What is shendetlie?
The shendetlie is a delicious traditional Albanian cake made of walnuts and honey, soaked in a sugar syrup. It is considered a cousin of the ravani, which doesn’t contain any walnuts or syrup, but is made in a similar way.
In the Albanian tradition, the shendetlie is associated with family and Christmas. Every Albanian knows of the shendetlie, it is the cake that every child enjoys and looks forward to when Christmas is near.
Today, honey and walnuts are cheaper than they were in the past, which is why shendetlie is made more often. This cake is often enjoyed by adults with a dry or sparkling white wine. Children often have it with a fresh citrus juice. Orange and grapefruit juices are very popular in Albania.
Where does shendetlie come from?
Shendetlie comes from shëndet, which means “health” in Albanian. As such, it is usually served to children. Still, it does not mean that it is healthy as it is high-calorie and contains a lot of sugar. But the simple and natural ingredients it is made of make it a healthier cake than store-bought ones.
The shendetlie is a true cake made for sharing, that is often enjoyed with family. During Christmas celebrations, it is always mothers and grandmothers who bake the cake for the whole family. This dessert typically rounds off a meal of many baklavas, and fish-based dishes.
What are the health benefits of walnuts?
According to many scientific studies, walnuts are really healthy. Rich in antioxidants and dietary fibers, they help with intestinal transit.
They are also a true appetite suppressant, their high fiber content quickly leads to a feeling of fullness. Some of the calories contained in the nuts are not absorbed by the body. Thus, eating a fistful of walnuts everyday doesn’t necessary cause weight-gain.
Walnuts are also great to fight against cholesterol, diabetes, gallstones and even colon cancer. In ancient times, it was thought that walnuts were good for the brain because of their shape, and it wasn’t false! The omega-3 contained in the walnut is excellent for memory, focus and comprehension speed. Walnuts are also said to have calming and relaxing effects.
How to make shendetlie
Shendetlie is made by whisking eggs with sugar, butter, honey and baking soda. To this mix, flour and walnuts are added until the batter is firm and homogeneous. Once ready, the batter can be baked for approximately forty minutes in a prepared baking mold that is safe to put in the oven.
Once the shendetlie is cold, hot sugar syrup is poured on top of it. The cake must be entirely covered in syrup and left to sit for at least an hour and a half in the fridge. To help the syrup fully sink in the cake, small cuts can be made with the tip of a knife or using a small pointy stick.
The shendetlie can then be cut in portions and enjoyed. It is important for it to be very cold to be cut as the syrup gels in the fridge. Out of the oven, adding some syrup is essential since the shendetlie looks more like a dry biscuit than a soft cake, it is this syrup that will nourish and soften the cake to make it truly delicious.
What are the variations of shendetlie?
In the shendetlie, the walnuts can be used whole or ground, this choice will affect the color of the cake, which will be noticeably darker if ground walnuts are used. In the event where you can’t choose, a mix of the two perfectly works.
Walnut cakes recipes are many but few are soaked in syrup. Similar cakes can be found in every walnut-producing region, for example in France, in the Périgord, or in the region of Grenoble.
- 1½ cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- ¾ cup melted butter cooled
- 5½ cups flour sifted
- 3 oz. walnuts crushed
- 4 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup sugar
- 1¾ cup water
- Stand mixer
- 12 inch round cake pan
Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C).
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the eggs, sugar and melted butter together, then add honey and baking soda.
- Add half of the flour and walnuts and using the mix well, using the flat beater.
- Add the rest of the flour and mix until obtaining a firm dough.
Line a 12-inch (30 cm) diameter cake pan with parchment paper.
- Place the dough in the pan and, using wet hands, press the dough to homogenize it.
- Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the dough has turned dark brown and is firm to the touch.
- Remove from the oven and let cool completely while preparing the syrup.
- Pour the sugar and water into a saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Boil for 15 minutes over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
- Cut the shendetlie into diamond shapes and pour over the hot syrup (without unmolding). Use enough syrup to completely cover the cake.
- Refrigerate for 1 hour 30 minutes before serving.