Žarbo kocke / Walnut & Jam Squares
24 squares (roughly)
A cake made with thin, scrumptious layers – Žarbo kocke / Walnut & Jam Squares. Pronounced as “zhar-boh koh-tskeh, this Balkan inspired delicacy is one of those cakes that is made most often in preparation for special occasions and celebrations. It requires a little bit more time and effort to make, but once you taste it, you will understand why it is such a loved dessert. Made with thin dough layers, filled with jam and grounded walnuts in the middle and then topped with delicious chocolate – this dessert is just heavenly! After tasting one piece, you will be going back for seconds.
About this recipe
This dessert is not entirely a Serbian recipe, as most of our neighboring countries make this delicious delicacy too. However it is definitely a beloved dessert in many households across the region. It is a slightly old-fashioned dessert and a classic choice for a Serbian dessert table. This is just one of those recipes which I love and have to share. Admittedly, this is the type of dessert that we only enjoyed on special occasions, mostly at Slava celebrations, but I throureghly loved devouring these delicate squares.
The recipe for this dessert is mostly the same across the Balkan countries. It has to be made in a particular way for that final delicate result. If you are familiar with Serbian/Balkan food, you may have seen this cake made with three or four layers of dough. I find that it is mostly down to personal preference or family tradition on how many layers are made. Between each layer is a spread of jam, grounded walnuts and sugar. You can can use plum or apricot jam ( these are the most popular), or any other jam flavour. The cake is then finished with a very thin chocolate glaze and refrigerated until it sets. Once the cake is set, enjoy a few pieces for yourself and you will understand why it is worth all the effort.
The dough & filling
Making a recipe like this may seem intimidating, but if you take care to read over the instructions carefully, it should be straight forward. It is probably the thin layers of dough which seem tricky, but the process is simple, it is the assembling of the dough into the cake tin that requires a little more time and care.
To give you a quick break down of the process here it is:
First, make the dough. To a small bowl add lukewarm milk, 1 tsp of sugar and the yeast. Stir and set aside until it doubles in size and bubbles up. In the meantime, in a large mixing bowl, mix the unsalted butter and sugar until the butter becomes soft and fluffy. Add the egg and combine. To this, add the yeast and mix. Gradually add in the flour and mix until everything combines and a shaggy dough begins to form. Next, turn the dough over onto a floured surface and knead until you get a smooth ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
In the mean time, prepare the filling: in a large, bowl combine the walnuts and sugar, set aside. To a separate bowl, pour the jam and set aside.
Assembling the cake
At this point, heat the oven to 180°C and grease a rectangular pan with butter. Remove the dough from the fridge and divide it into 3 equal pieces. Take one piece and roll it out into the size of your rectangular pan. Transfer the dough to the rectangular pan, making sure it covers the entire bottom surface. Spread half of the jam over the first layer and then spread half of the walnut & sugar mixture over the entire surface.
Repeat this same step for the next piece of dough. Fold out the dough, place it into the pan (on top of the jam & walnut layer), spread the remaining layer of jam, walnut and sugar. Fold out the third layer of dough and place on top of the filling as the final layer. Take a fork or toothpick and create small pinches on top of the dough. Place in the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top layer turns golden brown.
Once the cake has baked, melt the chocolate and oil over low heat until completely melted. Remove the cake from the oven, allow it to cool for 5 minutes and spread the chocolate over the top layer. Allow the cake to refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or preferably overnight for the best result. Cut the cake into square before serving.
Detailed version of the entire recipe below.
Check notes for extra tips.
Looking for more?
If you are looking for more ideas, try one of the recipes below:
These Žarbo kocke / Walnut & Jam Squares are such a delight! Don’t fear the baking process. Follow the recipe and your cake will turn out just fine! I hope you enjoy this little delicacy, it’s one of those celebratory cakes I look forward to the most. Be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! If you have questions, you can find me over on Instagram or tag me with your photo. You can also find me over on TikTok and Youtube.
|FOR THE DOUGH|
|100ml lukewarm milk|
|1tsp caster sugar|
|10g instant dry yeast|
|200g unsalted butter (at room temperature)|
|50g caster sugar|
|1 whole egg|
|400g all purpose flour|
|FOR THE FILLING|
|250g ground walnuts|
|100g caster sugar|
|400g plum jam|
|FOR THE CHOCOLATE TOPPING|
|3tbsp vegetable oil|