With the sweet-tooth’s of the world in a frenzy over cronuts, duffins and doughscuits, it is worth stopping from time to time to appreciate the more traditional pastries from around the world that don’t get as much air-time as the aforementioned newcomers.
The chimney cake is one of the most popular pastries in Hungary and Hungarian speaking regions around its borders. It is “made from sweet, yeast dough (raised dough), of which a strip is spun and then wrapped around a truncated cone–shaped baking spit, and rolled in … sugar. It is baked above charcoal cinders … until its surface gets a golden-brown color. During the baking process the sugar stuck on the chimney cake becomes caramel and forms a shiny, crispy crust on the cake.” (source: Wikipedia). The topping can vary from the simple but delicious “regular” (granulated sugar) to ground walnuts, cinnamon, or cocoa powder.
A bit of a history lesson: the first record, from a Heidelberg manuscript, of a pastry that is baked by rotating a spit over cinders dates back to medieval times, however the very first chimney cake recipe is from 1784 found in a recipe book of a Transylvanian countess. Nevertheless, this recipe lacked the inevitable sugar coating which only appeared 10 years later in a recipe book originating from “Upper-Hungary” (present day Slovakia).
While kürtőskalács used to be a festive cake, favoured by the upper-classes it soon spread amongst the common people as well and nowadays it’s a hit with any festival or outdoor event crowd. So much so that last year the first ever Kürtőskalács festival was held in Budapest to the delight of many Hungarians and tourists alike.
When Hungarians are asked about their favourite chimney cake there is no unanimous answer – some swear by the ones sold at food festivals scattered around the country (though these tend to be more expensive than the ones from the actual bakers), others adore the more obscure vendors like the ones that can be found at Ors vezer ter metro stop, or family businesses such as Kürcsi who travel around Hungary and Europe.
Whatever your preference is, once you get your hands on one of these sticky pastries you’ll instantly forget about its hip competitors and will be crossing your fingers that there will be a second kürtőskalács festival… somewhere close-by.