In my last post, I told you the tale of the ephemeral love between Rigó Jancsi and Clara Ward, and how it gave birth to a cake which, all things considered, should be called the Princess Clara more than the Rigó Jancsi. I also reported on my search for the best Rigó recipe, both in the literature and in Budapest pastry shops big and small. After having poo-pooed pretty much everybody else’s recipe, I guess it’s my turn to share my own. No pressure, right?!
I’ve tried to address all the complaints I had about the other versions I tasted: dense, dry, hard to cut with a fork, not chocolatey enough. At the same time, I wanted to make the dessert more interesting and modern. So let’s go through my cake layers one by one:
- Instead of the usual chocolate sponge, I’m making a light carrot cake, because this dessert needs more flavors going on than just chocolate! Why carrot, you may ask? Carrot cakes can be traced back to Europe in the Middle Ages, and they remain fairly popular in Hungarian cuisine. The Internet even turns up an old Hungarian family recipe for a “Gypsy” carrot cake, and I also found the menu of a Romani cuisine dinner where carrot cake was served for dessert. This seals the loose association with Rigó Jancsi (who was a “Gypsy” music fiddler) in my mind. Incidentally, I just noticed that George Lang has a carrot cake recipe just before the Rigó Jancsi in his Cuisine of Hungary cookbook! My cake, however, is adapted from one in Shirley O. Corriher’s BakeWise. It also has a touch of cocoa to stay in touch with the older Rigó recipes, but this isn’t the dominant flavor.
- I’m not adding any apricot jam — I already have the Sachertorte for that!
- Next, the chocolate mousse. All the Hungarian recipes use whipped cream as their main ingredient, but replacing it with egg whites makes for a much airier and better chocolate mousse. In fact, my mousse is so good you might just want to make a big bowl of it and skip the rest of the Rigó! (If you do that, you can double the amount of sugar.) This is essentially my grandmother’s recipe, with a few tweaks. My grandmother made chocolate mousse with two ingredients: eggs and chocolate – nothing else! No sugar, perhaps because her chocolate wasn’t as dark as mine, and because French desserts are traditionally much less sweet than American ones. She also melted her chocolate in a saucepan with water, which is a small miracle, since chocolate and water have a pretty complicated relationship: most will tell you that combining them is worse than crossing the streams, while others with a better understanding of the chemistry at play will devise modernist preparation techniques like this one. You can read this article to better understand the challenge. I don’t really know how my grandmother did it, but I’m melting the chocolate in a water bath with both the egg yolks and water, and the lecithin from the yolks helps to preserve the emulsion. So in the end, my ingredients are the same as hers, save for a little bit of added sugar – only the technique differs.
- I’m stealing the idea of having another filling layer made with whipped cream from Lúd Pastry Shop and Café. Not only does it make the dessert more visually appealing, it also gives me a chance to add some rum to the cake, as some recipes do. With carrot, chocolate, and rum, we now have a reasonably interesting flavor profile.
- My cake top resolutely strays from classic Rigó. I didn’t want to have another layer of cake, because then it’s impossible to cut it with a fork without smooshing the whole dessert. Common sense, people!!! So instead, I’m sprinkling some cocoa powder, as a nod to the many cocoa-heavy recipes I’ve read and tasted.
Inevitably, there will be obtuse people to declare that this isn’t a Rigó Jancsi. Imagine the heresy: I’m using chocolate! carrots! a sous-vide pouch and a water bath! RAW egg whites! a single cake layer! two layers of filling!
No problem. Let them eat their subpar pastries. Everyone else can try my recipe instead.
Chocolate carrot cake
Yields 1 cake
60 g AP flour
20 g almond flour
3 g cocoa powder, sifted
4 g baking powder
0.8 g salt
40 g (less than 1) egg
8 g (about 1/2) egg yolk
120 g light brown sugar
55 g refined peanut oil
3 g vanilla extract
75 g peeled carrots, finely grated
canola oil spray
- In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, combine the AP flour, almond flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.
- In a separate bowl, mix the egg, egg yolk, and brown sugar. Whisk in the peanut oil and vanilla extract.
- Pour the wet mixture over the dry ingredients, and mix on low speed until homogeneous. Add the carrots, and mix again.
- Place a 7.5 cm tall, 15 cm x 15 cm square ring mold onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and spray the insides with canola oil. Pour the batter into the mold.
- Place a dish of water on the bottom rack of the oven, and heat to 175 C / 350 F. Put the cake on the middle rack, and bake for about 25 minutes, until the temperature at the center reaches 98 C / 209 F.
- Take the cake out of the oven, and transfer to a cooling rack. Once cool, run a knife along the edges to unmold. If the bottom of the cake is slightly burnt or if the top isn’t flat, cut off with a serrated knife. (However, if you follow this recipe, neither of these things should happen!)
- Place the cake on a small cutting board lined with parchment paper. Wash the ring mold, and put it back around the cake. Reserve in the refrigerator.
Yields 1 cake
70 g (about 4) egg yolks
40 g water
150 g extra dark (63%) chocolate baking chips
140 g ( about 4) egg whites
20 g superfine sugar
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and water. Transfer to a sous-vide pouch with the chocolate, vacuum-seal, and warm in a 49 C / 120 F water bath for about 5 minutes, until the chocolate is completely melted. If you don’t have a vacuum sealer and a temperature-controlled water bath, a Ziploc bag, a pot of water, and a thermometer work too.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to soft peaks. While mixing, add the sugar, then whip to hard peaks.
- Take the chocolate mixture out of the sous-vide pouch and transfer to a separate bowl, thoroughly scraping the pouch. Immediately mix with a spatula until homogeneous.
- Add a little bit of the whipped egg whites into the chocolate and mix, then carefully fold in the rest in a couple of additions.
- Pour the chocolate mousse over the carrot cake layer, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, until firm to the touch.
Yields 1 cake
20 g dark rum
2.5 g powdered gelatin
2 g vanilla extract
200 g heavy cream
20 g superfine sugar
- Pour the rum into a small bowl, and sprinkle with the gelatin. Let bloom for 5 minutes.
- Microwave the rum and gelatin for 10 seconds, stir well until the gelatin is completely dissolved, then mix in the vanilla extract. Set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the cream to soft peaks. While the mixer is running, add the sugar, beat for 5 more seconds, then add the rum mixture and beat to hard peaks.
- Spread the cream over the chocolate mousse layer and smooth the top using an offset spatula. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, until set.
Yields 1 cake (9 squares)
Rigó Jancsi cake (as assembled in previous steps)
about 3 g cocoa powder
- Sprinkle the cake with cocoa powder using a sugar shaker or a pouch made of cheesecloth.
- Remove the ring mold by running a hot knife along the insides. Cut the cake into 9 squares and serve.