From Russia With Love


I don’t recall how this tradition started, but at some point after we arrived to the United States, my grandmother Fira started baking a Russian cake called “Annushka” once a year for my birthday. She’s had the recipe for this honey-based cake in her recipe notebook for at least 40 years. Maybe she made it once, and I loved it, so she started baking it for me. I loved this tradition.

My favorite cake stopped being a part of my birthday celebrations once I adopted the Paleo lifestyle about 8 years ago (all of that flour, sugar, honey, and condensed milk!) Honestly, I didn’t really miss it because I only baked Paleo treats once in a while.

Since I adopted the Keto / Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) lifestyle about a year and a half ago, I’ve been having a lot of fun modifying old family recipes. Keto / LCHF allows dairy, if you aren’t sensitive to it, so it’s a lot easier to modify recipes that call for butter, sour cream, etc., which this recipe does. I am actually sensitive to dairy, so I still rarely make dairy-based desserts. They’re mostly for my husband who handles dairy fairly well.

Annushka Russian Cake Recipe Notebook
“Annushka” cake recipe in my grandma’s 40-year-old recipe notebook

This year for my birthday, I thought it would be a great idea to bake this Russian cake for me and then share it with those who would appreciate all of the effort, trial and error, and creativity that it takes to modify a recipe. It’s a lot of work to make it gluten-free, grain-free, sugar-free, and have it taste so much like the original! And on top of it, I get to share this recipe with all of you! A win-win all the way around 🙂

It was hilarious and frustrating, I must admit, when I first tried to modify this cake earlier this year. I visited my grandma to bake it with her. I brought all of my substitute ingredients: almond flour, coconut milk, low-carb sweetener, etc. The recipe in her notebook doesn’t have all of the details, of course, such as at what temperature to bake the cake layers. It also lists Soviet measurements such as “one package of butter.”

Me: “Grandma, how much was one package of butter in the Soviet Union?”
Grandma Fira: “Do you think I remember??!! I’ve lived in the U.S. for 30 years now!”
Me: “Well, approximately?”
Grandma Fira (after showing me in the air with her fingers): “About this much, I think. I don’t remember!!!”
Me: “But you baked this cake last about 7 years ago. How much did you use then?”
Grandma Fira (clearly frustrated): “I’m going to turn 90 years old this year; I don’t remember!!!”

Discussing Annushka Russian cake recipe with my grandmother
My grandma Fira teaching me how to make Russian cake “Annushka”

She actually has pretty good memory, but maybe not when it comes to baking cakes 🙂 So, here I was trying to convert from grams to ounces and American-sized cup measurements and Googling the typical temperature at which one would bake cake layers. I’m still amazed at what it takes to modify a 40-year-old Soviet recipe to be a healthy, modern-day awesomeness. Oh, yeah, the recipe also calls for margarine in the cake batter, which just like in the U.S., was considered “healthier” back in the day. Needless to say, I’m using grass-fed butter instead.

This “Annushka” Russian cake is very typical of Russian cakes (tortes). It’s a layered cake with a Russian-style frosting made from butter, sugar, and nuts. The flour, sugar, honey, and condensed milk were substituted, of course. Ahhh, this cake is soooo good…quick and easy to make, too…why wouldn’t folks just bake low-carb desserts??!! The longest part is making a coconut-milk-based condensed milk using a low-carb sweetener, which can be made ahead. And that takes only 15 minutes!

“Annushka” in the Russian language is a diminutive of “Anna,” so it’s an endearing nickname for Anna, for those who are curious. I’m so glad that this cake can once again be part of my annual celebration!!! Enjoy 🙂

Annushka Russian Cake Slice
I can have my favorite cake for breakfast guilt-free!


For the homemade coconut-milk-based condensed milk:

1 (13.5 oz.) can of full-fat, unsweetened coconut milk (I use Native Forest brand, which typically has the cream and liquid already separated in the can when you open it, without requiring refrigeration)
2 tablespoons low-carb sweetener (I use Lakanto® Classic White or Golden Monk Fruit Sweetener, which is available on

For the cake:

1 stick butter, softened (preferably grass-fed or French)
2 eggs, preferably pastured (I use pastured eggs from Vital Farms, which are available at most grocery stores in our area)
1/4 cup full-fat sour cream, preferably pasture-raised (I use Organic Valley sour cream from pastured cows)
3 tablespoons honey-flavored low-carb sweetener (I use All-u-Lose® Natural Honey Flavor Sweetener, which is available on
1 cup blanched almond flour
3 tablespoons low-carb sweetener (I use Lakanto® Classic White or Golden Monk Fruit Sweetener, which is available on
1 teaspoon baking soda

For the frosting:

3/4 cup homemade coconut-milk-based condensed milk
2 1/4 cup (200 grams) walnuts, chopped
1 stick butter, softened (preferably grass-fed or French)


For the homemade coconut-milk-based condensed milk:

  1. Separate the cream part of the coconut milk from the liquid part. Discard the liquid or save for other uses.
  2. In a small pot, bring the coconut cream to a gentle boil over medium heat, whisking occasionally to prevent it from burning.
  3. Whisk in the sweetener.
  4. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the coconut milk is reduced to about 3/4 cup.
  5. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl. Let it cool completely.

For the cake:

  1. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix softened butter, eggs, sour cream, low-carb sweetener, and honey-flavored low-carb sweetener until a smooth consistency.
  3. Mix in almond flour and baking soda until well combined.
  4. Lightly grease two 9-inch by 9-inch round cake pans with butter.
  5. Divide the cake batter evenly between the two cake pans.
  6. Place both cake pans in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the cakes are golden brown. Ovens vary, so start checking for doneness at around 12 minutes. Insert a toothpick into the cake — it should come out clean.
  7. Remove the cake pans from the oven, place on a wire rack, and let cool completely.
  8. Remove the cake layers from the pans once cooled.

For the frosting:

  1. While the cake is baking, make the frosting.
  2. In a bowl, mix softened butter and homemade coconut-milk-based condensed milk until a smooth consistency.
  3. Mix in the chopped walnuts with a spatula or a spoon.
  4. To assemble the cake, spread the frosting on top of the first cake layer.
  5. Place the second cake layer on top of the first.
  6. Spread the frosting on top of the second cake layer.
  7. Spread any leftover frosting on the sides of the cake.
  8. To make a 4-layered cake, double the recipe.
  9. Cut into cake slices and serve, or refrigerate in an enclosed container. Let the cake come to room temperature before serving.

Natural low-carb sweeteners vary. If you use a different sweetener, you may need to adjust the quantity depending on your sweetness preference.

To make this cake dairy-free, you could try using coconut milk yogurt instead of sour cream and coconut oil + palm oil shortening instead of butter. If you do, let me know how it turns out in the comments below 🙂

Looking for more Russian recipes? Check out From Russia With Love. Love guilt-free desserts? Find more here.

This is the best homemade chicken broth / soup recipe from my grandma, which I adjusted slightly after living in St. Maarten. Chicken soups I had in the Caribbean were by far the most delicious and hearty. This recipe is the low-carb, gluten-free version.

My grandma’s and Caribbean-style special tricks make this a staple in our house. Whenever it’s cold outside, or I’m feeling sick, or I want something heart-warming, I make this recipe. I’ve also made it and brought it over to friends and family to help them get better 🙂

Homemade Chicken Broth Recipe

This homemade chicken broth recipe is super easy to make. If you need broth for any other recipes, strain when done and voila! The beauty of making the broth this way is you can serve it over whatever veggies you want, or not. Pour over spinach or baby greens and canned artichoke hearts to add wilted greens and veggies to your soup. Top with avocado, if you’d like, and/or fresh herbs such as cilantro or flat-leaf Italian parsley.

If I only have baby carrots and red onions on hand, that works, too, as you can see in my photo. Enjoy and let me know how you like it!

Chicken Broth Ingredients


4 whole skin-on chicken legs (or an equivalent amount of chicken drumsticks and/or thighs)
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 2-3 pieces
2 celery stalks, cut into 2-3 pieces each
1 yellow onion, peeled and ends trimmed
6 fresh thyme sprigs (or more to taste)
Sea salt to taste (I use Himalayan pink salt)
Freshly ground pepper to taste


  1. Place all ingredients into a large soup pot. Don’t cut the onion; leave it whole, peeled, and uncut.
  2. Pour enough filtered water into the pot to cover all ingredients.
  3. Bring everything to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer.
  4. Simmer for 40 minutes.
  5. Adjust seasonings, if needed.

This homemade chicken broth recipe is featured on Connie Bennett’s blog. Connie, the Cravings NinjaTM and 1 New Thing a DayTM Founder, is the bestselling author of Sugar Shock and Beyond Sugar Shock.

I also developed my homemade bone broth recipe from grass-fed beef marrow bones that is based on my grandma’s chicken broth recipe. Check it out!

I was born and raised in the former Soviet Union. We ate foods like homemade liver pâté, meat aspic made from pigs feet (called kholodets in Russian), caviar, and others uncommon foods as far as American palates go.

When you grow up with these foods, they are delicious and normal to you. Everyone in my family loves liver. My 20-months-old niece loves our homemade liver pâté!

Liver is also one of nature’s most potent superfoods, so we try to eat it every other week. Typically, I make it as a pâté, but one day I thought of adding liver instead of day-old bread soaked in milk to a traditional Russian cutlet recipe. It turned out so well (and so easy to make!) that we started making this dish quite often. It is now one of my signature recipes 🙂

I realize, however, that not everyone loves liver. So, if you’re not a big fan of beef liver, but would like to add organ meats into your diet, you might want to give this recipe a try. The beef masks the taste of liver to some degree.

These Russian-style beef cutlets with liver are tender, moist, and delicious. Be adventurous and let me know how you like them!


1 lb. ground beef, preferably 80% or 85% grass-fed (or elk, or bison)
1 lb. beef liver, preferably grass-fed
1 yellow onion
1 egg, preferably pastured (I use pastured eggs from Vital Farms, which are available at most grocery stores in our area)
Cooking fat of choice (beef tallow, butter, or coconut oil)
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste (I use Himalayan pink salt for its mineral content)
Garlic powder to taste (optional)


  1. Chop the onion by hand or in a food processor. Place in a bowl.
  2. Place the liver and egg into a food processor. Mix for about 10 seconds, or until well combined, and the mixture is smooth without any chucks.
  3. Add the ground beef, salt, pepper, and garlic powder, if desired, to the liver and egg mixture, and mix in the food processor for about 10 seconds, or until well combined.
  4. Transfer the beef and liver mixture to the bowl with the onions and mix until combined.
  5. Heat a frying pan on medium-high. When the pan is hot, add cooking fat of choice (I use EPIC or Fatworks grass-fed beef tallow).
  6. Cook in batches — brown on one side for about 3 minutes, then flip over and brown on the other side for about 3 minutes or until cooked through.


This sour cream radish salad comes from Russia with love! It’s perfect for summer. Fresh, crunchy, and creamy…it goes well with burgers, steaks, fish, pork, chicken…you name it! It’s a great side for anything you grill. And it’s super easy to make.

You may or may not know this, but I was born and raised in the former Soviet Union, so I love Russian food, of course! Although Russians eat bread with just about everything, many of the Russian dishes are perfect for a keto or low carb, high fat diet — they’re filling and satisfying (think sour cream and mayonnaise). This salad is one of those dishes, and it’s quite delicious!

Russians also add cucumber and sometimes tomatoes when making this salad, however, since both of those fruits are high in lectins, I omit them in my cooking.

To make this salad Paleo-friendly and dairy-free, use extra-virgin olive oil instead of sour cream. Russians sometimes make this salad with sunflower oil, but as a seed oil, it’s not good for you, so use olive oil instead.

Watch how I make it. The written recipe is below.


1 bunch fresh radishes, sliced
1 green onion, chopped (green and white part)
1 tablespoon fresh dill, minced
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sour cream (preferably organic from pasture-raised cows)
Salt to taste (I prefer Himalayan pink salt for its mineral content)
Freshly-ground black pepper to taste


  1. Place sliced radishes, chopped green onion, and minced dill into a salad bowl.
  2. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add sour cream.
  4. Mix together.
  5. Enjoy!

If you love onions as much as my husband does, feel free to add a second green onion to this recipe.

I hope you fall in love with Russian food!