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Rich, wholesome, and delicately striking the perfect balance between sweet and savory flavors, Lithuanian desserts are one of Europe’s hidden treats.
Curd cheese, poppy seeds, and fruit jams are just some of the many iconic ingredients in Lithuania’s eye-opening array of cakes, pastries, and sweet snacks.
Prepare yourself for a grumbling stomach that longs for these rich, hearty treats, as a native writer takes us on an adventure to explore 16 of Lithuania’s most popular and traditional desserts.
1 – Kūčiukai
Kūčiukai is one of the most unique desserts in Lithuania. It is a seasonal food, appearing in supermarkets and bakeries from mid-November until mid-January.
Traditionally, however, Kūčiukai is a special dish with an important meaning, only prepared for Christmas Eve.
Lithuanians prepare Kūčiukai as an offering of food to the souls of the dead. Hence, it’s a Lithuanian dessert with huge traditional and historical significance.
Kūčiukai are the size of a hazelnut. Each is a simple and delicious bite-size baked biscuits, made from flour, water, sugar, and poppy seeds.
It can be eaten as is, but on Christmas Eve, they are served in poppy milk, a mixture of boiled water, poppy seeds, and a pinch of sugar.
2 – Šakotis (Tree Cake)
Because of its size, Šakotis is often considered the king of Lithuanian cakes and desserts. Some Šakotis can be up to one meter in length!
This wholesome Lithuanian dessert is made from a simple mixture of eggs, sugar, flour, butter, and sour cream.
Although the cake looks large, it is in fact hollow. This is due to its baking technique, which requires you to pour the dough over a special cylinder, attached to a huge spit over an open flame.
Šakotis can be both soft or crunchy, depending on its cooking time. It’s perfect to eat with a piping hot cup of tea or coffee.
Although described as a cake, Šakotis’ soft or crunchy texture is closer to that of a cookie.
Traditionally, Šakotis can be eaten as it is, adorned with its iconic golden yellow color. However, it can also be decorated with chocolate icing or colorful flowers made from sugar.
A much loved traditional food, it’s commonly the showpiece food at a range of festivals and celebrations, including birthdays and weddings.
3 – Medaus Tortas (Honey Cake)
This delicious cake was made popular by Empress Elizabeth Alexeievna in 19th-century Russia, who fell in love with the cake after a newly hired chef cooked it to impress her, despite having no idea she despised the taste of honey.
Honey cake is common throughout countries of the former Soviet Union. It’s popular at celebrations and festive events.
The recipe is relatively simple. It is made by layering baked dough sheets and delicious cream frosting.
Once baked, this cake can be decorated with sugar powder, berries, or chocolate.
While it’s commonly made in households across the country for birthdays and celebrations, it can also be found at cafes, bakeries, and supermarkets in Lithuania.
Related: Honey Cake Medovik Recipe
There’s a reason this sweet, comforting Lithuanian dessert has such a name. It refers to the simple preparation and the fact that no baking is required.
Tinginys, or Lazy Cake, is made by mixing small pieces of plain cookies with melted butter, condensate milk, and a few spoons of cacao powder.
Once the mixture is ready, it’s pressed on a chopping board, and placed on a rectangular tray.
From there, Lithuanians like to let it set for several hours, or even overnight in the refrigerator.
Served as square pieces with tea or coffee, it’s a very easy dessert to make. It’s a popular choice at cafes and bakeries across Lithuania.
Read more: Tinginys (Lazy Cake or Cookies) Recipe
5 – Šimtalapis (Hundred Leaves Cake)
Hundred Leaves Cake not only has an interesting name but also a very rich history.
The idea of this dessert was brought to Lithuania in the 15th century by the Tatars people, of which a small community still lives in the country today.
It’s a rich and filling cake, made from big yeast pastry sheets, covered in sweet, sugary poppy seeds, and filled with raisins.
The whole pastry is twisted and formed into a circle, then cut into smaller pieces.
Šimtalapis is pretty popular to make for special occasions, but you can also find it and try this dessert in cafes, restaurants, and bakeries.
This cake is most popular in the southern part of Lithuania, where the biggest Tatars community lived.
These days bakers make this cake not only with poppy seeds but also with savory ingredients, like curd filling and even ham.
6 – Skruzdėlynas (Anthill – Pastry with Honey)
Skruzdėlynas gets its name from its unique appearance, which resembles an anthill.
This big, eye-catching Lithuanian dessert is assembled of 3-4 centimeter-sized pastry pieces, baked in oil until crispy.
These baked dough pieces are, one by one, stuck together by using a special syrup, made from honey, sugar, butter, sour cream, and water.
It can be built from fifteen to fifty centimeters high, and it is garnished with poppy seeds or raisins.
Skruzdėlynas is definitely one of the most unique desserts in Lithuania. It’s very popular for special occasions, such as weddings, birthdays, and christenings.
Even if it takes some time to make it at home, the fun and challenge of the process alone make it worthwhile, let alone its delicious flavor.
7 – Varškės Sūrelis (Curd Snack)
One of the most unique Lithuanian desserts is Curd Snack, known as Varškės sūrelis.
It is a rectangular-shaped dessert, made of soft curd cheese, and covered in dark chocolate.
Traditional Varškės sūrelis have a vanilla flavoring, but there are many other types. These include cacao, poppy seeds, chocolate chips, condensate milk filling, and even pistachios.
Sūrelis has been widely popular in the country for decades. It’s enjoyed as a snack between main meals, breakfast, or as a dessert with coffee or tea.
This product is popular in all the former Soviet Union countries, and it’s also commonly found in special Polish or Russian supermarkets all over Europe.
8 – Varškės Pyragas „Draugystė“ (Cake with Curd Cheese “Friendship”)
Varškės pyragas is a rich, sweet, and filling layered sponge cake, enjoyed throughout Lithuania. It has a moist, filling texture, with plenty of sharp, fruit notes.
It has several layers, consisting of a sponge cake layer, jam, and a curd cheese layer usually in the middle of the cake.
Many different jams are used in this cake, including apple, cherry, or blueberry jam.
The real star of the show, however, is the curd cheese layer. This creamy, savory texture perfectly complements the richness of the sponge and the sweetness of the jam.
This dessert is commonly found at bakeries, supermarkets, and cafes across Lithuania. Order it with tea or coffee, and you’ve got yourself a perfect Lithuanian dessert.
9 – Pyragas „Napoleonas“ (Cake „Napoleon“)
Napoleon cake has a fascinating history, whilst also being utterly delicious. It is made of puff pastry sheets, layered together with buttercream.
This dessert can also be made with an extra layer of cranberry, cherry, or blueberry jam, giving it a richer taste.
Often, Napoleon cake is decorated with powdered sugar or small chocolate chunks.
The origin of this cake and its unique name is a hot topic of debate throughout Europe. Many theories have been put forward.
A popular theory is that this French cake was brought to Russia in the early 19th century, and cooked during the festivities that followed Russia’s defeat of Napoléon Bonaparte’s army in 1812.
Napoleon cake is a popular dessert to celebrate birthdays and festivities with. It’s also eaten casually, as an afternoon snack or dessert.
10 – Sausainiai Grybukai (Mushroom Cookies)
Mushroom cookies are one of the most popular desserts in Lithuania. They are named so due to their resemblance to forest mushrooms.
To achieve such a unique shape, they are cooked in a special pan with mushroom-shaped indents. Their texture is similar to gingerbread, but a little softer.
Typically, Sausainiai Grybukai have a white base, or stalk, and a dark brown top, or hat, resembling the colors of a mushroom.
Both sides are covered with a special sugar glaze, and the top achieves a dark, rich brown color due to the use of cacao or chocolate glaze.
You can buy these cookies at local Lithuanian fairs, or enjoy them at home during festivals and celebrations.
11 – Sausainiai „Skarelės“ (Cookies “Little Scarfs”)
Sausainiai are rich, delicious cookies. As with Sausainiai Grybukai, they’re named after their appearance.
Traditionally, these cookies are made from a simple mixture of curd cheese, flour, sugar, and butter.
The dough is first cut into circles, using a glass or bowl to measure them out. Then, the edges of the circles are folded in, creating a beautifully wrapped scarf shape.
The cookies are then filled with fruity, sweet fillings, commonly various fruit jams. Once baked, they’re dusted with sugar as a finishing touch.
These cookies have been baked in Lithuania for decades. They are sweet, filling, and perfect for any occasion.
12 – Varškės Spurgos (Curd Cheese Doughnuts)
There are many types of doughnuts in the world, but few are made using a curd cheese. Step forward this delightful dough-based Lithuanian treat!
You’ve probably noticed that curd cheese is commonly used in Lithuanian desserts. Hence, it’s no surprise this ingredient is used in making these doughnuts.
Along with curd cheese, Varškės Spurgos are made from a mixture of eggs, flour, sugar, and a pinch of salt.
Once the ingredients are mixed into a dough, you roll the dough out into small balls, then fry them in oil on high heat.
These doughnuts are served dusted with powdered sugar. Served hot, they are a great dessert for cozy autumn or winter afternoons.
In Lithuania, it’s pretty common to bake them at home, as well as buy at the local supermarket or bakery.
13 – Lietiniai su Varške (Crepes with Curd Cheese Filling)
While crepes may be originally from France, French influence on Russian cuisine led to them becoming popular in Lithuania.
And it’s probably come as no surprise to you that in Lithuania we fill them with curd cheese!
Along with curd cheese, other popular fillings include sugar, fruit jams, and yogurt.
Crepes are a versatile food in Lithuania. They are served as both a dessert and a savory snack or main, with savory ingredients such as cheese or ham.
Crepes are usually served with different kinds of jams, fresh berries, or a pinch of sugar and cinnamon. They are truly delicious.
14 – Varškėčiai (Curd Cheese Pancakes)
If you thought we’d covered all the ways to use curd cheese in desserts, you were wrong! Curd cheese pancakes are very popular in Lithuanian cuisine.
Deeper and fluffier than crepes, these pancakes are made from a simple batter of flour, eggs, and sugar.
Once cooked, these pancakes are traditionally served with sour cream, different types of jams, fresh berries, sugar powder, or ice cream.
Great at breakfast, as a snack, or following a main, curd cheese pancakes are the sweet treats that many Lithuanians grew up on.
A simple and wholesome homemade meal, you can also order curd cheese pancakes at cafes and restaurants across Lithuania.
15 – Zefyrai (Zefirs/Zephyrs/Zephirs)
Neither cookies nor candies, zephyrs are unique and savory sweets, popular across Lithuania.
Zephyrs are made of whipped fruit mass, mixed with sugar and egg white. Once individual domes have been made, they are stuck together in pairs to create a delightful little clam-like shaped dessert.
Zephyrs are popular throughout the countries of the former Soviet Union, and each has their different little take on the recipe.
The most common zephyrs are the ones coated in chocolate. You’ll commonly see these at coffee shops, bakeries, and sweet shops.
16 – Žagarėliai (Angel Wings)
Žagarėliai induce nostalgic memories of childhood for so many Lithuanians. This delicious sweet treat is made in households across the country.
The main ingredients of this snack are flour, eggs, butter, sugar, a pinch of salt, and plenty of powdered sugar to coat them once fried.
As you can see, they have an interesting shape. To create their winged shape, the dough is cut into small stripes, a hole in the middle formed, and finally, the edges are wrapped through the hole.
Angel wings have a crunchy texture. They are a delicious sweet snack to eat with tea or coffee.
Lithuanian Desserts Summary
Lithuanian cuisine may be one of the lesser-known in Europe, but these desserts are a testament to its rich flavors and wholesome dishes.
The decadence and precision in Lithuanian dessert cooking is utterly astounding. Many of these desserts are true works of art.
But it comes as no surprise, with French, Russian, and Central European cuisines all having an influence on the foods of Lithuania.
Lithuanian desserts are also perfect for anyone who doesn’t like their foods too sweet. Ingredients like curd cheese and nuts help add plenty of savory notes to many cakes and snacks.
If you love your desserts soothing, filling, and beautiful to look at, you’ll get along just fine with Lithuanian cuisine. There’s so much to enjoy.
So before we leave Lithuania, one final time here’s the full list of all the desserts covered in the article.
Be sure to have this list of Lithuanian desserts handy when you visit so that you can try one or more of these popular and traditional desserts.
- Šakotis (Tree Cake)
- Medaus Tortas (Honey Cake)
- Tinginys (Lazy Cake)
- Šimtalapis (Hundred Leaves Cake)
- Skruzdėlynas (Anthill – Pastry with Honey)
- Varškės Sūrelis (Curd Snack)
- Varškės Pyragas „Draugystė“ (Cake with Curd Cheese “Friendship”)
- Pyragas „Napoleonas“ (Cake “Napoleon”)
- Sausainiai Grybukai (Mushroom Cookies)
- Sausainiai „Skarelės“ (Cookies “Little Scarfs”)
- Varškės Spurgos (Curd Cheese Doughnuts)
- Lietiniai su Varške (Crepes with Curd Cheese Filling)
- Varškėčiai (Curd Cheese Pancakes)
- Zefyrai (Zefirs/Zephyrs/Zephirs)
- Žagarėliai (Angel Wings)
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Contributor: Ieva Cicirkaite is a translator and creative writer from Lithuania. Fluent in several languages, Ieva has written about Lithuanian cuisine, culture, and travel, for various publications.
Images licensed by Shutterstock, unless stated.