22 Delicious Hungarian Pastries and Cakes

From caramel-topped Dobos torte to vanilla-laced krémes, you'll find these classics in Budapest's pastry shops.

An Esterházy torte and a krémes served at Ruszwurm pastry shop in Budapest's Castle Hill. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Hungarian pastries reflect many influences: some hark back to the Middle Ages, others have Ottoman Turkish origins, still others show French inspirations that seeped in through neighboring Austria. Starting in the mid-19th century, Hungary's pastry industry came into its own and unleashed a range of tasty creations.

The year 1884 was especially memorable: Two bakers, Emil Gerbeaud and Vilmos Ruszwurm, each took over a pastry shop that went on to transform Budapest's confectionery and still exists today: Café Gerbeaud and Ruszwurm. This was also when József C. Dobos invented the famous Dobos torte.

Similar to Vienna, Budapest enjoys a thriving pastry culture: pastry shops (cukrászda) are peppered across the city, with each neighborhood boasting at least a couple. Some people visit them to socialize – there's also coffee, tea, and savory biscuits – others just pop in to pick up cakes for the Sunday family meal.

The melted-cheese topped pogácsa (sajtos) is among the most popular of its kind. Photo: Tas Tóbiás
The melted-cheese topped pogácsa (sajtos) is among the most popular of its kind. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

#1 - Pogácsa: Dating back to medieval Hungary, these soft sconelike snacks are among the most traditional and widespread across the country. They come in different sizes and varieties: topped with melted cheese, studded with pork cracklings (töpörtyűs), filled with cottage cheese (túrós), for example. Both bakeries and pastry shops sell pogácsa, but those often can’t hold a candle to a fresh homemade version.


Studels (rétes) evolved from the baklava following Hungary's occupation by Ottoman Turkey in the 16-17th centuries. Photo: Tas Tóbiás
Studels (rétes) evolved from the baklava following Hungary's occupation by Ottoman Turkey in the 16-17th centuries. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

#2 - Strudel (rétes): Strudels evolved from the baklava to which Hungarians were exposed during the country’s occupation by Ottoman Turkey in the 16-17th centuries. Later, the strudels spread across the Habsburg Empire. What makes them unique in Hungary is the sheer variety of fillings, both sweet and savory. Have you had your fair share of apple strudels in Vienna? No problem, try one with cottage cheese (túró), cabbage, or poppy seeds in Budapest.


The poppy-seeds and walnut-filled bejglis appear on many tables in Hungary during the Christmas season. Photo: Tas Tóbiás
The poppy-seeds and walnut-filled bejglis appear on many tables in Hungary during the Christmas season. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

#3 - Bejgli: During Christmas, few dining tables in Hungary are absent these sweet rolls filled with finely ground and sweetened poppy seeds and walnuts. People usually place them on a plate side by side because there's a folk belief that poppy seeds bring prosperity and walnuts keep trouble away. Bejgli is popular across countries in Central Europe.

The pozsonyi kifli is a variation of the bejgli and usually available in pastry shops throughout the year. Photo: Tas Tóbiás
The pozsonyi kifli is a variation of the bejgli and usually available in pastry shops throughout the year. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

#4 - Pozsonyi kifli: A variation of the bejgli, above. During Austria-Hungary, bakers in Bratislava (Pozsony) were so skilled at making of these filled buns that people from as far as Budapest would order deliveries. The ones containing poppy seeds come in a crescent shape, whereas those with a walnut filling resemble a letter C. Unlike the bejgli, the pozsonyi kifli is available throughout the year.


Traditionally, chimney cakes (kürtőskalács) are roasted over charcoal. Photo: Tas Tóbiás
Traditionally, chimney cakes (kürtőskalács) are roasted over charcoal. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

#5 - Chimney cake (kürtőskalács): A sugar-coated dough wrapped around a baking spit and roasted over fire, the Transylvanian chimney cake flaunts a caramelized crust and a chewy, soft interior. Kürtőskalács was traditionally prepared for family celebrations, but these days Budapest vendors make all sorts of filled and ornate varieties. Feel free to just tear into them.


Filled with fruit preserves, the fánk was traditionally eaten during the Carnival (farsang) season. Photo: Tas Tóbiás
Filled with fruit preserves, the fánk was traditionally eaten during the Carnival (farsang) season. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

#6 - Donut (fánk): You might know it as krapfen, Berliner, bombolone, sufganiyah, or donut – fánk is the Hungarian version of this centuries-old deep-fried pastry traditionally eaten in the days of Carnival. Besides fruit jam, a fánk might also come filled with chocolate or vanilla custard these days. Most bakeries and grocery stores in Hungary serve them year-round.


The signature feature of the Dobos torte is the shiny, brittle caramel topping. Photo: Tas Tóbiás
The signature feature of the Dobos torte is the shiny, brittle caramel topping. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

#7 - Dobos torte: It was confectioner József C. Dobos who in 1884 created this sponge cake layered with chocolate buttercream. The Dobos torte's signature feature is the shiny, brittle caramel topping. After pathetic attempts by competitors to replicate his concoction, Dobos made the recipe public and the cake has remained a staple of pastry shops in countries of the former Habsburg Monarchy.

Named after a prominent aristocratic family in Hungary, the Esterházy torte is popular across Central Europe. Photo: Tas Tóbiás
Named after a prominent aristocratic family in Hungary, the Esterházy torte is popular across Central Europe. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

#8 - Esterházy torte: The Esterházy torte consists of vanilla and rum-spiked buttercream layers that are sandwiched between ground walnuts (or almonds) and encased in white fondant inscribed with chocolate. It’s very popular in both Budapest and Vienna and almost all pastry shops serve it. Various origin stories exist but the Esterházy torte likely first appeared in Budapest pastry shops in the late 19th century and was named after one of the wealthiest persons in Hungary, the gourmand-aristocrat Prince Pál Antal Esterházy (1786-1866).


Hungary's custard cake, the krémes, was inspired by the Napoleon pastry. Photo: Tas Tóbiás
Hungary's custard cake, the krémes, was inspired by the Napoleon pastry. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

#9 - Krémes: Similar to a Napoleon pastry, krémes is a cherished custard slice across Central Europe with each country flaunting a slightly different version. In Hungary, apart from regular krémes – vanilla custard enclosed by puff pastry – there's also "francia krémes," which comes with an extra layer of whipped cream and a caramel glaze on top.

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The minyon evolved from the petit fours and has remained well-liked in Hungary to this day. Photo: Tas Tóbiás
The minyon evolved from the petit fours and has remained well-liked in Hungary to this day. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

#10 - Minyon: Local confectioner Henrik Kugler introduced in Hungary the petit fours – those dainty, bite-sized, delicate French cakes – in the 19th century. Here, they grew in size and one of them, what came to be known as the minyon, became especially cherished. The color of the icing indicates the flavor of the buttercream filling: brown for coffee, dark for chocolate. But pink is most popular, sporting a rum-soaked sponge cake inside.


Originally made for the Jewish holiday of Purim, the flódni has since spread into the Budapest mainstream. Photo: Tas Tóbiás
Originally made for the Jewish holiday of Purim, the flódni has since spread into the Budapest mainstream. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

#11 - Flódni: This eye-catching cake features layers of plum jam, grated apples slickened with honey, sweetened ground walnuts, and ground poppy seeds. The flódni originated among Hungary's Jewish community whose members traditionally made it for the Purim holiday, but today it's widely available across Budapest pastry shops (recipe).


The striking pink hat of the punch torte makes it a crowd-pleaser for good reason. Photo: Tas Tóbiás
The striking pink hat of the punch torte makes it a crowd-pleaser for good reason. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

#12 - Punch torte: A classic of pastry shops across Budapest and Vienna, the punch torte's signature feature is the striking pink icing on top. A layer of apricot preserves and raisins are sandwiched between rows of rum-infused sponge cakes.

The Linzer & Isler cookies have traditionally accompanied the afternoon tea. Photo: Tas Tóbiás
The Linzer & Isler cookies have traditionally accompanied the afternoon tea. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

#13 - Linzer & Isler cookies: Both of these fruit jam-filled cookies made their way to Hungary from neighboring Austria with a few twists and turns along the way. Typically, people enjoy them with the afternoon tea. The main difference between the two is the chocolate glaze that blankets the Isler.


The Rigó Jancsi chocolate cake was inspired by the Hungarian-Gypsy violin virtuoso. Photo: Tas Tóbiás
The Rigó Jancsi chocolate cake was inspired by the Hungarian-Gypsy violin virtuoso. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

#14 - Rigó Jancsi: This dark-hued sponge cake is named after the Hungarian Gypsy violinist whose story scandalized 19th-century Europe: Rigó seduced Princess Chimay, an American-Belgian socialite, who ran away with him, leaving behind her husband and two children. Their romance didn't last very long, unlike the chocolate cream-filled cake Rigó inspired, which became a classic, though fewer and fewer Budapest pastry shops serve it these days.


Blanketed in chocolate and split by a layer of whipped cream, Indiáner is a choux pastry cake that used to be popular across Budapest and Vienna. Photo: Tas Tóbiás
Blanketed in chocolate and split by a layer of whipped cream, Indiáner is a choux pastry cake that used to be popular across Budapest and Vienna. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

#15 - Indiáner: These puffy black-and-white cakes were all the rage a hundred years ago in pastry shops across Budapest and Vienna. Blanketed in chocolate and split by a layer of whipped cream, Indiáners are delicious but a hassle to make. Auguszt pastry shop is among the few places in Budapest that still serves them.


Gesztenyeszív is a chocolate-encrusted chestnut treat molded in the shape of a heart. Photo: Tas Tóbiás
Gesztenyeszív is a chocolate-encrusted chestnut treat molded in the shape of a heart. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

#16 - Gesztenyszív: How about a post-meal dessert that won't knock you out for the rest of the day? These chestnut paste treats coated in crackly chocolate are light and winsome. Molded in the shape of a heart, they're sold in almost all Budapest pastry shops.


Often homemade, the tepertős-szilvás papucs encloses plum jam and pork cracklings. Photo: Tas Tóbiás
Often homemade, the tepertős-szilvás papucs encloses plum jam and pork cracklings. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

#17 - Tepertős-szilvás papucs: Prune jam and pork cracklings? In the same pastry? What may sound like a bizarre combination turns out to produce a delicious sweet-savory snack (these two ingredients are widespread and adored in Hungary). People usually make tepertős-szilvás papucs at home but a few pastry shops will also have it.


The somlói galuska is a rum-laced sponge cake layered with vanilla custard, chocolate and whipped cream, and a sprinkling of walnuts and raisins. Photo: Tas Tóbiás
The somlói galuska is a rum-laced sponge cake layered with vanilla custard, chocolate and whipped cream, and a sprinkling of walnuts and raisins. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

#18 - Somlói galuska: Despite dating back only to the 1950s, the somlói galuska has become a beloved dessert dish across Hungary. It consists of a rum-infused sponge cake soaked in vanilla custard, chocolate cream, and whipped cream, with a sprinkling of walnuts and raisins on top. Apart from pastry shops, restaurants also serve it.


The Gerbeaud slice originates from the historic pastry shop in Budapest that first made it. Photo: Tas Tóbiás
The Gerbeaud slice originates from the historic pastry shop in Budapest that first made it. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

#19 - Gerbeaud slice: Created at the historic Café Gerbeaud, this bite-sized cake is a standard of most pastry shops in Hungary: Under a chocolate glaze lie layers of a sweet dough alternating with a filling of ground walnuts and apricot jam.


The Rákóczi túrós piles a generous layer of meringue atop a túró cake foundation. Photo: Tas Tóbiás
The Rákóczi túrós piles a generous layer of meringue atop a túró cake foundation. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

#20 - Rákóczi túrós: Even most Hungarians mistakenly believe that this meringue and apricot jam-topped túró cake is named after the country's famous prince and revolutionary leader, Ferenc II Rákóczi, but the truth is more banal: the moniker is a hat-tip to baker János Rákóczi, who invented the cake in the 1930s.


According to popular lore, the Kossuth kifli was a favorite of Lajos Kossuth, Hungary's revolutionary hero of 1848. Photo: Tas Tóbiás
According to popular lore, the Kossuth kifli was a favorite of Lajos Kossuth, Hungary's revolutionary hero of 1848. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

#21 - Kossuth kifli: Typically made at home, these half-moon shaped treats were supposedly a favorite of Lajos Kossuth, a national hero and leader of the 1848 Hungarian revolution against Habsburg Austria. It's a simple and delicious sponge cake, sprinkled with bits of browned walnuts or almonds. Some people prepare it annually on March 15th, in memory of Kossuth and the launch of the revolution.


Marzipan figures of all shapes and sizes are available at many Budapest pastry shops. Photo: Tas Tóbiás
Marzipan figures of all shapes and sizes are available at many Budapest pastry shops. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

#22 - Marzipan: Similar to Italy, Germany, and Spain, Hungary enjoys a thriving marzipan culture with Budapest pastry shops serving colorful figures of all shapes and sizes (marzipan is made from a mixture of almond paste and sugar). There's even a dedicated Marzipan Museum in Szentendre, a small town outside Budapest.

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