Top 15 Most Popular Lithuanian Desserts
Lithuania is a small country near the Baltic Sea which is known for its beautiful capital, one of the oldest languages, country landscapes, flatlands, lakes, amber, and beautiful dunes.
Many people have never heard of traditional Lithuanian savory foods, which include pink cold beetroot soup with potato dumplings: cepelinai. However, most of the country’s guests are pleasantly surprised by the taste and combination of flavors.
When it comes to desserts, Lithuanian cuisine has a lot to offer. Many of them are in common with neighboring countries. However, having being made in Lithuania for centuries, they’ve become traditional desserts.
Typically, desserts are most commonly eaten at weekends or special occasions such as birthdays or weddings, although a few of them can be a fulfilling breakfast or brunch. Typical desserts usually require a bit of effort to make at home; however, some of them are extremely easy.
Here are 15 of the most popular Lithuanian desserts you should try while visiting Lithuania.
1. Šakotis (Tree Cake)
Šakotis is the most popular traditional Lithuanian cake. Its distinctive shape means it can’t be confused with anything else. The spikes of the cake look like the branches of a tree; hence its name, which is translated as tree cake or, literally, branchy.
It’s prepared on a special device that keeps a rod rotating next to the fire or an electric heat source while it is coated with many layers of liquid dough. Baked šakotis has a firm texture, is sweet, and is broken off and eaten by hand. Preparing the dough is quick and easy; it contains only sugar, flour, eggs (usually around 40!), butter, and sour cream.
But the baking technique is complicated and takes a long time. You could spend between 3 and 6 hours standing next to the oven, depending on the size of the cake.
You can find this unique sweet in many supermarkets and pastry shops. However, the best and the most authentic are handmade in the villages and sold under their own labels.
2. Tinginys (Lazy Cake)
This traditional Lithuanian dessert will satisfy any sweet tooth! It is similar to Italian chocolate salami, but additionally contains condensed milk, hence not quite the same.
The preparation of tinginys is completely different to šakotis; it is called a lazy cake for a reason. You simply mix crushed-up biscuits (traditionally made with gaidelis, or “little rooster”, melted butter, condensed milk, and cocoa. Once mixed, place it in a plastic bag or a tightly cling wrap pop in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or, even better, overnight. Alternative recipes include dulce de leche (cooked condensed milk), which gives it a caramel flavor, curd cheese, and various nuts or dried fruit. There are also healthier versions with sugar-free cookies, light coconut milk or sugar-free condensed milk.
Definitely give it a try and prepare one at home! But if you are too lazy even for a lazy cake, you can find it in supermarkets, coffee shops and pastry shops.
3. Šimtalapis (Hundred Leaves Cake)
Lithuania is home to many nationalities, including Tatars, who have lived here for hundreds of years. Tatar desserts and savory pastries, kibinai, have became traditional to Lithuania.
This round cake is unique due to its appearance – a thick roll of multiple layers of yeast pastry sheets covered with a butter and sugar mixture. Sweet poppy seeds and raisins fill the centre of the cake. It is a heavy dessert and is typically eaten only once or twice a year, usually at Christmas, other big occasions or traditional weddings.
It is possible to prepare it at home, although it requires some time, patience, and determination. Like most Lithuanian desserts, it can be found in bigger supermarkets and bakeries. However, the best ones are made to order by Tatars.
You can’t find an alternative to this cake anywhere, so it is a must-try dessert when visiting the country.
4. Skruzdėlynas (Anthill Cake)
One ingredient Lithuanians absolutely love is honey. It is a common ingredient in Lithuanian desserts, as well as an alternative to sugar when it comes to sweetening your tea.
One of the best-known honey cakes is skruzdėlynas, which literally means anthill. It is a tall, multiple layered hill-like cake made of separately oil-fried crispy pieces of thin dough, covered in a honey-butter coating, and topped with poppy seeds and/or raisins.
Skruzdėlynas is crispy and sticky and typically eaten by hand. This dessert is fairly easy to make and the size of it can be easily adjusted according to the amount of ingredients. It takes time to prepare, therefore if you need one with your afternoon coffee, it is easier to buy it from one of the bigger supermarkets.
5. Medaus Tortas (Honey Cake)
While skruzdėlynas has a unique look and texture, the most loved honey-containing cake is medutis. This dessert is the more traditional cake shape – round, with alternate layers of sponge and cream.
There are two ways of making it. The first includes baking each thin sponge layer separately, which takes longer. The other is baking a sponge cake and slicing it into thinner pieces. Then each piece is topped with cream. The authentic cream is made with sour cream, sugar, and a drizzle of lemon juice.
Medaus tortas is soft, sweet, and literally melts in your mouth. It is a Lithuanian classic, often baked for birthdays or other occasions. Everybody loves it, and if you try it next time you visit a coffee shop or a bakery, you’ll find out why.
6. Napoleonas (Napoleon Cake)
Another classic Lithuanian cake is Napoleonas. And no, it is not because of Napoleon Bonaparte. There are multiple stories and debates among French, Italian, and Russian confectioners about the origin of the cake’s name, but no one knows for sure. Although this cake is common in other countries, it is definitely a favorite in Lithuanian.
Multiple layers of puff pastry connected with buttercream and the addition of bitter cranberry jam create the perfect balance of flavors. Nearly each bakery has a signature version of this delicious dessert, which makes a perfect addition to any friend’s gathering or birthday. The best ones are freshly made in bakeries or coffee shops!
7. Žagarėliai (Angelwings)
This delicious treat has been made in most households in Lithuania for many years. To get the interesting winged shape, the dough is cut into small rectangles, a small cut is put in the middle and one edge is wrapped through the hole.
Žagarėliai are crunchy and coated with powdered sugar. It is the perfect snack with a coffee. They are easy to make and typically last many days. They can also be found in supermarkets. A perfect crunchy treat!
8. Kuršėnų Vyniotinis
Lithuanian cuisine includes many cheese products – butter, sour cream, milk, buttermilk, kefir, and the very popular curd – a type of cottage cheese.
Kuršėnų vyniotinis is a dessert filled with a creamy, sweet curd filling. The outer layer is a typical sponge cake, baked in a flat baking tin. Kuršėnų vyniotinis was invented 50 years ago by a confectioner living in the village of Kuršėnai, hence the name.
It is a popular lighter cake option that can be found in supermarkets, local coffee shops, and bakeries.
9. Varškės Spurgos (Curd Cheese Doughnuts)
These golden doughnut balls are made from a mixture of curd, eggs, flour, sugar, and a pinch of salt. The dough is formed into small balls and deep-fried until golden. After, they are placed on paper towels to absorb any excess oil and the crispy doughnuts are dusted with powdered sugar.
This dessert is a common Sunday afternoon treat, perfect in the cold season. It is easy and relatively quick to make, as well as popular in bakeries across Lithuania.
10. Varškės Apkepas (Curd Cheesecake)
There are many cheesecakes in the world, most of them being made with cream cheese, giving a thick texture and high-fat content. However, Lithuania offers an alternative – curd cheesecake.
Don’t expect it to be the same as a New York cheesecake; this is totally different! Varškės apkepas is typically made with curd, eggs, flour or semolina, and sugar and sometimes with raisins. It is a high-protein cake, served with fresh fruit, jam, and sour cream or yoghurt.
It is considered more as a meal rather than a dessert, so is perfect for weekend brunch or as a quick breakfast. It can be found in breakfast and brunch restaurants.
11. Varškėčiai (Curd Cheese Pancakes)
If you thought that was surely to end of curd desserts, you are wrong. Lithuanians really love curd. These small curd pancakes resemble the big curd cake mentioned above. However, they are quicker to make, and the portion size is easier to adjust.
They are popular for breakfast or brunch and can be served with fresh fruit, jam, sour cream or yoghurt, honey or condensed milk. These pancakes are the sweet meal many Lithuanians grew up with.
They are quick and easy to make and are definitely worth trying at a café or restaurant if you are looking for something sweet but healthier for your breakfast.
12. Sūreliai (Curd Snack)
Last but not least, these small chocolate-covered curd cheese snacks are one of the most unique Lithuanian desserts.
This rectangular-shaped dessert is made of soft sweet curd and may contain many fillings, such as condensed milk, caramel, jelly, poppy seeds, chocolate pieces, and even nuts.
Sūrelis is widely popular in Lithuania and enjoyed by tourists as a snack between meals or as a dessert with coffee or tea. It is small and easy to indulge in, so be careful; they are hard to resist once you start!
Sūreliai can be found in any supermarket across Lithuania.
13. Sausainiai Grybukai (Mushroom Cookies)
These are authentic cookies, nostalgic for many Lithuanians. Their taste will remind you of gingerbread. Their appearance resembles the most valuable Lithuanian forest mushroom – boletus, hence the name.
Sausainiai grybukai are covered with a sugar glaze and have a white shaft, dark brown cap, and poppy seeds on the bottom, imitating real mushrooms.
You can find this sweet treat at local Lithuanian fairs or in bigger supermarkets, but those sold at fairs will be freshly made and taste much better.
14. Meduoliai (Gingerbread Cookies)
Meduoliai is a soft gingerbread-like cookie which you can enjoy with your tea. They are firm, are shaped like half-spheres, and have a thin sugar glaze over the top.
These meduoliai can be found in any local supermarket as they are commonly eaten as a sweet treat with tea or coffee or used for cooking other desserts.
You can also find another variation of meduolis at local fairs. They come in many interesting shapes, decorated with a colorful glaze and even with phrases written on top. It is a typical fair snack, which can’t normally be found elsewhere.
15. Saldainiai Vilnius (Vilnius Sweets)
Finally, the most representative Lithuanian dessert. Vilnius chocolate is the most popular Lithuanian chocolate candy and is produced by the biggest Lithuanian chocolate factory Pergalė. These chocolates are firm, yet quite soft to bite. They contain 1.7% ethyl alcohol, which gives them a rich and unique flavor. Make sure you try them, as well as other local sweets from this factory.
These local edible souvenirs are perfect for bringing back home to treat your friends and family, and they can be found in a nice box, ready to be gifted!
Although Lithuanian cuisine is less known in Europe, these desserts prove its diversity, rich and unique flavors, and unlimited ways of combining similar ingredients.
Although many of the desserts seem to be heavy, most of them are suitable for those who don’t like their desserts to be too sweet, since curd adds sour and savory notes to them.
This article doesn’t cover all typical Lithuanian desserts; there are countless traditional variants of cookies and pies. If you like your desserts soothing, filling, and made from simple ingredients, Lithuanian cuisine is just right for you. There’s much to discover.
Be sure to save the list of desserts covered in this article for when you next visit Lithuania!