Tree cake (šakotis) is a unique-looking hollow cake with spikes, with flagrant flavor and the taste to die for . Served usually for large events and parties (such as weddings), tree cake is ordered from specialized bakeries, which are equipped to bake it. It is baked by pouring egg & butter-rich batter in layers on a rotating pole, one side of which is exposed to fire. Sounds complicated? It is.
Tree cake found its way to the Lithuanian food hall of fame undoubtedly from Germany. The German version of this cake, called Baumkuchen, is made in the same way by pouring batter in layers on a pole. But with German precision, Baumkuchen comes out round and smooth with even, distinct layers.
Lithuanians, however, make their tree cake by letting the batter drip into spikes, which look like tree branches (which are the best tasting part of the cake, if you ask me).
For decades, the tree cake was the wedding cake of choice - often made in giant size (and decorated with tacky sugar flowers!). The trend is now disappearing, but it is still customary to have at least a tiny, symbolic tree cake in a wedding party. The tree cake is still a common table centrepiece in large celebrations and family gatherings.
If you are ever in Lithuania, look for bakeries that made tree cakes on site and sample them fresh. You can also buy it in supermarkets, but it is usually a far cry from the amazing freshly baked one.
By the way: while traveling in South East Asia a couple of month ago, my eye was caught by Kueh Lapis - a layer cake popular in Indonesia and Malaysian Peninsula. Its layers look like those of the tree cake, and the taste is quite remarkably similar. The texture of Kueh Lapis, however, is spongy, while tree cake is much denser.
If you are interested in Lithuanian kitchen, culinary traditions, Baltic food or are simply passionate about cooking, you've come to the right place.