I would like to proudly announce my accomplishment of gerbeaud, the very first layered cake in my life and one of the monuments of the Hungarian cuisine. Even though at first sight it doesn’t look unusual, gerbeaud (pronounced “jer-bo”, “j” sounding softer, like in “je ne sais quoi”) clearly stands off in the layered cakes family. In fact, instead of being cut after baking or being baked int batches, the layers are assembled with the filling beforehand. This difficult and meticulous method creates a very surprising and complex flavour, which, after the black chocolate topping is added and the cake cooled, gets to a mysterious point where one would swear there is a subtle coffee taste… Gerbeaud is very filling and rich, but doesn’t have the usual sickening sweetness or greasiness of birthday or wedding layered cakes, while apricot jam, as usually, gives it a tangy kick.
Emile Gerbeaud, the creator of this cake, was a Swiss confectioner, who arrived in 1889 to work as a partner in a famous Budapest café, which he overtook and which is nowadays called “Gerbeaud”. Zserbó szelet (literally “gerbeaud slice”) is now firmly established as one of the Hungarian classics. Sold in local cafés, pastry shops and also quite popular among the brave home cooks. It requires long experience to look as neat as on the Gerbeaud café’s website…
This recipe comes from Zsuzsa is in the kitchen blog, where I have previously found (and successfully tested) several delicious Hungarian recipes. Her version, as well as many others I have seen on the web, calls for three pastry layers and this is the version I stuck to for the first time (yes, actually I did it twice!), obtaining a rather surprisingly neat result. Then, I felt particularly bold and attempted a four-layered version (on the photo above). Both cakes were delicious, the latter being much more difficult. It looked messier, but was very moist.
Since this is a “monument cake”, no ingredient substitutions are allowed. Otherwise, it doesn’t have the right to be called “zserbó”. I have increased a bit the filling ingredients amount and prepared the dough in the food processor (instead of hand kneading).
(By the way, here maybe I’ll break the historic aura surrounding gerbeaud, but it is an excellent way to use up previous year’s surplus or an open jar of apricot jam…)
Preparation: 2 hours + cooling + one night in the fridge
Ingredients (for a 20 x 20 cm baking dish, at least 4 cm high):
40g sugar + 1 teaspoon
pinch of salt
1 1/2 teaspoon dry yeast
3 tablespoons warm water (not hot!)
1 jar of apricot jam (normally it should be sieved or mixed, but personally I appreciated whole bits of fruit…)
150 g ground walnuts (freshly ground and moist taste better)
70-100g bitter chocolate
40 g butter
Combine the yeast, the warm water and 1 teaspoon sugar.
In the meantime mix the flour with the butter until fine crumbs are created (or do this with your hands).
Add the yeast mixture, the egg, a pinch of salt, 40g sugar and mix or knead until you obtain a smooth dough.
Divide it into three or four equal parts. Form them into balls, place in a big bowl and cover.
Leave them for 15 minutes.
Line the baking dish with baking paper, leaving it hanging a bit on at least two sides (it will be easier to remove the baked cake).
Sprinkle a rolling pin and the rolling surface with flour. Roll out the first ball into the baking dish’s dimensions. (Here my friend A. gave me a very simple trick consisting of placing the baking dish next to the rolled out pastry, first in height and afterwards in width. Then you simply cut out the square with a knife).
Transfer the rolled out and measured layer delicately and put on the bottom of the dish.
Spread it with some apricot jam and sprinkle with walnuts.
Repeat the operations, finishing with a layer of pastry. (If you have four pastry layers, there should be three filling layers).
Cover the cake and put aside for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Bake the gerbeaud for 30-40 minutes until golden.
Remove it from the oven and let it cool down completely.
Melt the chocolate and the butter.
Turn the cake upside down (the bottom is neater so the top surface will be neater too, I found this idea on the Hungarian desszert.eu website) and put back into the baking dish with the baking paper.
Spread the chocolate – butter mixture on the cake and put it into the fridge.
Serve cut into rectangles.