can see just how serious these maidens were about securing their future. Today, Bird’s Milk Cake is enjoyed throughout Europe and can be found in many European specialty stores stateside. No maiden challenge required!
What is Bird’s Milk Cake?
Bird’s Milk Cake, or “Ptichye Moloko” in Russian, is a wildly popular soufflé cake that’s eaten throughout Russia and many other post-Soviet states. There are many different variations to this cake, with some having sponge cake layers and others resembling that of a dense torte. This recipe is more closely aligned with the torte variety, consisting of a white custard layer, a cacao custard layer, and a rich topping of chocolate ganache. Below, find an overview of the flavor, texture, and time.
- Flavor: This cake is a little tangy, rich with chocolate, and lightly sweet.
- Texture: Flourless and light, this cake is creamy in texture from top to bottom.
- Time: From start to finish, it takes just under two hours to make.
How to Make Bird’s Milk Cake
Making Bird’s Milk Cake requires a bit of patience, but the end result is more than worth it. Below, find a quick hitter overview of the recipe before you dive in.
- Make the Batter Base: Dissolve the gelatin into the milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and set aside. With a stand or hand mixer, whip together the Cool Whip, sour cream, and sugar. In small portions, beat the milk/gelatin mixture in until smooth.
- Allow the White Layer to Set: Grease the cake pan. Place half the batter into it and refrigerate until the white layer hardens (around 30 minutes).
- Make the Cacao Layer: Using the stand mixer or hand mixer, beat the cacao powder into the remaining half of the cake batter. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
- Add the Cacao Layer: Carefully spoon the cacao layer on top of the white layer. Allow both layers to set in the fridge (about 30 minutes).
- Make the Chocolate Ganache: In 30-second intervals, melt the chocolate chips and heavy whipping cream. Between each round, give the mixture a good stir. For more tips on making and using ganache, see this post.
- Plate & Frost the Cake: Loosen the edges of the cake, carefully flip it upside down onto a cake stand or serving plate, and gently remove the pan. Spread the ganache on top of the cake, letting it drizzle off the sides. Top with fruit and pop back into the fridge for 2 hours for a final set. Serve and enjoy!
Tips for Making the Best Bird’s Milk Cake
- Allow each layer to set for 30 minutes. Patience is a virtue with Bird’s Milk Cake! Allowing each layer enough time to set is crucial to creating the perfect slice.
- Use a spatula to smoothen the cacao custard layer. To ensure a smooth bottom (you’ll end up flipping the cake when you plate it), use a cake spatula to smoothen the cacao custard layer flush to the top of the cake pan.
- Smoothen the sides of the cake after plating it. Once you flip the cake upside down and remove it from the pan, smoothen out any rough edges using the flat side of a butter knife or a cake spatula.
- Make Bird’s Milk Cake a couple of days ahead. To allow the cake to really develop and set perfectly, you can make it up to two days in advance before serving it.
Springform Pan Hack: Use a springform pan to take the stress out of removing the delicate cake layers from the cake pan.
Storing Bird’s Milk Cake
The best way to store Bird’s Milk Cake is in an airtight cake container. Since it’s very delicate, you’ll want to make sure it can’t get smashed in the refrigerator. Also, covering it prevents the cake from soaking up any smells lingering in your refrigerator. When stored properly, it should keep for up to 4 days.
Why is it called Bird’s Milk Cake?
It’s called Bird’s Milk Cake due to a popular Slavic folk tale. According to the legend, birds of paradise would feed their chicks with “bird’s milk” to make them strong and beautiful. To test the love of their admirers, young women would send them off on a quest to retrieve the milk, which of course was impossible to find.
What is Bird’s Milk candy?
Bird’s Milk candy is a popular candy eaten throughout Eastern Europe and Russia. It is based on the cake and often comes with a fluffy marshmallow layer. You should try it!
Is there anything I can use to replace the gelatin?
You can replace gelatin with equal parts of agar agar. It’s a vegetarian gelatin substitute that comes in powder or flakes.
How long should Bird’s Milk Cake set before I serve it?
Bird’s Milk Cake should set for two hours in the refrigerator before you serve it.
How long does Bird’s Milk Cake last?
Bird’s Milk Cake will last 3-4 days when stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Other Decadent Russian Cakes to Try
- Russian Honey Cake – Rich honey and caramel cake
- Chocolate Layer Cake – Chocolate and cream layered cake
- Honey Walnut Poppy Seed Cake – Moist and nutty cake
- 2 cups milk
- 1.5 oz gelatin or about 6 small packages
- 20 oz sour cream
- 30 oz Cool Whip
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 tbsp cacao
- 1/2 cup Berries for garnish
- 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup whipping cream
- In a saucepan over medium heat, whisk the gelatin into the milk until dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Using a stand or hand mixer, mix the Cool Whip, sour cream, and sugar. In small portions, add the milk and gelatin mixture until you get a smooth, consistent texture.
- Thoroughly oil all the sides of a 9-inch cake pan (very important when it comes time to remove the cake!). Place half of the batter into the pan. Refrigerate until the layer hardens (around 30 minutes).
- While the first layer is hardening in the fridge, use an electric mixer to add the cacao powder to the second half of the batter. Keep the chocolate custard at room temperature while the other layer is setting.
- Carefully apply the cacao mixture on top of the white layer. Place the cake in the fridge to set (about 30 minutes).
- Place chocolate chips and whipping cream in a microwave-safe dish. In 30-second intervals, melt the chocolate chips and whipping cream, stirring between each round. Continue the process until the chocolate ganache is smooth. Set aside and let it cool to room temperature.
- Remove the cake from the fridge. Using a knife, carefully loosen the edges of the cake. Place the cake upside down on a cake stand and gently remove it from the pan. Spread the chocolate ganache on the top of the cake.
- Decorate the cake with berries (or any other fruit of your choice). Allow the cake to set in the refrigerator for 2 hours before you are ready to serve it. Slice and enjoy!
Can the cool whip be replaced with sweetened heavy whipped cream done into very stiff peaks just shy of making butter, it should have the approximate thickness as ugh! Cool whip thigh out all the nasty chemicals. I really don't thick cool which was available back when this recipe was originally developed, esp. Considering that those countries really didn't import such expensive luxury goods.
Hi Vicki, I am sure you can substitute for the heavy whipping cream. If you give it a try, I would love to know the result! Good luck!
Any suggestions how to make this in 9x13 baking pan and how long to make for? And how much to double the cream? Thanks
Hey Natalya- You can definitely make it in a 9x13 pan, your layers would just be thinner. You wouldn't need to alter the recipe in any way. If you want slightly thicker layers, you could 1.5 the recipe; if you double it I think it might be too much. Enjoy!
Your gelatin proportion does not match the quantity for amount of liquid. My cake got destroyed. Please consider using measurements such as “tablespoons” or “cups”. It’s impossible to measure 30oz of cool whip or 20oz sour cream without a weight scale (which most households don’t have). Cool whip only comes in tubs of 8oz or 16oz. I come across this problem with a lot of your recipes that destroy my meals. Will not recommend your recipes to anyone as it’s not trusted, sorry. I’ll stick to Natasha’s kitchen.
Hi Joanna- thank you for taking the time to give detailed feedback, I appreciate it. I know it's frustrating when a recipe doesn't work out. How many packets of gelatin did you use, and what brand? If you use the ones I linked in the recipe (Knox brand) it should be enough to set the cake. Again, so sorry the cake didn't turn out!
Is there any way to sub Cool Whip? Maybe whipped cream is an option ? Thanks
Hi Oksana- that's a great question. I haven't tried using whipped cream in place of cool whip, so I'm not sure what kind of results you'd get. If you try to sub it, please let us know how it turns out!
What type of milk should be used?12 & 1/2, whole, 2 % evaporated?
Hi Shirley - Organic whole milk works best! Thanks for reaching out and I hope your cake turns out FABULOUS. Happy Holidays!
Absolutely amazing! My roommate introduced me to this cake years ago and I am so happy I found this recipe!
Hi Vivian, it is such an addicting dessert, you won't get enough 😊
Thank you so much for sharing this amazing recipe! It is really easy to make and it tasted super delicious! Will have it again!
I am so glad to hear that, Allyssa, thank you for taking the time to comment 😊
This is my favorite kind of cake! I adore mousse! Light and fluffy, yet rich in it's own way. And so delicious! Yummmmmmm!!!!!
Hi Betsy, I am so glad you loved the cake, thank you for taking the time to comment!
Moose or mousse? 🤣
Hey Shanna, good catch! 🙂
I am vegan so I do not eat gelatin. Are there any substitutes I can use?
You can use agar agar instead
Thanks for sharing your tip!
you can make with agar agar
Hey dear, I am not sure. I haven't tried any other versions of this recipe.
How long does the cake last in the fridge?
3-4 days, but keep it in a sealed container.
Hi, I would prefer to use heavy whipping cream to make my own "cool whip". Do you know how many ounces liquid would make 30 oz whipped?
Whipping cream can lose the fluffiness as you add jello. I haven't made this recipe with it so I dont know if it would work.
Hello, I think it would help if you added how long you waited for the birds milk layer to chill in the refrigerator before adding the rest with the cocoa, and also the time frame the cake would be ready to serve after chilling the the refrigerator as well, like is it over night? Or would a couple of hours be enough for the cake to set? Thank you!!!
I would say up to an hour before adding another layer. Usually I just check to see if its set. You can serve the cake with in a few hours.
I love this cake! Super easy and fast to make. Thank you for the great recipe!
Zhanna, I am so happy that you loved this cake. Thank you 🙂
Did you just use 1 container of cool whip?
Yes, as long as it's 30oz.
What pan size did you use?
I used 9 inch pan.
На порцию приведенного выше рецепта я добавила 6 пакетиков желатина. Так как мне показалось "1 грамм" это очень мало на данное каличество ингредиентов. Торт получился, спасибо за рецепт!!!
To make one oz of gelatin, its takes about 5 little packets. So its close to what you used
I tried making bird's milk cake and candy many time. And I never thought about using cool whip. Sounds like a brilliant shortcut! I will be trying your recipe next! The cake looks gorgeous too! And your other cakes 🙂
Thanks for sharing with me. I will try your tips next time.
I did with heavy whip cream, turn great, I only increased really bit gelatin and really bit sugar, between cooling the layer one i used freezer to set faster ...next time i am gonna used your chocolate glaze because I used heavy whip cream + corn syrup + semi sweet chocolate and i don't liked, it was not really set. Made this cake for B-Day, everyone LOVED. So thank you so much for a great recipe
By the way great blog, made chubyreki too, and my husband was so happy, so thanks a lot, was really easy to make the chubyreki 🙂 I loved
Ya zden novenka 🙂
Xochy delat etot tort, and have voprosik ... mozna li zamenit heavy whiped cream, chobu ne stavit cool whipe, if yes, how much i have to use heavy cream.
Thank you very much for a great blog. Good job
I use knife or I have cake spatula for decorating. I drop sides intentionally my self. But I gave it a little shake so it looks smooth on top.
this looks amazing.. thank you much for the recipe. i have a question, in addition to shaking the pan to get the chocolate ganache to cover the top, do u use a tool to smooth it?.. when i made the drunken cherry the chocolate got stuck in the middle and didnt drip on sides