Historical recipe: Russian Easter sweet bread Kulich

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In every issue of BBC History Magazine, picture editor Sam Nott brings you a recipe from the past. In this article, Sam recreates Sam Nott recreates Kulich – a rich, buttery Russian sweet bread usually eaten at Easter, but tasty at any time of year


Often baked in a coffee tin so its shape resembles that of the hats of Russian Orthodox priests, kulich remains a tasty treat after the restrictions of Lent. Traditionally it is decorated with the letters XB – Христос Воскресе (Khristos Voskrese – Christ is risen).



For the bread

  • 20g dried active baking yeast
  • 350g warm milk
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 80g sultanas
  • 50ml rum
  • 750g plain flour
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 250g softened butter
  • Almonds 80g
  • Chopped mixed peel 80g

For the icing (optional)

  • 1 egg white
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice


For the bread

  • Step 1

    Dissolve yeast in 100ml warm milk, add 1/2 tsp of sugar. Soak sultanas in rum. Sift 120g of flour into a bowl, add remaining 250ml milk and mix well. Add yeast mixture, cover, and let it stand in a warm place for 30 mins.

  • Step 2

    Separate egg yolks and beat with sugar until fluffy and pale in colour. Stir in the rum, add vanilla and mix. In a separate bowl, add a pinch of salt to egg whites. Whisk until peaks form and set aside.



    When pliable add butter, 50g at a time. Knead for 2 mins and form into a ball.

  • Step 3

    Add egg yolk mixture to yeast mixture and mix. Fold in the egg whites. Add the remaining flour in small batches, mixing well each time.

  • Step 4

    Knead until dough separates from sides of the bowl. Transfer dough to a flat surface and knead for 10 mins. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film and wrap in a tea towel. Leave to rise in a warm place for 90 mins.



    Line a tin with baking paper, fill 1/3 full with dough and cover with a tea towel. Leave to prove until dough rises to the top.

    Preheat oven to 180°C. Bake for 45–60 mins.

  • Step 5

    When dough doubles in size, remove and knead for 2 mins. Knead in sultanas, almonds and mixed peel.

For the icing

  • Step 1

    Mix raw egg white with icing sugar and lemon juice. Spread over the top of the bread and let it drizzle down the sides.

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