“Kürtőskalács”, or chimney cake as it can be called in English, is a real treat. No Christmas fair is the same without it, and while in the past it was only available at markets and fairs, its popularity has meant that more and more sellers have popped up year-round. Chimney Cake is a well-known and popular treat in Hungary, and in neighbouring countries, and visitors to Budapest usually get hooked. We’ve noticed long lines outside one Chimney Cake stand at the corner of Andrássy Avenue and Bajcsy-Zsilinszky Street, so we headed there to find out why.
At first we guessed that the prices written on the side of the former newsstand are the main reason for the popularity of this place. One sugary roll only costs 290 forints; the flavour options are cocoa, chocolate, cinnamon, walnut, vanilla and coconut.
However, this spot is not the only one where we can buy ridiculously cheap “tunnel cake”. For example, there are similar stands at Nyugati Railway Station and Astoria with similar prices. Although we are not Chimney Cake specialists, after eating all the treats we bought to test, we must say that this place sells the best in Budapest, both with regard to the price and quality. Incidentally, the chocolate Chimney Cake unanimously received the highest scores from the editorial. So now we understand the long lines.
Chimney Cake comes from Székely Land, as people living there liked to utilise the hardwood embers, which were typically used for cooking and warming the house up in more than one way. They wrapped sweet dough on a wooden cylinder, baked it over the embers, and then rolled it in sugar and various flavours. The cylinder itself is usually made out of wood that has no characteristic aromas, so that the cake will not have an after-taste. It was was named after the stovepipe (“kürtő”), and it’s thought to date back to the end of the 1600s.
We have to mention that Chimney Cake is not the kind of sweet that Hungarian mothers typically bake on a Sunday afternoon, since most regular households don’t have one thing: the mould. So it’s probably not just tourists in the long lines at this cake stand, but locals too enjoying a special winter treat in the lead up to Christmas.