Gerbeaud (Zserbó), or Walnut and Apricot Layered Cake

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):


320g flour

180g butter

40g sugar + 1 teaspoon

pinch of salt

1 egg

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 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.

13 Replies to “Gerbeaud (Zserbó), or Walnut and Apricot Layered Cake”

  1. Hi Sissi,

    Once again, I am very impressed with the result and how you made it into your own unique creation! Congratulations this is a lovely slice and you are closer to the thruth than you think. The original zserbo has two layers for the jam and two layers for the walnuts separately. The three layer approach is actually a shortcut.

    1. Thank you Zsuzsa for this kind comment! I owe everything to your wonderful recipe! I’m happy it doesn’t look like a sacrilege to you… (I didn’t know about the separate layers). I am very proud to read such appreciative words from my Hungarian cuisine guru.

  2. Wyglada swietnie! U mnie tez niedawno bylo ciasto z morelami (faktycznie telepatia miedzy nami dziala, bo i czosnek niedzwiedzi, i morele ;)), choc nie tak spektakularne jak Twoje; mam nadzieje, ze tez uda mi sie niebawem wstawic je na bloga.

    Pozdrawiam serdecznie!

    1. Dzieki! Faktycznie to telepatia albo moze mamy obydwie potrzebe odrobiny koloru po dlugiej zimie? Zostalo mi jeszcze troche dzemu morelowego, wiec czekam na Twoje ciasto!

  3. To z cala pewnoscia rowniez potrzeba odrobiny koloru po zimie, choc wlasciwie nie mozemy sie tu za bardzo skarzyc na dlugie, ciemne i zimne dni na szczescie 😉

    1. Oj tak… Ty pewnie sie juz przyzwyczailas, ale ja co roku nie moge sie nacieszyc, ze na balkonie mi zielono przez cala zime, szczypiorek rosnie, nawet ten z Japonii, ze czapki nie zalozylam od kiedy tu jestem, ze ocieplane buty to dla mnie abstrakcja… czuje sie prawie jak w Cannes 😉

      1. Fakt, juz sie przyzwyczailam, ale co rok tak samo doceniam ) Nie zamienilabym sie juz na polska zime z mrozem i sniegiem… Czapka wprawdzie jest, ale tylko na jakies wyjazdy w gory, gdzie zimniej, buty ocieplane rowniez 😉

    1. Thank you 🙂 I thought it tasted better than looked, but if it looks good to you, than I am very happy!

  4. Wow! This is amazing! I can’t wait to try this out. I’m curious tho. Why yeast? Does the dough rise and does it have a bready texture?

    1. Thank you for kind words! Maybe it doesn’t look amazing, but the taste is simply fabulous. I remember I was sceptical until I tasted it and then I was speechless.
      The dough rises a bit, but doesn’t really have a bready texture. It’s rather crumbly, but not dry… Difficult to explain. I love baking with yeast, so when I saw it I even haven’t looked for other recipes. Let me know if you try it! The important thing is the apricot jam. I have made an experiment with some other jams and the cake was very disappointing and ordinary.

  5. It certainly looks amazing! Thanks for the heads up on the jam. I was thinking of using some other jam since I have them on hand but not the apricot. Ok, I promise I’ll do it the original way first before attempting to “crazy-fy” the cake like I always do to recipes 😀 We have an abundance of local fruits and I’ve been making lots of jams, that’s why the idea. Will let you know the results when I get some time on my hands to make this. Thanks!

    1. Ping, if you don’t have good quality apricot jam, maybe it’s better to try with your favourite… I think passion fruit might be delicious. I have tried it with plum jam and it wasn’t excellent, but still very good. Maybe passionfruit would taste better. (I don’t want to put you off!)

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