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The story behind the chimney cake

Chimney cake aka Kürtőskalács (or Kurtos Kalacs) is a popular pastry specific to Hungarian-speaking regions, more predominantly, the Szekely land. Kürtőskalács 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 granulated sugar. It is baked above charcoal cinders while lubricated with melted butter, until its surface gets a golden-brown color. During the baking process the sugar stuck on kürtőskalács becomes caramel and forms shiny, crispy crust on the cake. The surface of cake can then be provided with additional toppings such as ground walnut or cinnamon powder. You can find this dessert in little booths across the downtown area, just follow the amazing sweet vanilla sugar smell! Plus the first sweet shop dedicated solely to the chimney cake just opened near the Budapest Zoo, if you are not in rush, indulge and flavour various types at the Édes Mackó (Sweet Bear) !

Kürtőskalács is made of a relatively hard and dry yeast-dough. A “twine” of dough is wrapped around the length of the spit, and then the spit with the strip of dough on it is rolled in sugar. Before or during baking, it’s brushed with melted butter. The cake is ready when its surface has an even, brownish–red color. Strictly, homemade kürtőskalács can be made exclusively from natural ingredients (flour, sugar, milk, butter, eggs, yeast and salt). For other variants, of all ingredients it is merely margarine and vanilla sugar powder that can be synthetic, including ingredients of the final topping. Wiping with melted butter while baking Kürtőskalács can be enriched by further aromas and flavors if the completed cake is provided a final topping. Any topping can be used that does not contain salt, cheese, meat or other non-confectionery ingredients.

Among pastries that are most closely related to kürtőskalács, the Transylvanian Saxon Baumstriezel has a cylinder shape, rather than a helix. Skalicky Trdelnik from Slovakia (formerly Upper Hungary), as well as Trdlo/Trdelnice/Trdelnik from the Czech–Moravian region, differ from kürtőskalács in that there is no caramel sugar glaze applied to their surface. Neighboring nations have their own names for the cake. Amongst Saxons, who earlier dwelt in Transylvania, the literal translation of the word kürtőskalács, i.e. Schornsteinkuchen, became popular. Poles and Romanians use both the phonetic transcription of the word kürtőskalács and the translation of the adjective – noun cluster of magyar kalács/Hungarian Kalách or székely kalács/Szekler Kalách (Kurtoszkalacz or Wegierski kolacz and respectively Colac Secuiesc or Cozonac Secuiesc). Other languages use either a phonetic transcription of the entire compound word (Kurtosh Kalach), or a phonetic transcription of the cluster’s first element, i.e. ‘kürtős’ – Kurtosh followed by a translation of its second element, ‘kalács’, “cake”.

Do you miss the taste? Try it at home like Byron Talbott!

Photo: 123rf.com

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