Sweet friends, I am posting a recipe that I think many of you will not make. Keep in mind this is a legacy blog and, in part, I am recording family favourites. For years, this appeared every Xmas, made by my mother-in-law. Once she stopped baking, it was missed, so I made it my business to figure it out. Maybe one day someone else in the family will join me in carrying on the tradition.
There’s quite a story about this 125 year old confection, but I won’t add it here. Google it or visit this site. If you have ever been to Budapest, you undoubtedly went to the famous Cafe Gerbeaud. This is one of their signature desserts. It goes by two spellings - but each is pronounced the same way. (“G” as in Jerry, “bow” as in “bowl” - Jer-bow.)
The recipe is a wee bit complex - and you know me - I can even make a simple recipe seem complex by the time I outline techniques and tips - haha. I write these with love and the goal of making your experience foolproof.
This combines tweaks from several recipes and experimentation, but is mainly based on a 2002 Corvina Hungarian recipe book so all the measures are by weight. Many measures specify “dkg” - the abbreviation for dekagram / decagram. That used to puzzle me until I realized that I simply have to multiply by 10 to get the gram measure - and my kitchen scale can measure that! (e.g. 15 dkg = 150 g) A kitchen scale is a great investment!
Things you’ll need:
a digital scale - since this comes from a European recipe, many ingredients are by weight, plus equally dividing the dough and fillings is easier by weight.
digital thermometer - to measure milk temp for activating yeast
11 x 7 baking pan with high sides
parchment paper; create a parchment template for rolling out the dough to fit the pan, and line the baking pan with a parchment sling
must admit you’ll be using a lot of dishes by the time you divide the jam and walnuts into three equal portions.
BEST when made ahead! I prefer this 3 or more days after it’s made - most recipes will agree. It’s edible when freshly baked, but it’s sort of dry and all the bits have not “gelled” together. Sitting, covered, in the fridge or a cool place gives the jam time to soak into the cake layers - which begin to stick together instead of falling apart.
Big picture - you’ll be making a yeast dough requiring a quick proof at the start; then layering 4 pieces of dough with jam and walnut filling; once prepped, it is proofed at room temperature for 30 minutes before being baked; a chocolate glaze is added after.
Prepare 270 g thick apricot filling and divide it into 3 equal portions (can be done ahead). (It’s better to have too much apricot filling on hand vs not enough.) If you do not have a thick apricot spread you may have to cook down some regular apricot jam. (See Notes below.)
Prepare walnuts and divide into 3 equal portions (can be done ahead).
Prepare the baking pan by greasing it, then make a parchment sling (see photo) - this will make it easier to remove the cake for slicing at the end. Frankly, if you don’t use a parchment sling, you won’t be able to remove the cake for precise, pretty slicing.
Preheat your oven to 350 F.
Have every single thing prepped and measured out before you begin - that will make the process feel like a breeze.
Make the dough.
Proof it in the fridge for 10-15 minutes
Assemble the layers and proof at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Bake at 350 F for 25-30 minutes.
Cool and add the chocolate glaze.
Cover and store in a cool place for a few days to let it all come together nicely.
150 g ground walnuts
150 g icing sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
See Notes below re how to grind the walnuts. Obviously they must be fresh and not rancid. Most importantly, do not toast the walnuts before grinding them. So many North American recipes suggest to toast nuts, but in this case toasting tends to dry out the nuts and you want them to be natural and moist.
Apricot Jam Filling
270 g of thick apricot jam
1/2 tsp rum flavouring (optional)
See Notes (below) about the jam being thick. Mix the jam with the rum flavouring - see Notes about rum flavouring options. You may need to warm this mixture a tiny bit to make it easier to mix in the rum flavouring and for spreading. Using an off-set knife, spread one of the three equal portions onto a layer of dough.
16-20 g quick rise yeast (see Notes)
100 ml milk
1 cube (tsp) sugar
The yeast is going to bubble up, so use a 2-cup measuring cup. To properly activate yeast, the liquid must be 100-110 F. If the liquid (milk) is too hot it will kill the yeast, too cool and it won’t activate. Yeast that is old also will not activate so check the date on the package.
Warm the milk in a microwave to a temperature higher than 110 F (about 30 seconds). Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Keep checking the temperature and stir in the yeast when the temp is between 100-110 F. If the yeast is alive it will bubble up in 10 minutes.
During this 10 minutes do the next step in your food processor.
350 g flour
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
150 g / about 10 TB unsalted butter (84% fat content)
120 g icing sugar
3 egg yolks
The butter does not have to be super soft, but best if it’s not just out of the fridge. Cut the butter into small pieces. Add the flour, salt and baking powder to your food processor. Pulse 2-3 times to mix these. Drop the butter bits over top. Pulse about 10-12 times to incorporate the butter into a crumbly mixture. Add the icing sugar and pulse 3-5 times.
Beat the egg yolks by hand and then add the egg yolks and the yeast/milk mixture (from above - once the 10 minutes has elapsed) into the food processor and pulse, then process until the dough comes together. This shouldn't take long.
Transfer the dough to a bowl, cover loosely with plastic wrap and proof in the fridge for 10-15 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 350 F. Divide the dough into 4 pieces. You can weigh each to ensure they are all roughly the same size. (Oddly, the weight can vary slightly each time I make this. Each chunk will probably weigh 190-195 g.) You’ll be rolling / finger-pressing each of these into a rectangular shape to fit into the baking pan. It’s helpful to have a template drawn on a piece of parchment to help with that. Best to cover the dough portions you are not yet using with plastic wrap - prevents a dry skin from forming on the dough - and it doesn’t hurt to keep portions you are not yet using in the fridge until ready to use.
You’ll be layering the dough in the baking pan between fillings. BEST to have the fillings all ready and portioned out equally. IMPORTANT - dock each layer of dough with a fork before covering it with jam and walnuts.
So you are all set, assembly line style. Follow this pattern: dough, dock with fork, spread with jam, sprinkle with walnuts - repeat three times and place the last piece of dough on top- and dock that too. Tip: Unlike pastry dough, dropping this into the pan may seem challenging. I find that if I press it into shape on the parchment template, and then put that - parchment and all - into the fridge for 3-5 minutes, it becomes easier to handle and drop into place.
Cover the baking pan and proof at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Bake at 350 F until the top is lightly golden. Check it at 20 minutes. Don’t bake more than 25 or 30. That top layer is going to be covered with a chocolate glaze so we just want it to be baked, not looking pretty.
4 oz high quality bittersweet 60% chocolate, chips or finely chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 TB corn syrup
Place 3 oz of the chocolate into a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream and corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat until just simmering. Pour this over the chocolate and let it stand about 30 seconds, then stir to combine and then stir in the remaining 1 ounce of chocolate - this helps to temper the chocolate. Let cool until it reaches a nice spreading consistency. If it doesn’t do that at room temperature, put it in the fridge for some minutes - NOT too long otherwise it will become too hard for spreading. Spread it to the edges of the cooled cake using an off-set spatula. I have no idea of the physics here, but measure each of these ingredients perfectly. I have found that if even one measure is off the consistency of the glaze changes.
While you can eat this the same day, it will be a bit dry and not authentic. Instead, cover and store it in a cool place for a few days to let it all come together. The cake layers will absorb the jam and flavours etc. When ready to serve, lift it out of the pan with the parchment sling. Place it on a cutting board and cut it into diamond shapes. I like to make them more on the small side than too big. These store very well for days in a covered container in a cool place.
Notes and Tips...
Baking Pan Size - the recipe suggests an 11 x 7 inch pan (with high sides). Did you know that pan sizes are measured across the top, not the bottom, from inside edge to inside edge? Shockingly I do not have a 11 x 7 baking pan. I once unthinkingly made this in my glass baking dish that measures about 13 x 8 - that didn’t work. My other glass baking dish is 10 x 6 - too small. It is possible to buy an 11 x 7 pan, but until I get around to it, I use a dish intended more for casseroles that fits the requirements.
Ground Walnuts - for European baking, nothing beats walnuts that are ground by hand - they are so light and fluffy. If you don’t have access to a new or vintage grinder, then use a food processor but take care to not turn the nuts into nut butter - use gentle pulses. P.S. Do NOT toast the walnuts before grinding.
Apricot Jam - generally speaking, jam is not thick enough for these kinds of European recipes - and many recipes do use apricot jam! I am fortunate because my German deli sells thick apricot spread for precisely this use. If you can’t find that then start by buying good quality apricot jam. (I like Menz & Gasser Prima Frutta. Hero and Bon Maman are also good.) The jam will likely contain some large chunks of apricot - better to chop those bits, or whiz it briefly in a food processor or with a blender stick. Measure out about 300 - 200 g and cook this don by half to get the required 150-200 g. It’s better to have too much jam to work with (and leftovers) than not enough. This cake will be horribly dry if you do not use enough jam.
Rum Flavouring - this is probably not authentic. None of the recipes I have found mention it, but our family taste memory says there was a bit of a rum flavour. You can omit this, or add it in the form of real (sweet) rum, or rum extract, or - my preference - Dr. Oetker Rum Extract - use one of the little vials.
Quick Rise Yeast - these come in packages of 8 g each. You can open a third package to get 20 g - but I just go with 16 g from the two packages. Seems to work fine. See Fleischmann’s Yeast Basics.
84% Butter - if possible use high fat butter. See my Butter Notes.
Kneading the dough? - just an FYI that some recipes suggested kneading the dough and others said to pull the dough together quickly with minimal handling… well you can see I went with the minimal idea. If you wanted to knead it, transfer it from the food processor to a stand mixer with a dough hook.
Chocolate Glaze - I have tried several glazes from various sources, including overseas family. They have all disappointed. They have not spread well or not cut nicely or become dull after the first day. The winning recipe I use is from Martha Stewart - her Opera Cake Glaze.
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