My grandparents lived in a small home that my grandfather built, stone by stone, and the majority of what we ate came from the vegetables and fruit they grew themselves, or from the animals they tended to. Chocolate and sugar were. at that time, luxuries they just couldn’t afford. I cringe, to this day, knowing how my grandmother would have made this dessert for me, every time asked, if she were able to.
My daughter had a friend over earlier this past week in order to plan what they were going to do during their sleepover scheduled for tonight. My daughter looked at me, with her doe llike eyes, and asked, ever so sweetly, “Mom, can we make that special dessert?” I couldn’t refuse. I just wish I could send a piece overseas to my grandmother as my valentine's day gift to her.
This special dessert is the ultimate Valentine’s day cake, not just because of its decadence, but because it is attached to a romantic love story as well.
|Clara Ward and Rigó Jancsi, 1905|
Rigó Jancsi gained popularity in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire and is named after Rigó Jancsi a famous Hungarian Gypsy violinist who seduced and married Clara Ward, Princess de Caraman-Chimay, the only daughter of E. B. Ward, American millionaire and the Belgian Prince de Caraman-Chimays wife.
Rigó Jancsi (born Johann Rigó in Székesfehérvár) had traveled in England, France and Germany before he met the love of his life. He found Princess Klara, née Ward, daughter of a Detroit millionaire in the Paris restaurant during the 1896 Christmas season. They traveled through Europe, including a stay in Rijeka before coming to Székesfehérvár to visit his parents who were dirt poor. All of Hungary was scandalized by the love affair and the Caraman Schimay family did everything they could to undermine the relationship.
But Princess Klara divorced Prince Josef and Rigó divorced his wife. They became Hungary's beautiful couple in 1905, sometimes requiring police protection from the crowds who surrounded them. They often stayed at Nemzeti Szálló, a hotel still standing in Blaha Lujza tér. It was there that Rigó is supposed to have invented his confectioner's masterpiece, a chocoholic's dream, the Rigójancsi sütemény, in honor of his blonde princess. A friend of his, a confectioner, collaborated with Rigó in the making of the sweet. From 1910 it became enormously popular and available from cukrászdas.
Considered the "queen" of Hungarian cakes, it is cube-shaped, with two large layers of chocolate sponge cake - top and bottom - between which is a thick layer of very rich, heavy cream filling, and topped with a chocolate fonadant. The filling is extremely delicate and difficult to make, since if the chocolate is too warm when mixed with the foamy cream, the cream will run. Or, if it is not warm enough, the chocolate will end up as lumps in the filling.
Rigó and Klara settled in a castle in Egypt where she taught him to read and write. But, she turned out to be fickle. When they went back to Paris on a visit, she fell in love with a Spaniard and lost her passion for Jancsi. In the end, she married an Italian, Ricciardi, who was a mere stationmaster of the Vesuvian Railway. The only remnant of this romance is Sütemény Rigójancsi. Today, more than 170 cukrászdas in Hungary sell about 32,000 pieces of Sütemény Rigójancsi every year.
Reproduced courtesy of The Budapest Sun, Hungary's leading English-language newspaper
Rigó Jancsi: The Recipe
- 2 tbsp flour
- 2 tbsp butter
- 3 oz. unsweetened chocolate
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 4 eggs, separated
- Pinch salt
- 1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Melt the chocolate over low heat in a heavy 1-quart saucepan or in the top of a double boiler placed over simmering water. Set the chocolate aside to cool to lukewarm.
Cream the unsalted butter and 1/4 cup of sugar by beating them against the side of a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon, continuing to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the melted chocolate and beat in the egg yolks, one at a time.
Beat the egg whites and a pinch of salt in another mixing bowl, preferably of unlined copper, with a wire whisk or rotary beater, add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and beat until the whites form stiff, unwavering peaks. With a rubber spatula, stir about 1/3 of the whites into the chocolate base, then pour the chocolate mixture over the rest of the whites. Sprinkle the flour lightly on top. Gently fold the flour into the mixture until no white streaks are visible.
Pour the batter into the prepared jellyroll pan, spreading it evenly with a rubber spatula. Bake in the middle of the oven for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the cake shrinks slightly away from the sides of the pan and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven, loosen it from the pan by running a sharp knife around the sides, and turn it out on a rack to cool. shopping list
- 1 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 10 oz. semisweet chocolate, broken in small pieces
- 4 tbsp dark rum
- 1 tsp vanilla
Combine the cream and chocolate in a heavy 1-quart saucepan and stir over medium heat until the chocolate melts. Then reduce the heat to very low and simmer, stirring almost constantly until the mixture thickens into a heavy cream. Pour it into a bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
When the mixture is very cold, pour in the rum and vanilla and beat with a wire whisk or a rotary or electric beater until the filling is smooth and creamy and forms soft peaks when the beater is lifted from the bowl. Do not overbeat or the cream will turn to butter.
Cut the cake in half to make two layers, each 8 1/2 inches wide. Spread the filling, which will be about 2 inches thick over one layer. Set the other layer on top. Refrigerate on a rack for about 1 hour.
· 1 cup fine granulated sugar
Sounds simple, doesn't it? Wish us luck in making it today!