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Zserbo Cakes step by step

zserbo cake

A Hungarian Christmas classic. The apricot jam and walnut filling is encased in crumbly pastry layers, finished with a smooth chocolate top. My whole close and extended family expects these at Christmas since I first made them a couple of years ago. My very first attempt is here on the pictures. Every year I come back to this recipe.
Couple of things I learned over he years:
– you can be generous with the filling it’s not going to slide apart easily
– more jam is better than less jam
– dark chocolate is better than milk chocolate for the top

Ingredients (makes 50 pieces of small cakes, think match-box size)

  • 500g [4 cups] flour
  • 250g butter [2.2 sticks](room temperature)
  • 4 tbs of caster sugar
  • 1 tbs vanilla essence
  • 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 100 ml [0.5 cup] sour cream
  • 50 ml  [0.2 cup] milk
  • half a packet of a 7 gram dried yeast – about 1 heaped teaspoon

For the filling

  • 300 gram, [0.7 lb] ground walnuts
  • 200 gram [0.45 lb] icing/powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla essence
  • 1 jar, 500 ml apricot jam

For the chocolate top

  • 120 g dark chocolate  – for baking and cake covering (at least or over 50% cocoa content)
  • about 2 tablespoons sunflower oil (or any neutral tasting oil, like vegetable oil)

zserbo cake

How to Make

  1. Crumble the flour and soft butter together, add the sugar, salt, bicarbonate of soda, dried yeast and combine.
  2. Make a well in the middle, add the egg yolk sour cream and milk, work it into a smooth dough.
  3. Divide into 3 even balls and let them rest for 15 minutes
  4. Line a baking sheet with grease proof paper, and preheat oven to 180°C (350°F, gas mark 4)
  5. Using a rolling-pin, roll the first dough ball into a thin square shape (as much as possible) on a lightly floured surface. It has to be quite thin, 2-3 mm (- 1/3 of a pencil).
  6. Lay the first sheet onto the baking tray (I roll the sheet onto the well floured rolling pin then unravel on the tray), spread the apricot jam generously. For easy application might need to warm the jam up in the microwave, usually only need a couple of seconds.
  7. Once the jam is on sprinkle with half of the walnut and icing/powdered sugar mixture
  8. Roll out the second sheet, place it onto the first and proceed as before, cover with the jam then the sugary walnut.
  9. Finally roll out the third and top layer and place it on. Tap it down gently, lightly prick with the fork all over and cook for 25-30 min on 180°C (350°F, gas mark 4). Keep an eye on it, cover with tin foil if it’s trying to get too brown, should have a light biscuit colour.
  10. Take out the oven and let it cool completely
  11. For the chocolate top, melt about 120 gram dark chocolate in a glass bowl over a pan over simmering water. I used 52% chocolate here.
  12. Once the chocolate is melted add about 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil, depends on your chocolate too how much you need (olive oil is not good for this). You will get a shiny smooth manageable melted chocolate. Pour it onto the middle of the cake and spread it around right over the edges either with a wide blade knife dipped in water or just by tilting the tray around with the cake, the chocolate should be runny enough to cover it evenly.
  13. Let it cool and cut it into slices. These are smallish delicate cakes, 5cm x 3cm (~2″x1″) in size. From the above quantity I got exactly 50 nice pieces plus some side trimmings which I had to eat straight away for testing purposes.

2 thoughts on “Zserbo Cakes step by step

    1. Hello Nino, No need to fill out a pan exactly, I just use my biggest shallow baking tray the one used for cookies lined with parchment paper (my tray is 35cm x 43cm – 14″ x 17″). Place the rolled out and more or less equal sized square shaped layers one by one on top of each other with the filling in between. The cake will be realtively low in height (~ 3cm/ 1″), after baking you will have a biscuit coloured flat and wide slightly oval shaped cake in the middle of the baking tray, ready to be covered with the chocolate when cooled. The thinner and uneven edges are perfect for testing, usually go in seconds. After tidying up the edges, the rest can be cut into nice even slices. If you have a deeper pan you can also try turning it face down and bake the cake on the back of it.

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