Love, Passion and Chocolate Cake

by Sarah on July 12, 2011

hungarian chocolate cake

A Hungarian dessert with an intriguing history

The blogosphere would be a little less sweet without Jayne Georgette’s delectable dessert blog, Chocolates and Figs. Trained as an artisanal chocolatier, Jayne’s blog is a great resource for those who want to learn new techniques and recipes, with interesting stories along the way. I am honored to share Jayne’s fascinating tale of love and chocolate in the following guest post on one of Hungary’s most famous cakes.

chocolate cake, hungarian

Although I have been exposed to many cultures with a huge variety of ingredients and cooking/baking methods throughout my life, the first foundation of my kitchen was my Hungarian upbringing.

When I first came across Sarah’s blog I immediately felt that I am in the right place.  Food, Culture, and Family are definitely my kind of  “village.”

Because I love to teach and introduce people to new things, I thought you might be interested to learn a little bit about Hungarian desserts. I contacted Sarah and she thought it was a good idea; and this post was born.

Most Hungarians love savory food, (preferably with a generous helping of sour cream) but our true delight is dessert. There are three great dessert traditions in the world:  French, American, and Austrian (which is mostly Viennese).

Because Hungary was part of the Austrian Empire, and later the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Hungarians played a leading role in shaping the Viennese tradition; they also developed their own signature indulgent desserts.  For the Viennese, as well as for the Hungarians, eating cakes and pastries is one of life’s richest pleasures.

You may have heard of the famous seven-layer caramel-topped Dobos torta, but if you ask a Hungarian for his/her favorite national dessert, they likely to turn to the gloriously decadent chocolate confection, named Rigó Jancsi (pronounced reego yanchi, accent on the first syllables).  Like many a Hungarian dessert, there’s a story of romance and intrigue attached.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Rigó Jancsi was a violinist who played what is known as “Gypsy” music (a kind of formalized Hungarian folk music) at Paris restaurants.  Rigó was of the Romani, popularly known as Gypsies,  who were simultaneously the object of scorn and fascination throughout Europe.  Since the late eighteenth century, Hungarian Gypsies had entertained European sophisticates with their “Hungarian Folklore” music (and they still do). Rigó was the leading violinist of his band.

On the opposite end of the social and political spectrum was Clara Ward, a princess, who was also the daughter of an American steel millionaire.  Part Grace Kelly, part Anna Nicole-Smith (famous model personality; in 1993 Playboy named her Playmate of the Year), Ward married a Belgian prince at the age sixteen and enjoyed the high court life and international celebrity for six years as the Princess de Caraman-Chimay.  Dining one evening in a Paris restaurant, she heard Rigó playing the violin and instantly fell in love.  Soon thereafter, they eloped, causing a famous scandal across Europe and America. “Gone with the Gypsy” screamed one headline.

Both Ward and Rigó divorced their spouses and married for a brief but glorious time.  Ward made money by posing as a model, sometimes on stage, and also with the images printed on postcards.

postcard hungarian

Naming a dish after a famous person was a very common practice at that time.  Escoffier, the famous  French chef, restaurateur and culinary writer,  had already named two dishes after Princess Ward (an egg and a chicken dish, hardly on the same plane as chocolate)  Stories differ as to how the Rigó Jancsi dessert came to be.  Some say that seeking to commemorate their love, and perhaps to take advantage of their celebrity, Rigó collaborated with a Hungarian confectioner to create it.  Others claim that Rigó merely bought the dessert for his bride, and the confectioner saw an opportunity to grab some of their fame.  Or perhaps Rigó and Ward had nothing to do with it, and it was simply a clever stroke by an ambitious baker.

Hungarian chocolate cake

Regardless, the dessert quickly became a huge success in Hungary.  Rigó Jancsi is a cube-shaped cake consisting of two layers of chocolate sponge cake sandwiching a thick chocolate mousse filling and coated with a chocolate glaze.  Sometime a layer of apricot jam is also brushed on the cake, and the filling can contain rum as well.  Another recipe that I included here, added a layer of whipped cream on top of the chocolate mousse. This triple-chocolate creation became a fixture in every Hungarian bakery, or “cukrászda”, by 1910.

When you will bake this cake, you’ll find it too delicious to last long.  Sadly, the same was true for Rigó and Ward.  They divorced just a few years after their romance had begun.  Ward married twice more (once to an Italian waiter and then to an Italian railroad station manager) before dying in 1917 at only 42.  Poor Rigó disappeared into irrelevance—save for one fantastic cake.

Here are two variations on Rigó Jancsi; I suggest you try both; although probably not at the same time, unless you’re having a very passionate affair.

Rigó Jancsi

The second variation of the cake can be found on Jayne’s blog, Chocolate and Figs.


Sponge Cake

  • 4 tablespoons (57 grams) butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cup ( 300 grams) granulated sugar
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup ( 65 grams) sifted cake or pastry flour
  • 2 cups (175g) almond flour
  • 1/2 cup (50 grams) cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5mg) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5mg) baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5mg) cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5mg) salt
  • 1 1/2 cup (300 ml) buttermilk

Chocolate Glaze

  • 4 ounces (120 grams) milk chocolate, chopped
  • 4 ounces (120 grams) dark chocolate (61%), chopped
  • 4 tablespoons (60 grams) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons (10 ml) light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Mousse

  • 5 ounces (165 grams) dark chocolate
  • 4 tablespoons (60 grams) unsalted butter
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 6 tablespoon (72 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon(15 ml) dark rum (other liqueur can be substituted)
  • 1 cup (140 ml) heavy whipping cream




a) Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F (205°C).  Arrange a shelf in the lower third of the oven.
  2. Place foil lengthwise into a 13-by-9 inch rectangular cake pan, long enough to come up the sides and overhangs the edges.  Do the same width-wise.  Thoroughly coat the foil with nonstick baking spray.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the butter with 1-cup (200 gram) sugar until fluffy.
  4. Add the egg yolks 1 at a time, beating each addition until incorporated before continuing.
  5. Add the vanilla and incorporate
  6. In a separate bowl, mix together the flours (almond and cake), the sifted cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  7. In another very clean and cold bowl, beat the egg whites until frosty, then add the remaining ½ cup (100 gram) sugar and the pinch of cream of tartar and continue to beat it to medium-firm peaks. The foam should remain on the beater without dripping, when it is done.
  8. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients, then 1/2 of the buttermilk.  Note: Do not beat this combination; just fold it gently with a wooden or plastic spoon.  Continue with the next 1/3 of the dry ingredients, followed by the other half of the buttermilk, and finally the remainder of the dry ingredients.  For each addition, beat until just combined.
  9. Fold the egg whites into the mixture gently. (It is OK to have some white streaks in the mix).
  10. Pour the batter into the pan and place onto shelf in the lower third of oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F (190° C).
  11. Bake until the cake is puffed and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 -35 minutes. Cool thoroughly.  After the cake has cooled, remove foil sling from pan.  Note: If you change the size of the pan, you may need to adjust the baking time. Smaller pan needs increased baking time and larger pan needs shorter baking time.

b) Chocolate Mousse

  • To make the chocolate mousse, place the chocolates and butter in a double boiler over a pan of simmering water.  Stir occasionally until the chocolates and butter are mostly melted, then remove from heat.
  • Set aside to cool slightly.
  • You can use a microwave instead of the double boiler system, but you must stop every 15-20 seconds to stir the chocolate until it is nearly completely melted. Note: without stirring, chocolate will retain much of its shape in the microwave even though it is almost melted. 
  • In a separate bowl, whip egg whites until soft peaks form. Sprinkle in the sugar and cream of tartar, and continue whipping to medium stiff peaks.
  • Fold in the egg yolks, one at a time and incorporate each yolk to the mixture prior to adding the next yolk.
  • Add the rum, and vanilla extract. Set aside.
  • In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream to medium stiff peaks. Set aside.
  • Fold the melted chocolate until completely incorporated into the whipped egg whites
  • Fold in the whipped cream into the mixture until evenly blended.
  • If not used immediately, refrigerate.

c) Direction for the Chocolate Glaze

  • Melt the chocolates, corn syrup and butter over simmering water.
  • Alternatively, use a microwave, checking and stirring every 15-20 seconds until done.
  • Off the heat, add the vanilla.
  • Pour the glaze over the cake as directed above, while still warm.
  • Let it run over the cake, but remove the excess with a warm knife.

Note: You may need to dip the knife multiple times to obtain nice, clean slices


Method 1:

  • Slice the rectangular cake in half horizontally with either a cake cutter – or a long serrated knife.
  • Pour the chocolate glaze over one half (see directions for preparation above).
  • Spread the chocolate mousse to the second half.
  • Place the half with the chocolate glaze on top of the other half.
  • Refrigerate the cake to set the glaze and mousse.
  • Slice the cake into 2 X 2 inch squares with a serrated knife dipped into hot water and wiped with a paper towel.
  • Alternatively, you can use a square cookie cutter if you have them.


Method 2 (some people prefer this method for ease of getting equal pieces): 

  • Slice the cake in half vertically (it becomes 6.5 X 9 inches)
  • Pour the chocolate glaze over 1 half (see directions for preparation below).
  • Spread the chocolate mousses on the second half.
  • Place the half with the chocolate glaze on top of the half with the mousse. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Cut the cake again in half, this time vertically, resulting in:  two pieces, each measures (3.25 X 9 inches)
  • Last cut: cut both pieces horizontally into three equal pieces, resulting in 6 equal pieces, measuring 3 X 3 inches.
  • Refrigerate the cake to set the glaze and mousse and ENJOY.

It is great with a cup of cappuccino for adults or a glass of milk for children. It is also an excellent accompaniment for a glass of champagne or a glass of Pinot Noir. It does not work with white wines.

Please let us know how you liked it? Did you create any variation? Could you suggest an alternative method of preparation or substituting any of the ingredients.

As always, if you have any questions, please send them either to Sarah or to me.

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