I decided that this recipe might be the perfect end to what I have dubbed my “Lithuanian-themed-week”. (Did I pick the wrong country to celebrate this week, whooppps!) If I took one thing away from this learning experience it’s this: if you want to make any type of Lithuanian dish, whether it be their tasty Cepelinai (stuffed jumbo potato dumplings) or Napoleonas (layered butter cake), you better clear up your schedule. They are a clearly a culture which takes both pride and lots of time when it comes to preparing their national dishes. I got a taste of this(unintentional pun on words), as I spent the past two days baking my Tevukas’ favorite cake with my mother in anticipation of their lunch visit today.
If you have any special men in your life, I promise you they will kiss your feet if you make them this. (It’s especially good for either clamboring back up out of any hole you may have currently dug yourself in to, but it also works well for storing some killer brownie points for your next shopping trip together) For some reason men are obsessed with this–from my Lithuanian grandfather to my Italian boyfriend and his father–even my grandmother says so, and we all know your grandmother is always right. The literal translation of the name is “Dried Fruit Cake”, and basically that’s all it is (plus cream, butter, smashed tea biscuits, toasted almonds and two days worth of work…)
So without further adieu, I will guide you through this process. I won’t bore you with any more of its history, because you don’t have time to read it anyways!!
What you’ll need:
-one spring form pan
-serving platter (tape the pan onto the platter)
-1/4 pound of butter
-1/2 cup sugar
-3 egg yolks
-1 package each of dried apricots and dried prunes (*Note: this is an ancient recipe so clearly this isn’t accurate. I can’t even give you a tip here because whenever we make this my mom always ends up buying too much of both sooo I guess you can judge by my photos? Sorry!)
-1 small whipping cream
-2 packages of Christie’s Social Tea Biscuits
-1 package of slivered almonds
First you begin by simmering the dried apricots and prunes with just enough water for the fruits to absorb and soften (about 1 1/2-2 cups)
*Note: preserve 6-8 apricots and 3-4 prunes for decoration.
Stir continuously, letting them cook until they look like this:
Mmmm looks tasty doesn’t it? Okay you don’t have to lie to me but just wait till your done, you’ll be singing a different tune my friend!
While they cool, prepare your cream mixture by combining the softened butter with sugar and egg yolks. Beat the whipping cream, and then combine with butter mixture.
Now that they’re nice and mushy, and have cooled a bit, you continue to deconstruct them by slicing them into itty bitty slivers. (yes, fruit by dried fruit)
*Note: Watch your fingers! They’re hotter than they look. We put them onto plates a scoop at a time to let them cool as we slice…
Once you’re done slicing, in a large bowl, add the cream and dried fruit and mix until they’re well combined. It should look like this:
Looks better doesn’t it? Taste it, go ahead…I bet you’re hungry by now…
Prepare your springform pan by taping it firmly onto your serving dish. Now it’s time to layer your cake so get your social tea biscuits ready. Layer the cream and cookies alternately starting and ending with cream . Each layer of cream must be covered completely with biscuits! So this means you have to break your cookies into little bits to fill up all your edges, like this:
Continue the process until you’ve reached the top of your pan, make sure you end off with a layer of cream.
Take your left over tea biscuits and smashed them up with a rolling pin. Spread the crumbs (very generously) on the top of the cake and press them down to form a crust.
You’re done for day one. Now put the cake, and yourself, away to sleep in the fridge. (Well, you don’t have to sleep in the fridge, unless that’s your thing. Personally I’m thin-blooded so I prefer my quilt covered bed)
Once the sun is up on tomorrow and your cake is all set, it’s time for the fun part: decorating. Toast your silvered almonds in the oven at 350 for approximately 10 minutes. Make sure they have adequately cooled down before you begin your work. Sit down for this part, it takes a while.
First, gently seperate the spring form pan and the cake leaving just the cake on the serving platter.
Basically what you need to do is cover all the sides of the cake with a wall of almonds.
You should place them as close together as possible in horizontal lines trying to leave as little amount of gaps as possible. It sounds easy, and it is, but quick it is not and fun you will not have…
Once you think you’re finished, you’re not. You musn’t forget about the finishing touch…the top of the cake. This you decorate with your reserved prunes and apricots. The look we’re going for here is dried-fruit-flowers. You’re going to slice the apricots into slivers (yes, again) to resemble petals and cut the prunes into chunks to resemble the flower centres.
Here’s where you get to be creative. Decorate however you’d like. You can make full flowers if you want, but my mom and I were feeling something a little different last night so we decided to do halfsies instead. This I promise, is the final step, so once you’re done this the cake is complete! You should let everything sit for a little while before serving so it’s best to do this the night before your event.
And VOILA! You’re done! Two days and several hours later. You will definitely enjoy this one, and don’t even feel guilty about the calories, you burned off half of them in the process already!
P.S. If you ever have or had the pleasure of being at a Lithuanian function and been shocked at how obliterated the host usually is the by the time the last guest arrives, now you know why!