In Poland, there is a very interesting cake that became popular at the time of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1569-1791). Packaged pieces of the traditional, much larger cake, as well as much smaller versions of it can be purchased by tourists as souvenirs. The cake, called either sękacz (knotted cake) or dziad (beggar’s cake), is many-layered and has a knobby surface that looks a bit like gnarls on a tree trunk or those on the cane of a beggar. Surprisingly, it is baked on a horizontal, rotating spit over a fire, and is traditionally fairly large.
The best season to make the cake is in the spring, when the weather is not too hot or cold. Over 50 eggs and two pounds of butter, flour and sugar each are needed to make it. Creating it is a rather monotonous process, however. It takes hours to prepare over an open fire. The first layer is made by pouring a ladleful of the liquid batter onto a hot spit. When this layer is baked, another layer of batter is poured and allowed to bake. Successive layers are added and baked until the batter is gone. Uneven baking creates the surface gnarls. When cooked, the cake is removed from the spit, set in a vertical position and crosswise slices are cut, displaying the annual growth rings of the “tree.” It is thought to have originated from Germany where it is known as baumkuchen. Today it is made primarily in the Suwałki region in the far northeastern corner of Poland.
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