Top 7 Classic Hungarian Cakes & Where Best to Taste Them in Budapest

  • 6 Jun 2023 10:14 AM
Top 7 Classic Hungarian Cakes & Where Best to Taste Them in Budapest
Hungarian confectionery reflects Budapest’s golden age, when the city was awash with gilded coffeehouses.

Many have been revived in recent times, their selection of elegant cakes every bit as important as the coffee usually served alongside them.

Here’s our own selection of seven classic varieties, each coming with a slice of history and a recommended venue for each sweet creation so you can sample for yourself.

1. Dobos torte

First created by Mr József Dobos, of course, a pâtissier from the golden age who hit upon this rich buttercream gâteau almost by accident.

Word soon spread about his sponge cake, stacked together with luscious chocolate buttercream, topped with a caramelised sugar crown that cracks with every bite – so much so that before too long, the Emperor himself, Franz Joseph, and his Hungarophile wife Elisabeth, were presented with slices to bestow with royal approval. 

Today, Dobos torte is available everywhere in the city, but maybe the best place to experience it is the Central Café, located in the city centre at Károlyi Mihály utca 9. A literary hangout from 1887 onwards, this revived landmark serves a traditional version of the cake in question.

2. Esterházy torta

Esterházy is one of Hungary’s most venerable noble dynasties, whose family seat suitably straddled the modern-day border between Austria and Hungary.

While those familiar with Vienna might immediately think ‘Sacher Torte’ when they first set eyes on this layered delighted of almond meringue, velvety walnut cream overlaid with a delicate cocoa buttercream lattice, this is the Magyar version and proud of it.

The age-old Daubner Cukrászda (Szépvölgyi út 50), where Budapest’s 2nd district meets the 3rd, sells both varieties of this revered classic so you can compare the two.

For a special variation of this classic, visit the Matild Café for the Esterházy Bon Bon. One of Europe's finest and most historic coffeehouses, located at 36 Váci utca in downtown Budapest, the Matild Café is a much-loved local institution dedicated to refined excellence.

3. Gerbeaud szelet

Synonymous with the café of the same name, founded in 1858 and taken to the next level by his friend, the eponymous Émile Gerbeaud, from the 1880s onwards, this mainstay of Hungarian confectionery dates back more than 150 years.

Layers of walnut and almond sponge cake alternate with apricot jam, all enrobed in a sumptuous chocolate ganache.

There’s no other place to try it, of course, than Gerbeaud itself, which anchors Vörösmarty tér, its terrace spreading across the side of this focal downtown square of nearest to the terminus of the yellow metro line M1.

4. Gundel palacsinta

The heavenly Gundel palacsinta is another Hungarian favourite, conceived at the legendary restaurant of the same name – although you’ll find it at many traditional Hungarian eateries.

Thin pancakes are filled with a sweet walnut and rum filling, then drizzled with a decadent chocolate sauce and topped with a generous dollop of whipped cream.

To best enjoy this local masterpiece, there’s only one destination: the Gundel itself, on the street named after the influential owner of the business, Gundel Károly út, on the edge of City Park. While quite pricy, it does offer more wallet-friendly lunches – or you can just order the namesake dessert and a coffee.

5. Krémes

Often erroneously translated as ‘cream cake’ this cube of vanilla mousse and millefeuille pastry is another stalwart of the Hungarian confectionery canon, the better establishments offering their own variety.

One such is Ruszwurm, arguably Budapest’s most famous purveyors of dessert, a sweet institution dating back over 200 years and still serving every Magyar favourite within its atmospheric cherry-wood interior or on its terrace close to the tourist sights of Buda Castle.

You’ll find it a short walk from Matthias Church and Fishermen’s Bastion on Szentháromság utca, as will almost every tourist in town.

6. Rigó Jancsi

Named after a famous Gypsy violinist from the late 1800s, Rigó Jancsi should win the heart of all chocoholics.

A moist chocolate sponge cake soaked in soupçon of rum, layered with a decadent chocolate mousse and finished with a glossy chocolate glaze, this is served as a cube of indulgent temptation rather than a long slice. 

So embedded is this cake in local lore that there’s a whole place named after it, Rigó Jancsi at Böszörményi út 17a behind MOM Park in District XII, but you should be able to find it at most classic confectioners. 

7. Somlói galuska

AAs opposed to the other layered cakes suggested here, Somlói galuska should be found on most restaurant menus, a mainstay of the dessert section in traditional eateries.

This iconic Magyar delight comprises layers of sponge cake soaked in rum, a rich chocolate sauce and a generous sprinkling of walnuts – although there are many alternatives to the recipe.

Any Hungarian restaurant worth its salt will include Somlói galuska on its dessert list – the Regős Vendéglő at Szófia utca 33 in District VI prides itself on the quality of its afters.

Words by Peterjon Cresswell
Peterjon has been researching the byways of Budapest for 30 years, extending his expertise across Europe to produce guidebooks for Time Out and his own website

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Top 7 + 1 Iconic Confectioneries in Budapest

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  • Top 7 + 1 Iconic Confectioneries in Budapest

    Top 7 + 1 Iconic Confectioneries in Budapest

    • 9 Jun 2023 2:35 PM

    Dobos torte, Gerbeaud slice, Esterházy cake... These classic cakes are an important part of the culinary traditions of Hungary, and it's not extraordinary to find a confectioneries in the capital which can boast with a century-old history, or family businesses where several generations continue traditions.