Monday, January 18, 2016

Rigó Jancsi - a sinful dessert with a side of scandal

My family has a long tradition of making this famous dessert. My grandfather passed it on to my parents, who passed the recipe on to me. I am still trying to get the hang of it, but when it is done right, it is the most delicious thing you've ever tasted.

(It was also the wedding cake at my parents' wedding, until the Best Man accidentally sat on it)

Rigó Jancsi is a chocolate sponge cake filled with sinful amounts of cocoa cream and covered in dark chocolate. So, basically, it is chocolate within chocolate topped with more chocolate.
What's not to love?

And not only is the pastry delicious  - it also has quite the amazing story behind the name.

Rigó Jancsi, the person the dessert was named after, was a Gypsy musician in the 19th century (1858-1927). He was a natural talent - started playing the violin at age 5, started his own band in his early 20s, and soon became the favorite of Budapest coffee houses (and women). In 1896, while playing in Paris, he met Clara Ward, the daughter of a Michigan millionaire, who was married to the Belgian Prince of Caraman-Chimay. On that fateful day the musician and the princess fell in love, and thus kicked off one of the largest social scandals of the century. Clara divorced her husband (leaving her two children behind), Jancsi divorced his wife, and they got married soon after their elopement.
(Imagine, if you will, Kate Middleton running away with a bar musician)
As much fun as all this sounds, they did not exactly have a fairy tale life. They soon ran out of money (spending more than eight million dollars traveling around and livin' it up), and Clara started posing for pictures and modeling in places like the infamous Moulin Rouge. Her pictures stirred up even more scandal, and were even banned in some places. Eventually the relationship crumbled, and after Jancsi was repeatedly unfaithful to her, Clara left the marriage in Naples, running away with an Italian waiter. Jancsi kept wandering, playing music, and seducing actresses, until he died poor and forgotten in New York. He is buried in Manhattan.

Wait, but why the dessert?

The pastry was created by a Budapest chef who named it after Rigó Jancsi, who - according to legend - brought his lover to the restaurant to dazzle her with sweetness (saying that the pastry was "brown like his skin, and sweet like her heart"). The pastry became successful, and the name stuck around.

Here are some sites that give you the basics of how to make Rigó Jancsi:

Joe Pastry (with photos)

For comparison, here is our own recipe:

Pre-heat the oven to 175C (347F)

Break 12 eggs, separate the yolk from the white
Work on the whites first: Add pinch of salt and 6 low tablespoons of sugar; whip it up until it is a shining cream
Yolk: Add 6 low tablespoons of sugar, whip until fades to almost white
Pour the yolk cream into the white cream, mix lightly
Add 12 tablespoons of flour
A little cooking powder
2-3 tablespoons of cocoa powder (depending on how dark you want the cake)
Mix all lightly

Line pan with baking paper, pour batter into pan
Put it in the oven for 35-40 minutes (DON'T OPEN THE OVEN)
When the top of the cake starts wrinkling, but is not burnt brown yet, take it out, flip it on a grate, peel off the paper, let it dry and cool

While it's cooling:

Pour about 14dl whipping cream into a bowl
Whip it up until it is thick (if you put your finger into it, it gets coated in cream)
Add 3-4 tablespoons of sugar and 2-3 tablespoons of cocoa powder (just mix these in, don't whip)
Melt a packet of gelatine and mix it in rapidly
Put the cream into the fridge for about 20 minutes to thicken (until you can put your finger in in and it leaves a dent)

Cut the cake into two parts horizontally
Fill in the cream in the middle
Melt dark chocolate in a pot and coat the top of the cake

Repeat attempts until the cake tastes good. Don't despair. My first try leaked through the boards of the kitchen table.
(It was still delicious)


  1. Sponge cake and chocolate mousse. What's not to like. I must try this. Thanks. (and just when you said don't ask for recipes, lol)

    1. I said that because I don't have 26 recipes :D And the ones I have are not Hungarian. I am fairly new to cooking.