A dessert that every child in Albania has grown up loving, shëndetlie is a traditional dessert and comfort food that everyone can enjoy.
An easy-to-make, rich and scrumptious Albanian dessert, its name derives from the word for “health” in Albanian (i.e. “shëndet”). This does not necessarily mean that shëndetlie is healthy more than it points to the fact that this truly delicious moist cake is made with simple, natural ingredients. The 2-step recipe is a fairly quick one, still used among many families in Albania. It does not require too much of your time, just extra care in using the right quantity of each ingredient.
Step 1: The Syrup
500 ml water
700 g sugar
The main and most important element of shëndetlie is its extra-sweet syrup, which is why this is step is always completed first. Place the water and sugar to boil. When the mixture achieves a reddish color and begins to thicken, take off the stove and add a few lemon slices so the syrup does not caramelize.
Step 2: The Cake
150 g sugar
150 g melted butter
100 g honey
100 g crushed walnuts
200 g flour
1 teaspoon yeast
Shëndetlie, photo source: gjellaime.com.
Using a mixer, whip 4 eggs (note: save one egg for later) and the sugar together. Once the mixture achieves a smooth and fluffy texture, add the melted butter (note: save a small amount for later) and honey. Whip the entire mixture again, making sure to completely allow the honey to mix in its entirety with the rest of the cake dough. Spread a thin layer of melted butter in an oven dish and place the uniform dough evenly inside. Spread an even layer of egg yolk across the surface of the dough before placing it in the oven. Set the oven temperature at 180 degrees and bake for approximately 35 minutes. In the meantime, the syrup should be cooling. After the baking process is complete, immediately take out the cake and set aside to cool. Once the cake cools down to room temperature, you may pour the lukewarm syrup on it. Set the cake aside to absorb the syrup in its entirety for approximately 40 minutes.
Best served with a dry sparkling white wine or, for those who prefer non-alcoholic beverages, a fresh orange or grapefruit juice is wonderful with this dessert.