Kolač od šunke – ham cake

Kolač od šunke – ham cake

Zakusci - Zlatarič savršena kuharica - Perfect golden cookbook

You know, the literal translation of kolač od šunke is ‘cake of ham’. Doesn’t have a nice ring to it, so seeing I’ve divided the ‘cake’ batter into four, they’ve been turned into muffins.

Savoury muffins win me over almost every time, especially when there’s cheese involved. Oh, and ham – which is the hero ingredient in these steamy little pots of goodness.

Wondering what the Croatian-looking comic book is?

Actually, that’s no comic book. For those that have been following me on Instagram, you may recognise it’s the same book I mentioned a couple of months ago – one I was about to be sent from my mother. This is a cookbook she was given by her mother back in the early 1980’s when Baka – grandma – was visiting from Croatia.

Kolač od šunke - Croatian ham muffins

Nagrađeni Recepti Zlate Zlatarić
Savršena Kuharica


This is my attempt at translating the title:

‘Winning Recipes of Zlate Zlatarić – The Perfect Cookbook’ and I think zakusci means ‘buffet’ or something similar.

The one that Mum has now passed down to me is one of a bunch of other chapters that cover categories like soups, cakes, beef recipes and a few others. The Zakusci one I have is filled with ‘hors d’oeuvres, egg dishes, patés & other cold dishes for tea parties, preparation of fish dishes and salads.’

A pity my late grandmother didn’t have all the other chapters, as I’d love to be flicking through those, as well.

This is an old book. It has no real cover, the pages are dog-eared, almost brittle and sepia coloured with age. The year 1885 is printed in the back, which tells it may have first been published then, but I’m not entirely sure whether this one is that old. Still, it’s from a series of books with recipes that were made generations ago. Recipes that grandmothers made.

Zakusci - Zlatarič savršena kuharica - Perfect golden cookbook - Kolač od šunke recept

It’s recipes are written pretty vaguely, to say the least. Five or six lines of Croatian text that say little more than what ingredients are required, a few steps and the occasional reference to other chapters. A bit of a challenge for the everyday modern home cook that may rely on precise temperatures and measurements, or even a photo to get an idea of what it may look like. No photos here, I’m afraid!

The first recipe I’ve chosen to make is this – kolač od šunke.

In the beginning of the recipe it says to use 3 dkg (300 grams) of ‘butter dough’ from one of the other chapters – which I don’t have – so I used my intuition and knowledge to make it up myself. The rest simply mentions egg whites – or žutanjka (which means albumen), ham, the ‘powder from cloves’, salt, pepper and parmesan.

See what I mean about vague?

I’ve adapted the recipe to the best of my understanding, I may not have followed it exactly, but the ‘ham cake’ I pulled out of the oven is actually pretty good. Savoury muffins generously dotted with bits of ham, parmesan and my added extra of parsley. Simple, but ok.

Now, what to make next?

Kolač od šunke - Croatian ham muffins


Print Recipe
Kolač od šunke {ham cake}
This is my interpretation of kolač od šunke - or ham cake.
Kolač od šunke - Croatian ham muffins
Cuisine Croatian
Cuisine Croatian
Kolač od šunke - Croatian ham muffins
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  2. Line 4 x 8 cm pots - or use large muffin cups - with baking paper. Set aside.
  3. Put the flour, baking powder, ground cloves, salt, pepper and butter into a mixing bowl. Using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour. If there are a few small bits of butter, don't worry too much. Mix through the parmesan, ham and parsley.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and oil, then mix this through the dry ingredients. Give it a good stir, then evenly scoop the mixture into the prepared cups.
  5. Scatter a little more grated parmesan and cracked black pepper over the muffins, then bake for 50 minutes - or until golden and cooked in the centre.
  6. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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  • KevinIsCooking

    This is a beauty! I really like your thinking of making these into savory muffins (that last photo is killing me!). How cool it is that you, one – can read Croatian, and two, that you have this at your disposal. I have a few of my grandmother’s recipes, and my mom’s who passed away a few years back. Treasures, as are these books you received. Love the vintage look and feel of them and kudos to you for making sense of the vague instructions John. 🙂

    • Thanks, Kevin. You know I have to be honest, my Croatian isn’t 100% and I often consult Google or my translator app to decipher some words. It was my first language, but I stopped using it when I was fairly young, so I kind of sound like a learner when I speak it – although reading it is a little more strait forward for me.

  • These look so beautiful a triumph and a lovely idea John. its great you have that book because others wouldnt be able to decipher it at All!

  • I love these kinds of recipes, John. I love their heritage, and love the idea of keeping them alive. It’s almost like solving a puzzle. I think many of these cooks knew what they were after, and were very familiar with the foods, so all they needed were the essential details. Julia Child used to say often that indeed is the way to cook. I can’t say that I’ve had many savory muffins, but ham and cheese plus carbs … how can you possibly go wrong?

    • It sure is like solving a puzzle, Jeff. Especially when you think you have a grasp of what it means, and then stand corrected by a true native of the language. At least what I made was tasty.

  • Wow what a special book that is, knowing that both your mum and grandma leafed through through those very pages. And such a stellar job deciphering the limited instructions.

    • Well, clearly I didn’t do such a great job! It appears my translation of butter dough is meant to be something like a shortcrust pastry. Back to the drawing board. Hmph.

      • Sara (Belly Rumbles)

        but look at what you have created in your experimentation, something gorgeously delicious. So in the end you are going to end up with two great recipes for the price of one 😉

  • Gordana

    zumanjci are not white they are yellow of the eggs. Zuto means yellow white is bjelanjci. Zakuska is appetaizer. Even though your recipe is tasty it is not how is suppose to be. Butter dough is a pastry made of butter and flower. This recipe originaly suppose to look like tarts filled with egss and ham, but your version is absolutly delisious and pretty! Good job keeping out tradition alive and improved!!

    • Thanks for all of the information, Gordana. Now it all makes sense when the recipe mentions butter dough. It sounds like it may be similar to a quiche?

  • AmandaChewTown

    What to make next… EVERYTHING. Can’t wait to see what you create using this book. I haven’t had a savoury muffin in ages… I think I need to try these.

  • Sara (Belly Rumbles)

    Cake of Ham, sounds like it belongs on Game of Thrones, just has that ring to it. Gorgeous looking muffin sized cakes. The cook book I adore, I have a couple of Latvian ones that are very similar in lack of recipe advice.

  • It is interesting isn’t it, how vague older cookbooks were? I guess back in the day, the clever mums knew what “butter dough” was and such. Our modern time, everything has to be precise, detailed and recorded! I think I would’ve preferred the older cookbooks…I hardly follow any cookbooks now!
    Well despite the challenge, and reading one of the comments below that mentioned this should’ve been a tart….I think savoury muffins are excellent! I think I like these more than sweet ones, so great job! Gorgeous photos as well.


  • Stephanie_The_Recipe_Renovator

    Wow, I just discovered your incredible blog through one of the FB recipe sharing groups. My husband is Croatian so this is especially interesting to me!

  • Your photos are gorgeous!! What a great recipe!

  • What fun to have that cookbook, John! I have a few of my mother’s books, and they are among my absolute treasures, and some of the recipes are among my childhood favorites. The concept of a ham cake, or muffin, is intriguing… Much better than a sugary muffin!

    • I don’t mind a sweet muffin, but I’d never say no to a savoury one, David!

  • Karen (Back Road Journal)

    While it was so thoughtful for Gordana to have helped with the translation and how the recipe should have been, I really like your interpretation a lot. Your photos are so creative…love them. They make me want to go out and buy terra-cotta pots and make your savory muffins for dinner guests.

  • I’m with you I prefer savory to sweet!! Guess it’s my love of salumi and cheese. I have several Italian cookbooks I like to look at I’ve only attempted a few recipes. It would be fun to do more.

  • Pingback: Kolač od šunke – Ham Cake (GF) – I Need a Feed!()

  • Bottomless Stomach Blog

    This recipe and your blog are lovely. I’m so accustomed to baking sweets, but this sounds like a great way to change it up with a savory recipe!

  • Nell Hungerford

    Hello! I adapted this recipe to be gluten free, and used bacon instead of ham, as that’s what we hand on hand. And it was a rip-roaring success! These were so good! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!

    • Great to hear, Nell. I think bacon would have way more flavour as well.

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