Have you ever heard of Gerbaud cake? And even more important, have you ever eaten it? This is actually a Hungarian dessert, invented by a Swiss named Emil Gerbaud (does it make it a Swiss cake then?), who came to Budapest to work in now famous Café Gerbaud at the end of the 19th century.

     

Gerbaud cake is very unusual regarding its preparation: the dough is made with yeast, but is prepared like a pie crust and does not require rising. Instead, it is rolled into thin layers and assembled alternating dough layers and a filling made with jam and walnuts. Rather than baking each layer individualy, you bake an entire cake at once, which makes it much less complicated. Originally, it should have chocolate glaze, but since this is my take on it, I dicided not to put it because I prefer it this way.

The flavour of the Gerbaud cake is wonderful – the layers of dough are lightly sweet and, although soft, give this cake some texture. Jam gives it sweetness, but also freshness and the walnuts make the flavour full and rich. I love the texture of Gerbaud cake – it is not crumbly as a pie, nor is it creamy like a cake… Everything works so well together, so I wish you would give this dessert a chance and you will be very pleasantly surprised. It is wonderful. I mean, a combination of jam, sweet soft pastry and walnuts… what’s not to like?

preparation time: about 40 minutes
time of baking: 50 minutes, 170°C (340 F)
baking pan size: 22×30 cm (8,6×12 in)

Ingredients for the dough:
100 ml milk + 1 tsp sugar
4 g dry yeast
420 g flour
pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder
75 g granulated white sugar
180 g cold unsalted butter
1 egg
1 Tbsp heavy cream or milk

Ingredients for the filling:
200 g ground walnuts
100 g granulated white sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
9 – 12 Tbsp jam (I used apricot and plum, but use whichever you prefer)

Ingredients for the chocolate glaze (optional):
160 g semi sweet chocolate
50 g butter
2 Tsp milk or cream

1. Make the dough. Put milk with a teaspoon of sugar in a skillet and let it sit on medium low heat until it gets luke warm. Add dry yeast and leave it for about 5 minutes in a warm spot (remove from direct heat though) or until the yeast gets foamy.

2. Sift flour, salt and baking powder in a big bowl. Add sugar and cold butter cut into small cubes and work it into the flour mixture using your fingertips or a food processor, just as you would if making a pie crust.

3. When the butter is in small cunks and well distributed throughout the flour, add the prepared yeast mixture, whole egg and a spoon of heavy cream. Combine everything into a soft dough. If it is sticky, add a touch of flour and if it seems a bit too dry, add a spoon of cream or milk. But this was a perfect ratio of ingredients for me. Divide the dough into 4 even parts, but have one of them slightly bigger than the other three. This one will be the first layer that goes up the sides of a baking pan.

4. Make the filling. Combine ground wallnuts, cinnamon and sugar and divide the mixture into three equal parts. There will be 4 layers of dough and 3 layers of filling between them.

5. Roll the first (larger) part of the dough. Make it the size of your baking pan. Mine was 22×30 cm (8,6×12 in), so make sure you are using a similar size or adjust the recipe to the size of your pan. Lay the first rolled out crust into the baking pan and smear 3-4 spoons of jam over the top. Then sprinkle one third of the walnut filling on top so that it sticks to the jam. Make sure it is evenly distributed and then continue rolling the dough. Roll out second part, put it on top of the filling, cover with jam, sprinkle with walnut filling… Repeat one more time and cover everything with the last part of the dough.

6. Take a fork and prick the whole pie several times so that the steam can escape while baking which will ensure even baking.

7. Bake in a preheated oven at 170°C/340 F for 45-50 minutes. The top and the sides should be lightly golden brown, but make sure it is baked well. It is a big cake and there are many layers of dough, so give it time. Insert a toothpick in the center – when it comes out with no wet crumbs of dough, it is done.

8. Optional: make a chocolate glaze. Cut chocolate in smaller chunks (I always buy chocolate in bars, not chips). Put butter, chocolate and milk in a skillet and let it sit on medium low heat until melted. Stir it well and glaze the baked pie. Alternatively, sprinkle the top of the cake with some icing sugar or leave everything out and enjoy the rich flavour just as is.

9. Let it rest for half an hour and dig in. Enjoy with a cup of coffee.

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GERBAUD CAKE
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