Over Christmas we travelled to Lithuania to spend the holidays with Algis’ family. Being my second visit to Lithuania I was well prepared with all of my Labas’ and Acius’. My first time I was in Lithuania was summer, three years ago, so the days were much shorter and the sun significantly lower this time around- but it still had all of its charm.
We visited Vilnius (our home base for the trip), Kaunas, Palanga, Druskininkai (a spa town) and Klaipeda. We only had ten days so tried to optimize our time between family, sightseeing, and total relaxation. I wanted to share some of my highlights from the trip, and a few of my favourite pictures.
Lithuanians love their basketball. We had the pleasure of joining our friends at an intense Euro League game. After experiencing this game I would have to say that these fans would be disappointed going to an NBA game! This was the MOST intense crowd I have ever seen at basketball game and I LOVED it. My ears were ringing as we left the stadium because there was no single point during the entire game that the crowd was not chanting something or other (usually profanity towards the ref 😂)
On our way to Palanga, a seaside town on the Baltic, we stopped at an old estate that had been transformed into a restaurant. They served traditional Lithuanian food (hello baked potatoes) in an very classic setting. Once in Palanga we took advantage of beach walks and fresh air even though it was pretty cold outside.
When we stayed in Vilnius we did a day trip to Trakai where there is a castle on an island. It is a beautiful little lake town and the lights were quite stunning.
Lithuania isn’t the easiest place to find gluten free or dairy free foods but I did manage. We went to a friend’s house for dinner one night and they served a delectable poppy seed cake made with almond flour. So when I came home I decided to make my own variation of this cake and it turned out pretty darn tasty.
I have come to realize that Lithuanians love their honey and they love their poppy seeds (along with bacon and potatoes). The traditional poppy seed cake uses sugar but I decided to make one with honey as the sweetener and use a little bit of orange to give it added flavour.
This cake isn’t like a lemon poppy seed loaf texture. It is much denser because there are two cups of poppy seeds. The poppy seeds are a little time consuming. You have to remember to soak them, rinse and let them strain (which I forgot to do it EVERY single time I went to make this cake… putting me back half a day each time). The next step is grinding the poppy seeds which also takes up a fair amount of time especially if you have only a small coffee grinder like I do. Once you get past that step though, the recipe is pretty simple and smooth sailing!
The key to this cake is letting your sauce soak into it once you pull it out of the oven. It makes a rich, dense, moist cake full of flavour. I actually tend to enjoy the cake even more from the fridge on the second day because the sauce has completely marinated the cake.
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Honey Almond Poppyseed Cake
This is my ode to Lithuania and their love for honey and poppy seeds. The one thing you have to remember when making this cake is to plan ahead and soak the poppy seeds. Enjoy!
- Prep Time: 2 hours
- Cook Time: 50 minutes
- Total Time: 2 hours 50 minutes
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Paleo, gluten free, refined sugar free
For the Cake:
2 cups poppy seeds
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup honey
2.5 cups almond flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp finely zested orange peel
slivered toasted almonds (for topping)
For the Sauce:
1 can full fat coconut milk (I used this one)
1/3 cup coconut sugar
2 tbsp ghee (coconut oil or grass-fed butter could work here as well)
2 tbsp orange juice
1/4 tsp almond extract
pinch of sea salt
Soak the poppy seeds in boiling water for minimum an hour. Once they have finished soaking rinse and drain them through a tea towel over a strainer (so that you don’t wash the poppy seeds down the sink!). Let the poppy seeds sit and drain for another hour. Put the poppy seeds through a spice or coffee grinder a couple of times. This process takes some time, especially if your coffee grinder is as small as mine.
Once the poppy seeds have been prepared it is time to start the cake. Preheat the oven to 350 C degrees. Separate the egg yolks and whites into different bowls. Beat the yolks with the honey and vanilla for about one minute. Add the soaked and ground poppy seeds and mix. Add the almond flour, cinnamon and baking soda and orange zest. Beat for another minute.
In your other bowl beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites into the the batter mixture. Pour the batter into a greased cake pan (I used coconut oil).
Bake for 45-50 minutes watch at the end carefully because the edges can burn.
As the cake is baking make your sauce. In a small pot add the coconut milk, orange juice, ghee and coconut sugar. Whisk the sauce over medium heat while it starts to thicken up (about 10-15 minutes). Take it off the heat and stir in the almond extract and sea salt. When the cake is done poke holes in the top of the cake with a toothpick. Pour half of the sauce over the cake letting it soak in. Sprinkle the almonds on top and pour more of the sauce on top, being sure to still reserve some for serving.
When ready to serve, top with an orange slice and another little drizzle of sauce. Enjoy!