Rigó Jancsi: A Hungarian Cake with a Detroit Connection!

Rigó Jancsi (pronounced ree-go yon-chee) is available at Zingerman’s today and is the first of many Hungarian tortes we plan on making this year. Our recent trip to Hungary to experience their foodways first hand will yield many treats for Ann Arborites in the months to come. The Rigó Jancsi is a Bakehouse staff favorite already, (we’ve been eating the test batches) and it has a spicy background with a Detroit twist!

Rigó Jancsi is one of the classic late 19th century Austria-Hungarian coffeehouse cakes named after a famous Hungarian Gypsy violinist of the time. It has two layers of a light chocolate chiffon filled with chocolate rum buttercream, brushed with apricot preserves and glazed with bittersweet chocolate ganache and is traditionally served in a square cut piece.

The story behind the cake has many versions, but the most common is that Rigó Jancsi entertained the American stage performer and Belgian princess Clara Ward with his singing and violin playing in a Paris restaurant frequented by Ward and her royal husband of the time, Prince Joseph. Ward was smitten by Rigó and slipped him her diamond as he serenaded the room. They soon ran away together, and their scandalous affair inspired a baker in Budapest to name the torte after him.

There’s a local connection here too as Clara Ward was a native of Detroit, the daughter of Eber Brock Ward, who was thought to be the first Michigan millionaire. Clara led a very international life, living in many countries and married to many different men. Let’s celebrate her independence and joie de vivre by eating a piece of Rigo Jancsi!