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The Hungarian Dessert That Conquered the White House – With Recipe!

Adrienn Vass 2021.02.19.

It may be said for countless Hungarian main courses that they were developed with the influence of such and such foreign cultures, or that they came to us completely from abroad. Most of our desserts, however, are very much our own, and were born within our borders. Among all Hungarian desserts, aranygaluska (golden dumplings) is perhaps the most successful, since not only is it the eternal star celebrity of Hungarian cuisine, but it also conquered America.

Translated by Tamás Vaski

There is no exact date of aranygaluska’s creation, but the first record of it can be found in a Hungarian dictionary published between 1862 and 1874. It also appeared on July 6, 1862, in a newspaper article titled “Our National Foods,” written by famous Hungarian novelist and statesman Mór Jókai. In his article, Jókai included Torda-style aranygaluska among his list of foods “which make a Hungarian man who lives abroad wish he could return home.”

Without a doubt this is a gem of Hungarian cuisine which everyone knows about, but few people prepare. Truly: the average Hungarian never meets someone who has a problem with aranygaluska – at least in terms of eating it, since its preparation from leavened dough can hide some surprises. Its meticulous preparation is what made aranygaluska a rare visitor in school cafeterias, but when the kitchen staff set their minds to it, every student wanted seconds.

In the mid-20th century, the dessert stepped foot in Hungarian and Jewish Hungarian bakeries around the United States. In 1972, Betty Crocker shared the recipe in her cookbook, calling it Hungarian coffee cake. Nancy Reagan popularized aranygaluska at the White house when she served it during Christmas, after which it became a dessert served regularly. During its popularization in the United States, it was often mixed up with the similar monkey bread, which eventually stuck as the name for both desserts. In fact, the two recipes would later combine into one, meaning that the widespread monkey bread of today is likely the “American version” of aranygaluska.


-For a smaller, clasped cake tin-

For the dough

  • 25 g melted butter
  • 25 g yeast
  • 1 egg
  • 125 g milk
  • 25 g sugar
  • 250 g flour
  • 5 g salt

To sprinkle onto the dough

  • 125 g melted butter
  • 70 g ground walnuts
  • 70 g powdered sugar

For the vanilla frosting

  • 3 dl milk
  • The yolk of 3 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • Seeds from half a vanilla stick or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Knead together the ingredients of the dough, leavened by hand or by machine, then let it sit for 40-60 minutes. Spread it out, then with a dough or cookie cutter cut it into pieces (without excess). The uglier, smaller pieces can go in the lower layer. Mix the ground walnuts with the sugar. Put a layer of dough into an oiled or buttered baking sheet or cake tin, pour butter on it, followed by the sugar and walnut mix. It is possible to make aranygaluska in one layer, but in a cake tin the dough pieces can be stacked one on top another. The point is that the butter and sugared walnut mix be spread throughout. Let the dough sit for another 30 minutes and preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Place the dough into the oven and bake it for half an hour.

For the preparation of the vanilla frosting:

Pour the milk into a bowl. Whisk the egg yolks, the sugar, the vanilla, and the flour into the milk until there are no lumps, then pour the mixture into a skillet and warm it over medium heat. Stir it continuously until it has cooked through and thickened. Serve it while it’s still hot!

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Photos and featured photo by Péter Csákvári/Hungary Today

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