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The 2012 Cake of Hungary was created by Zsolt Pintér at the Kokó Confectionary in Veszprém, Hungary. I made a version of it yesterday and it seems I can’t get enough of this complex, well balanced, beautiful cake. I don’t think I tasted anything as lovely since I made Sissi’s birthday cake.  Don’t get me wrong it isn’t the poppy seeds; to tell you the truth I am not really a poppy seeds fan. I love these cakes for entirely different reasons. The harmony of the seemingly unrelated flavours and textures grabs your senses and holds you captive with the first bite… I wish I could share a slice with Sissi, I think she would appreciate the beauty of this cake.
At first I was going to increase the cream, it was almost not enough, but in the end I realized it was just the right amount to balance the apple and cake layers. I will just have to spread the cake layers a little thinner next time. I couldn’t manage to get 6 layers out of my baking pans, but I must say that five layers worked out rather well.
*The original recipe called for grated apples for the apple filling. Granted, these would have produced neater, thinner layers, but I was concerned about mushiness, so I thinly sliced them instead. If you prefer to grate the filling, use 500 g of peeled, grated apples. Grated apples really pack down, and so the volume would be considerably less and cooking time would also be shorter. It is therefore better to weigh the apples if you plan to grate them and be mindful of the shorter cooking time.
Great care must be taken assembling and slicing this fragile cake and I would strongly recommend to freezing the cake layers before the assembly. Have the fruit filling cooked and cooled and the cream ready to spread before you remove the cake from the freezer. Once assembled, chill the cake but you cannot freeze it again, because freezing the apple filling will make it mushy.
The original cake called for heat treated poppy seeds. Unless you live in a large city, you will have to use your smarts to get any kind of poppy seeds, but heat treated? - Not likely. I buy my year’s supply of poppy seeds about two weeks before Christmas, by then the poor souls bought up all of last year’s rancid seeds and I can get to the fresh ones. Timing is of essence, if I buy too early, the seeds will be rancid. If I leave it too late, there won’t be any poppy seeds left in the stores. So there must still be Hungarians left in town who honour our Christmas beigli tradition. Then I noticed some of the recipes suggested grinding up the seeds. Well that’s a bloody chore with a tiny coffee grinder and so I thought I should try heat treating the seeds myself.
*I started out with a quarter of a cup and when I saw the poppy seeds really did soften up in a non stick skillet, I heat treated the rest. You have to preheat the skillet at a low medium. If you use an electric stove, be very careful not to start out with high heat, because even though you turned down the heat, the pan will still be much too hot for the seeds. The seeds will burn and turn bitter on high heat. So give it time, and don’t hurry this process.
1-1/2 cups + 3 Tbsp poppy seeds
1/2 cup fine breadcrumbs
1 tsp finely grated lemon rinds
3/4 cup, peeled and grated granny smith apples
2 cups egg whites [buy egg whites, otherwise you will have lots of leftover yolks]
1-1/2 cups + 2 Tbsp sugar [do NOT reduce sugar]
Apple Filling:
3-1/2 Tbsp butter 5 cups of peeled and ether thinly sliced granny smith apples
* or 500 g peeled and grated granny smith apples
1 Tbsp Fruit Fresh
1/4 cup sugar juice of 1/2 lemon [remove the seeds]
2 pinch ground cinnamon
2-1/3 cups milk
1/2 cup cornstarch
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup + 1/8 cup sugar
1 stick of vanilla
1 cup 35% whipping cream
Make the cake the day before. Leave the cake in the baking pans and freeze them. Do not divide or cut the layers yet. This will be much easier with a frozen cake.
If you have 5 identical sized round cake pans, use them. I don’t, so I made a slab cake instead. I could have made a six layer slab cake with two same sized rimmed baking sheets, [the original cake was six layers], but since I only had one I had to supplement the second baking sheet with a smaller baking pan. This required additional planning to get the five cake layers I needed for this cake.
• Line the bottom of the baking pans you are using with parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper and the sides of the pans and set them aside.
• Next is heat treating the poppy seeds: Place a large non stick skillet on the stove over low-medium heat. If you have an electric stove, it will take a few minutes to heat up the pan. If you haven’t done so, please read the last paragraph marked with a *. When the pan is thoroughly heated, add the poppy seeds and gently stirring with a heat proof plastic spatula [gently, because the seeds can scrape the coating of the pan] until the seeds begin to steam a little. Continue to stir for 1-2 minutes and then remove the skillet from the heat. Transfer the poppy seeds into a large chilled bowl to cool. The seeds must cool down to room temperature before starting the cake.
• Preheat the oven to 375F.
• Next peel and grate the apples. Do not worry about the apples going brown; these will be mixed into the poppy seeds.
• Add the grated apple, breadcrumbs and the grated lemon peel to the poppy seeds.
• Mix to combine and set aside.
• Next beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form – do this gradually. Start with medium low speed and let the beater go at that speed for a couple of minutes. Then increase the speed and beat it at medium for a couple of minutes and then beat it on high until the peaks are stiff. There is a fine line between stiff and overbeaten egg whites, so be careful not to overbeat. At the final beating I stop the beater several times to check for the consistency.
• Gently and gradually fold the poppy seed mixture into the beaten egg whites.
• Pour the cake batter into the prepared pans in an even height. This cake is fragile and you won’t be able to slice the cake layers horizontally.
• Bake in a preheated oven for 12-14 minutes.
• Remove from heat and let cakes cool down in the pan.
• Transfer the pans to a freezer for the night.
• In 2-3 hours, the tops will be solid enough to gently cover the cakes with plastic wrap.
Apple and Cream Fillings:
• Next day, prepare the apple filling first.
• Peel and core the apples and slice as thinly as possible.
• Place in a large skillet on medium low heat.
• Sprinkle with Fruit Fresh, add the sugar, lemon juice and the cinnamon.
• Slowly sauté the apples until they are almost tender.
• Remove from heat and let the apples come to room temperature.
• Meanwhile make the cream.
• In a small bowl combine 1/3 cup of cold milk with the cornstarch and the egg yolks and set aside.
• Heat the remaining milk with sugar and the vanilla bean in the microwave.
• Transfer to a pot and bring to a slow simmer.
• Very gradually add about 1/2 cup of the hot milk to the cold milk mixture you set aside earlier.
• Gradually pour this mixture into the simmering milk, whisking with a balloon whisk continually.
• Bring to the simmer and cook, whisking continually until the custard is thick.
• Remove pot from heat.
• Place a large fine sieve over a larger bowl and force the custard through the sieve.
• Cover the custard with plastic wrap and set it aside to cool down to room temperature.
• Whip the whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Use the same method as with whipping the egg whites.
• Gently fold the cool custard into the whipping cream.
Assembly of Cake:
• To assemble the cake, remove baking pans from the freezer.
• Lift the cakes out and remove the parchment paper.
• With a large chef’s knife cut 5 layers and place each layer on clean parchment paper. • Spread a thin layer of cream on three of the cake layers.
• Arrange the apple filling on two layers.
• Place a cake layer with the cream filling on a serving platter.
• Place the cake layers on the top alternating between cream filling and the apple filling. • The top layer should be a cream filling.
• Spread the remaining filling on the sides.
• Place the assembled cake in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving.
• The original cake was decorated with apple slices and cream rosettes, but I figured I worked hard enough as it is.


  1. Zsuzsa, each time you make a cake it's a feast for the eyes. This one is no exception. I've had very little experience baking cakes but I hope to reproduce one of your beauties one day.

  2. Thank you Maria, this one was more complex than some of them, but I think I will get it right the second time. The original recipe was written down by a pastry chef with the assumption whoever makes it knows the tricks of the trade. As long and arduous my recipes seem to be, I try to write down all that I see as a pertinent detail to ensure success. My older recipes look a lot simpler, but are not necessarily so. I just hope I don't keep anyone from trying the recipes out with my longwinded explanations. But yes, this wasn’t an easy cake.

  3. Another piece of art, Zsuzsa! As you probably suspect, I am particularly drawn to this cake... If only I could have a tiny, tiny slice of this beauty... I am impatient to discover this unusual combination of flavours. Grated apples and pastry cream combined with poppy seeds must produce unique, delicate and nutty flavours (at first I thought it was coated in marzipan! hmmm... even though I cannot have too much marzipan, now that I think it must go great with poppy seeds).
    Thank you so much for the kind mention and even kinder words. I am always so proud when you mention my recipes or my blog and when we share similar food preferences.
    Accidentally I don't like poppyseed cakes either. (My favourite birthday cake is an exception). They always seem bland and very "stuffy"? For example the Hungarian/Polish rolled poppyseed cake is something I really dislike.
    Freezing tip is simply brilliant! I will use it next time. I always have huge problems to obtain poppy cake layers more or less equal (I don't mention even them being neat...).
    I will maybe try this unusual cake when I feel brave again!

  4. Yes, exactly! Sissi you hit the nail on the head; poppy seeds amass tend to be stuffy. But this is not the case with your birthday cake or this one. Frankly if I never made your cake this one would have been passed over. I do feel though I have to make it at least one more time to fine-tune the recipe. I will send you an e mail when I do. I knew already you would like this. Aside from the fascination with Far East cuisine our tastes are quite similar. It must be that Polski-Magyar connection. Anytime coming this way?

  5. Zsuzsa, when I was reading your answer last night (didn't have time to answer quicker, sorry) I was just starting to eat Paprikàs Csirke and thought how wonderful it would be to share it with you (the addition of caraway you have advised makes miracles!) and to finish with a slice of your wonderful cake (my chicken is light, without skin so there is still place for the dessert!).
    Thank you so much for thinking about me. Do tell me when you change the recipe (although I'm sure it doesn't require much changes really...). I agree that our taste is very similar and I bet if you had a good Japanese grocery shop, you would go crazy for the Japanese cuisine too.
    Be sure that if I ever visit Canada, I will do my best to meet you!!!

  6. I have not heard of this delightful treat before, but I know my dear Mom would have loved it, being a huge fan of poppy seeds. I do remember grinding the poppy seeds for Beigli every Christmas. The electric Molinex made the chore much easier. I haven't made Beigli in years, but perhaps I will next year.

  7. WOW! This cake looks awesome! I'm speechless! I'm not much of a cake person, but I don't think I would be able to share this cake with anyone. I'd want it all to myself. :) Interesting that you have a hard time finding poppy seeds. I can get them just about anywhere. I wonder why that is the case. I guess I'll google it.

  8. Sissi, if you ever come this way -- come WEST, don't stop in Toronto -- sorry Eva. Next time you go to the Orient, think of the west coast of Canada - it isn't that far you know. Then if you come to Vancouver I could pick you up and drive you to Kamloops. Only 5 more hours and you are in British Columbia's interior. This is the most beautiful mountainous province in Canada. I promise, you would have quite a ride.

  9. Eva, I must have the cheaper moulinex, or they don't make it like they used to, because I find it a bloody chore. I prefer the walnut beigli, but I wouldn't dare not to make a few with poppy seeds. Grind, grind, grind...

  10. Peach Lady, poppy seeds is a European thing and we haven't had an influx of eastern Europeans of late and previous groups that immigrated here are getting old and are dying out. There is a Canadian bulk store that sells poppy seeds year around, but the bins are open and people lean over them and I am afraid I am a little bit of a germaphobe. So I wait for Christmas and buy my poppy seeds in the stores I approve of. :-)

  11. Thank you so much, Zsuzsa, for the kind invitation! With such encouraging description, I might really come! Beware ;-)

  12. I would love that Sissi!

  13. Üdv. ez a recept nincs meg valahol magyarul is? magyar mértékegységgel persze :)




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