Adorned with Corinthian-style columns and ornate stucco, this palatial building adds a historic touch to Budapest’s focal Vörösmarty tér. This elegant edifice houses the guidebook-superstar Gerbeaud confectionery, a destination renowned for its stately interior and prime desserts. To celebrate its 160 years in business, this iconic outlet has introduced the freshly blended Cacao Barry Or Noir 1858, a dessert created in collaboration with French chocolatiers. Designed for the same occasion, Gerbeaud 160 is a signature sweet, where dark chocolate mousse, nuts and fruit jelly are creatively piled atop a soft layer of sponge cake.
Founded in 1858 by Hungarian pastry chef Henrik Kugler on nearby József Nádor tér, the now tourist favourite enjoyed almost immediate success thanks to its unique selection of frothy coffees and distinct sweets. By the time Kugler’s shop moved to its current location on prestigious Vörösmarty tér, it had already become a well-established locale among the city’s emerging confectionery scene. Unparalleled liqueurs, mignons and a rich bonbon collection attracted influential guests, who considered the Kugler palace a regular haunt.
However, what really brought this central confectionery to fame was the 1884 partnering with Swiss confectioner Émile Gerbeaud, who joined Kugler for a prosperous collaboration that lasted decades. With a rapidly expanding team and merchandise, Gerbeaud became a synonym for a prime dessert destination, where heavily perfumed ladies and smartly dressed gentlemen chatted over creamy confections.
Surviving two world wars, the passing of its founding members and multiple change of ownership, the Gerbeaud managed to preserve its heritage through history. After a grand makeover in 2010, the place was revived as a contemporary attraction, where tradition and innovation meet within a gilded interior, embellished with lavish chandeliers, polished marble and finely carved wooden features. Today, Gerbeaud House is not only a destination for deluxe desserts. Found within the same building, beside the main entrance to the confectionery is Onyx, the only Budapest restaurant with two Michelin stars.
Now a tourist magnet, the Gerbeaud is famed for their namesake cake, a chocolate-topped slice created by talented pastry chef Tamás László, using Émile’s original recipe that includes apricot jam and crushed walnuts. Then there is the royal chocolate dessert or the apricot cake with salted peanuts, both in 21st-century style. Each revered Hungarian delicacy has a suggested wine to accompany and, during the warmer months, guests can enjoy this intoxicating combination on the café’s extensive terrace. In addition, a savoury selection of scones and sandwiches also feature.
For the 2018 anniversary, current Gerbeaud owners Katalin Pintér and daughter Anna Niszkács have introduced new signature treats. Joining forces with France’s Cacao Barry, a laboratory for chocolate concoctions, they have created Cacao Barry Or Noir 1858, a deep-brown delight with 71,9% cocoa content. This new chocolate is now available at Gerbeaud and comes pre-packed in a variety of shapes and forms.
However, it’s the Gerbeaud 160 that puts the cherry on the birthday cake. This hedonists’ fantasy is made with the same chocolate concocted at Cacao Barry. For this creation, a soft layer of butter-rich sponge cake is topped with caramel-infused dark chocolate, blood-peach jelly, salted pecan and green walnut puree.
But to further highlight Gerbeaud's heritage, during 2018 a selection of traditional Hungarian desserts is also being made according to original as well as modern-day recipes. One such is Lúdláb, a dessert that took its name from the triangular treat first made in Hungarian kitchens, resembling goose feet with its distinct yellow colour beneath an egg-based layer of sponge cake.
Then there is the cognac cherry, another Émile Gerbeaud legacy, where a small square of chocolate is filled with brandy-infused sour cherry. For the anniversary, László has reinvented this delicacy, also offered as a ball of mousse made from premium French Valrhona dark chocolate. Brioche and sour cherry are then added, all infused in fine cognac.
For well over a century, Gerbeaud has proved to have the recipe for success. In recent years, this confectionery has been expanding beyond downtown Pest and Gerbeaud established a sister eatery Émile, a fine-dining destination housed in a stylishly renovated villa on the Buda side. Meanwhile, the Gerbeaud name should also sound familiar to Asian guests who have never visited Budapest before as the confectionery has set up branches in far-flung destinations such as Tokyo and Seoul.