A traditional Lithuanian layer cake from Karaway Bakery
“I would say honey is the main thing that keeps us going in winter time in Lithuania—because it’s so cold,” Jurate says, her words wreathing icy plumes around her in the bright winter sunlight. We’re not in Lithuania: we’re in Borough Market next to the Karaway Bakery Cakes stall Jurate operates, but the mist of our breaths, numbness of our fingers and the sweet yeasty aroma of the rye loaves and poppy seed rolls beside us makes her country’s snow drifts, forests, rich folklore and food seem not quite so far away.
“Lithuania is a bee keeping country. Almost everyone keeps bees, and honey cake is one of the most traditional products,” Jurate continues. “I first tasted it as a very young girl.” Each house has a different recipe and variation. Karaway’s honey and walnut cake and honey and chocolate cake are their seasonal offerings, with the former laced with cinnamon and the latter reminiscent of chocolate log.
“A honey cake should always be sweet, creamy and moist,” she explains—and the honey and walnut is no exception. Layers of gingery cake-biscuit (or biscuit-cake, depending on your recipe) are interspersed with layers of cinnamon and nutmeg cream and honey. The effect is that of a mille-feuille in winter clothing: rich, yet light; sweet, yet not sickly. The subtle, herbaceous honey aroma speaks of warmer days, and is quite clearly top quality.
Lithuanian fire water
“This is more a ginger cake than a biscuit,” observes Jurate, who is more used to the latter style. Still, she’s not complaining. “It’s one of my favourite things on the stall. In fact, it’s one of my favourite things in the Market,” she states boldly. Warm yourself up by serving it with traditional Lithuanian fire water, or play it safe with a hot, strong cup of tea.