Gerbeaud Slice

Gerbeaud Slice


Here’s something a bit different this week – different but dang delicious, though I say so myself. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say it’s quite unlike any bake I’ve tasted. How’s that for intriguing?

As you may know, I like hunting round the more unusual corners of the internet in search of interesting or unusual recipes, and this recipe originates from the famous Gerbeaud Cafe in Vörösmarty Square, Budapest, Hungary. Alongside the more well-known Dobos Torte, the Gerbeaud Slice (Zserbó Szelet in Hungarian) is a classic Hungarian pastry.

Emil Gerbeaud and Henrik Kugler

Emil Gerbeaud and Henrik Kugler

Swiss-born Emil Gerbeaud came from a family of confectioners, as did his wife. He learned his craft working for several major confectionery business in Germany, the UK and France, where in Paris in 1882 he met Henrik Kugler. In 1883, Gerbeaud moved to Hungary and became Kugler’s business partner and began the work that would make his reputation.

Gerbeaud expanded his staff and employed the very latest in machinery to create and maintain the quality of his confections. Even the boxes they were wrapped in were considered works of art. He is credited with developing and introducing many unique confections and pastries during his time at the cafe that bears his name.He constantly worked to make a visit to the cafe an experience: the lavish interiors were created by Henrik Darilek: ceilings decorated with rococo plaster work in Louis XV style; chandeliers and wall lamps in the style of Maria Theresa; fine woods, marble and bronze gleaming on every surface. From the 1950s to the 1980s, the Cafe lost both it’s name and impressive interior, but in the 1990s, a new owner of the building initiated a grand project of restoration, to return the Gerbeaud Cafe to its former glory.

Gerbeaud Cafe Interior

Gerbeaud Cafe Interior

Gerbeaud’s secret lay in his constant attention to the quality and perfection of his products. After his death in 1919, his wife Esther took his place in the Cafe, until her death in 1940 at the age of 82. From 9.00am until 9.00pm, she would keep a watchful eye on the running of the Cafe, sampling the coffees and pastries to ensure they attained the proper standard, and ensuring the milk was properly frothed and the silver trays suitably polished.

All of which brings me to the pastry itself. Traditionally, it consists of layers of enriched, yeast dough sandwiched with a mixture of ground walnuts, sugar and apricot jam. Once baked and cooled, it is usually topped with a rich chocolate layer before being cut into serving portions.

As I said at the start of this post, the taste is unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. The dough comes out crisp like a biscuit, but it softened by the jam, which is both sharp and chewy from the heat of the oven. The walnuts add a great dimension without being overpowering. It can be made up into a bake of many layers, but I’ve decided to go with a simple five and without the chocolate topping, because, elegant and refined as the finished delicacy is, I think it should be enjoyed more often that just special occasions. Fabulous for bringing a little something special to packed lunches and picnics.

I strongly urge you to try this recipe with the original walnuts and apricot jam combination, because it is as delicious as it is unusual. After that, you are limited only by your imagination.

  • Try experimenting with different jams – although my recommendation would be to stay with the sharper-tasting fruits such as damson, raspberry and plum.
  • Also try different combinations of nuts – almonds, pistachio, macadamia, hazelnuts, etc.
  • I’ve added in some rum-soaked raisins just to add a little lift to the rich filling, together with a splash of rum in the dough. Feel free to omit both. The alcohol could also be switched around, depending on your choice of jam/nuts. If you’d prefer not to use alcohol, soak the fruit in fruit juice instead.

Gerbeaud Slice

For the dough
350g plain flour
300g unsalted butter
25g icing sugar
1 sachet fast action yeast
zest of 1 large lemon
2 tbs dark rum
1 large egg plus one large yolk
100ml warm milk

100g raisins
60ml dark rum
200g walnuts
100g caster sugar
400g apricot jam

1 large egg yolk
1 tbs water

Chocolate topping – Optional
25ml of water
25g caster sugar
60 g unsalted butter
125g dark chocolate

  • Put the raisins into the 60ml of rum to soak.
  • Make the dough
    • Put the butter and the flour into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
    • Tip the mixture into a bowl and add the sugar, yeast and lemon zest. Stir thoroughly.
    • Whisk the egg and yolk with the rum and add to the dry ingredients.
    • Mix the ingredients and bring together into a firm dough, adding the milk bit by bit ONLY if the mixture requires it.
    • Knead the dough until smooth and divide into three (or however many layers you decide to make).
  • Tip your jam into a saucepan and warm gently until it melts and is easy to spread. You may want to use a stick blender to make a smooth puree, or you can leave it with pieces of apricot in – your call.
  • Put the walnuts and sugar into the bowl of a food processor and blitz together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Grease and line a tray bake tin – mine is 20cm x 28cm x 5cm – with parchment. NB Make sure the parchment comes up the sides of the tin as well as covering the bottom: the jam in the filling will boil during baking, so you should make sure the parchment stops it from oozing onto the tin itself.
  • Roll the first piece of dough out into a rectangle the size of your tin and lay it in the bottom.
  • Spread over half of the jam. Obviously, if you’re making many thin layers, you need to divide the jam into smaller portions.
  • Sprinkle over half the walnut mixture.
  • Sprinkle over half the rum-soaked raisins as well as 2 tablespoons of the rum.
  • Roll out another piece of dough and place over the top.
  • Repeat layering the jam, walnut mix, raisins and rum.
  • Finally, roll out and lay onto the tin the last piece of dough.
  • Whisk the egg yolk and water together and brush over the top of the dough.
  • Using a fork or a skewer, poke holes into the dough to let steam out.
  • Cover with a cloth and set aside to rise for 1 hour.
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
  • Bake for 40 minutes, turning the tin around after 25 minutes to ensure even colouring.
  • Cool in the tin.
  • Make the topping – optional
    • Put the water, sugar and butter into a small saucepan and heat gently until the butter is melted.
    • Remove from the heat and  add the chopped chocolate, stirring until it has melted and the mixture is smooth and glossy.
    • Pour onto the cooled bake. Spread the chocolate evenly, then leave to set.
    • Cut into portions when cold. Use a knife dipped in hot water (and then dried) to cut the chocolate smoothly, wiping the crumbs off after each cut.

12 Comments on “Gerbeaud Slice”

  1. I love reading your recipe blogs, MAB, the history behind what you post always interests me and it’s much nicer than “look, I made a cake!” which is as far as I manage to go on mine!
    Please do keep up the great work, I’ll have to wait a while before I can try out this recipe but I will do so as the cafe looks so nice that I’m sure its common namesake didn’t go far wrong with this confection.

    Thanks again,

  2. Francesca says:

    Just one word Mary-Anne; wow!! 🙂

  3. makedospend says:

    I’m intrigued! Will have to save this in my ‘to bake’ folder – in sounds amazing

  4. jmcvl says:

    I must agree with Midori above. I love the background, history and depth you provide with your recipes. It’s such easier and interesting reading!!

  5. Emily Wadham says:

    Dang, looks tasty *rushes off to buy ingredients*

  6. jonathan hawkin says:

    brings back happy memories of working my way along that counter on a couple of trips to budapest, lots of fantastic pastries, think its about time to go back!

  7. Szia, may I ask, where did you get this recipe? It look a good one. I’m allways happy to see hungarian pastry recipes on foregin languages.
    We have a few kinds of zserbó recipe, but all chocolat covered.
    Here is mine. Original hungarian .

    100% agree with Midori

  8. The Editor says:

    Reblogged this on Jane Doe (at-your-service).

  9. Mag says:

    Hi, your cake looks amazing, just perfect. I use to do it using lard instead of butter, as the original recipe calls for, and also no raisins or rhum. Lard gives it a moisture and consistency butter doesn’t. Chocolate topping gives it a nice, bitter hint.

    • MAB says:

      Wotchers Mag!
      Thank you for the kind words, and also the awesome background for this dish! I’ll definitely try your tweaks next time. M-A 😀

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