Looking for the sweetest treat in Budapest? Follow our lead and taste the oldest Hungarian pastry, the Transylvanian chimney cake!
No matter the season, Budapest is filled with the sweet scent of kürtőskalács, or chimney cake, all year round – but especially during the winter season. As one of the most popular delicacies of Christmas markets in Budapest, the chimney cake is as sweet as it gets. Needless to say, it’s best eaten hot off the fire.
As a beloved treat of Hungarian cuisine, this Transylvanian pastry is traditionally topped with cinnamon, vanilla, cocoa, or walnut sprinkles, but many of the kürtőskalács kiosks in Budapest twisted the original form and flavors. Nowadays, you can taste special variations, like cone-shaped ones filled with ice cream or Nutella, or the chimneys cut in half with sweet – or savory! – toppings. Get your appetite ready, we’re taking you on a complete tour of chimney cakes around Budapest!
Chimney cake, or kürtőskalács as the Hungarians call it, got its name from its unique shape that looks like a tunnel or a chimney. Crusty on the outside, soft doughy inside, they are made from sweet dough and baked over charcoal until the coating becomes golden-brown with the sugar on top caramelized. But chimney cakes were not always sweet.
Although the delicacy is often called the oldest Hungarian pastry, its first mention appeared in a German manuscript back in Medieval times. In the 15th century, it was described as a strip of raised dough baked on a rotating spit in a helical shape. Since then chimney cakes have come a long way, with different shapes and flavors all over Central-Eastern Europe. In Slovakia, they’re called ‘trdelnik’, while in the Czech Republic you should ask for a ‘trdo’.
The Hungarian chimney cake has its roots in Transylvania with the first known recipe from 1784. Interestingly, it didn’t mention sweetening – both the sugar and almond coating came later. It was only in the 20th century that sweet flavors became essential parts of the recipe, bringing cinnamon, coconut, and cocoa coatings to the table. Today it is very common as street food in Budapest and probably the most popular dessert of the Christmas markets.
Now that you know all about the history of chimney cakes, it’s time to grab a bite (or two) for yourselves. Luckily, Budapest is full of great cafés and kiosks serving heavenly chimney cakes in all shapes, sizes, and flavors. But let’s start with the traditional ones.
If you’re craving for something sweet while roaming Váci utca, the main shopping street in Budapest, head to Molnár’s Kürtőskalács Kávézó close to Fővám tér.With indoor and outdoor seating areas, this place will serve you with 8 flavors (vanilla, cinnamon, walnut, almond, chocolate, coconut, cocoa, and poppy seed) all year round.
09:00 – 20:00
If you’re wandering around Városliget (City Park), the Széchenyi Bath, and the Budapest Zoo, don’t miss out on Vitéz Kürtős’ Édes Mackó (Sweet Bear in the Zoo) chimney cake café. Besides the usual coatings, here you can taste all the fruity flavors, like raspberry, strawberry, and blueberry too.
tuesday 09:30 – 16:00
wednesday 09:30 – 16:00
thursday 09:30 – 16:00
friday 09:30 – 16:00
saturday 09:30 – 16:00
No chimney cake café list is complete without mentioning Kató Néni’s(Auntie Kató). With two permanent locations in Budapest (one by St Stephen’s Basilica, and another in Városliget), she is welcoming you with traditional flavors, mini and rainbow chimney cakes, as well as stuffed variations where the cake cones are filled with ice cream. Plus, you can ask for lactose-free versions too
- 1146 Budapest, Állatkerti körút 2
- 1051 Budapest, Budapest, Október 6 utca
- 2051 Biatorbágy, Budaörsi út 4.
tuesday 08:00 – 20:00
wednesday 08:00 – 20:00
thursday 08:00 – 20:00
friday 08:00 – 20:00
saturday 08:00 – 15:00
We’ve already mentioned some of the special takes on chimney cakes, like the ones filled with ice cream or the colorful cakes, but the list is far from complete yet. Read on to discover the full variety of delicious chimney cakes in Budapest.
Can’t decide between a chimney cake and an ice cream? You will love Töltött Kürtős kiosk where your coups of ice cream come in the sugary pastry cone. Alternatively, you can get your cake cones filled with strawberry and whipped cream, Nutella and whipped cream, or chocolate-banana. With no permanent location, the kiosk is usually present at Christmas markets and street food festivals in Budapest. Enjoy the sugar rush!
While you’re at a Christmas market in Budapest, be sure to wash chimney cakes off with some mulled wine. And if you’ve got enough sweetness already, taste some great Hungarian wine!
Still not full? At Hoppácska, you can munch on sweet or savory chimney cakes with many types of classic and extravagant toppings. Here the warm cake serves as an edible plate, on which you can have a full sweet or savory meal, ranging from chocolate cream and fruits to piquant Hungarian lecsó or spicy meatballs. The permanent menu contains 3 salty and 2 sweet options, with new flavors coming every week.
11:00 – 20:00
If you’re up for the challenge of making chimney cakes at home, we’ve got a pretty sweet recipe for you. Before you get started, make sure to have a spool or a dough holder to wrap the dough around. If nothing else, you can use a rolling pin (or a cleaned wine bottle).
Ingredients: (6-8 pieces)
For the dough:
- 500g plain flour
- 150g unsalted melted butter
- 5g salt
- 15g yeast
- 200ml milk
- 3 egg yolks
For the coating:
- 200g castor sugar
- 1tsp cinnamon
- 1tbsp cocoa powder (optional)
- 1tsp vanilla powder (optional)
Warm up the milk, add the sugar and yeast, and let it sit for approx. 5 minutes until it rises. Add the flour and salt to the mixture, then add the egg yolk and the melted butter. Mix it all together, then cover the dough and let it sit for approx. 1 hour until it doubles in size.
Once it’s risen, knead the dough until it’s soft, and divide it into 6-8 pieces. Roll them into long strings. Now it’s time to wrap the dough around the spool or holder. First, grease the holder with butter, then start wrapping the dough around, carefully sticking it at both ends. Once it’s nice and wrapped, roll the whole thing on a rolling board to make it flat and even (you shouldn’t see any holes in it).
Prepare the coating. Mix the sugar, cinnamon, cocoa, and vanilla powder in a flat plate, and roll the dough in it until all sides are covered. Now you can start baking your chimney cakes. You can use a grill, a campfire, or an oven. If you go for the oven version, pre-heat it to 200C and bake it for 10-15 minutes. You will need to place the holders on the baking tray in a way that allows you to roll the cakes from time to time – you want the coating evenly crusted and caramelized.
It’s ready when the caramelized sugar scent fills the whole kitchen with its mouthwatering aroma. The topping is up to you, but we recommend cinnamon, sugar, walnut sprinkles, or coconut flakes, but you can also get Nutella and ice cream ready. And now, it’s time to enjoy your meal, or as the Hungarians say: jó étvágyat!
- What is chimney cake (kürtőskalács)?
- Chimney cake, kürtőskalács, is a tunnel-shaped Transylvanian pastry made of sweet dough. Wrapped around a wooden spool, it’s baked slowly over charcoal until the coating becomes golden-brown with the sugar on top caramelized. Traditionally, it’s topped with cinnamon, vanilla, cocoa, or walnuts sprinkles, but nowadays there are other sweet and salty variants, too.
- Is chimney cake a Hungarian specialty?
- Originally, chimney cake (kürtőskalács) was a Transylvanian treat and is the oldest pastry in Hungary. Today it’s often served as street food, especially during Christmas markets not only in Hungary, but also in Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
- What are the most common flavors of a chimney cake?
- The original flavors of a chimney cake are sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, cocoa, or walnut coating. More special variations include dried and sugar-coated fruits, like strawberry or raspberry, as well as cake cones filled with ice cream or Nutella, but you can also find salty variants, too.