How a Lithuanian Tree Cake (Raguolis or Sakotis) Is Made

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    Lithuanian Tree Cake Featured at Special Occasions

    Lithuanian Tree Cake or Sakotis

    Lithuanian tree cake, known as raguolis (which means "spiked") or sakotis (which means "branched") is a treat that appears at every traditional Lithuanian wedding, and for special occasions like Christmas Eve and Easter.

    In Polish, this cake is known as sękacz or senkacz. In Hungary, it's known as kurtoskalacs or tepsiben, which means "little chimney cakes" or "stove cakes," and in German, they're called baumkuchen or "tree cakes."

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    Lithuanian Tree Cake Is Made on a Steel Rod

    Lithuanian Tree Cake Is Made on a Rotating Spit
    © Barbarqa Rolek

    An egg-rich batter is dripped in stages onto a stainless-steel rod or spit that rotates over a heat source. As the speed is increased, the batter forms spikes that resemble the branches of a tree. A cross-section of the cake also resembles the rings of a tree trunk, hence its name.

    Racine Bakery in Chicago makes this pastry in 16-inch and 24-inch sizes, but cakes as tall as 36 inches are not uncommon. 

    The finished cake is often decorated with fresh flowers on top and at the base. Pieces of cake are sliced off and eaten as-is or with fresh fruit and melted chocolate. Along with a tiered wedding cake, a raguolis or sakotis takes center stage at wedding receptions. 

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    The Steel Rod Rotates Over an Electric Heat Source

    The Metal Spit Rotates Over a Heat Source to Make Lithuanian Tree Cake
    © Barbara Rolek

    In the old days, the rod or stick rotated over an open fire. This particular modern machine owned by Racine Bakery in Chicago was imported from Lithuania. It features a stainless-steel rod.

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    Batter Is Dripped on the Rotating Rod

    Lithuanian Tree Cake Batter Is Dripped Over a Rotating Rod
    © Barbara Rolek

    In order to form the layers of the tree cake, an experienced baker slowly drops batter along with the length of the rod. It takes great skill to know just how much batter the rod can hold before it slides off.

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    The Rod Continues to Rotate

    The Rod Continues to Rotate to Make Lithuanian Tree Cake
    © Barbara Rolek

    The rod continues to rotate as the batter bakes. It can take 5 or more hours to make one tree cake.

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    Excess Batter Is Caught in a Pan Under the Tree Cake

    Excess Batter Is Caught in a Pan Under the Tree Cake
    © Barbara Rolek

    Nothing goes to waste. Excess batter, dripping off the steel rod is caught in a pan to be used again for the next layer of Lithuanian tree cake.

    The baker can tell just by looking at the cake when it is time to ladle on another layer of batter. It can take 15 to 20 minutes for each application of batter to cook before the next one is ladled on.

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    The Batter Is Built up

    The Batter Is Built up on the Tree Cake
    © Barbara Rolek

    Two tree cakes are made on one rod. The baker builds up more batter in the middle of the rod to make a wider base and that's where the cake will be cut to make two cakes.

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    The Rotation Speed Is Increased

    The Spit Rotation Speed Is Increased to Make a Lithuanian Tree Cake
    © Barbara Rolek

    As the layers are built up, the speed of the turning spit is increased and bits of batter start to spike off forming what look like branches.

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    The Tree Cake Is Slowly Thickened With Batter

    The Tree Cake Is Built Up with More Batter
    © Barbara Roloek

    The patient baker goes about other tasks while keeping a watchful eye on the rotating tree cake. Thin layers of batter build up the cake whose edges are starting to brown slightly, as seen here.

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    The Tree Cakes Are Cooled

    After Removal From the Spit, the Tree Cakes Are Cooled
    © Barbara Rolek

    The tree cakes are cooled on the steel rod and then slipped off to cool completely. Racine Bakery, owned by Dana (DAH-nah) and Juozas Kapacinskas, makes the tree cakes in 16-inch and 24-inch sizes and they can be shipped by UPS to most of the United States. They continue to be a popular tradition with Lithuanian-Americans.

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    Tree Cake Is Cut Horizontally

    Lithuanian Tree Cake Is Cut Horizontally
    © Barbara Rolek

    At serving time, the tree cake is cut horizontally into rings.

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    The Rings Are Then Cut Into Pieces

    The Rings of the Tree Cake Are Cut into Pieces
    © Barbara Rolek

    The Lithuanian tree cake rings are then further cut into serving-size pieces, which can be eaten as is. Updated versions include fruit and melted chocolate.

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    A Decorated Lithuanian Tree Cake

    Decorated Lithuanian Tree Cake
    © Grand Duke's Restaurant in Summit, Ill.

    For weddings, fresh flowers are often placed on the top of the cake and at the base. It then takes a place of honor on a sweets tables along with miniature pastries and a conventional tiered wedding cake.