Hungarian Zserbo Slices

Zserbo cake is a traditional Hungarian dessert that is very popular in parts of Slovakia as well. I was surprised when a couple of days ago a friend of mine (from Slovakia living here in the U.S.) came to visit me and when I offered her a slice of Zserbo she asked twice what was the name as she has never heard of it : ) This is how diverse and fascinating Slovak culinary scene is. Hungarian, Austrian, Polish, German, Russian and Ukrainian influence in different parts of the country is obvious when it comes to dining. There are meals that I have never heard of, and tried for the first time when travelling through the country (like Bratislava rolls for example that are only available in and around the capital, Bratislava). Every region has its own traditional culinary scene so unique and often unknown to “outsiders” which is so fascinating and amazing considering the size of the country and a population of only a little over five million people. Travelling through Slovakia is like taking on a delicious and unexpected culinary journey when with every couple of miles you’ll get to taste a completely new dish and/ or sweet treat

Zserbo Slices – layers of the dough, apricot jam and walnuts

Zserbo is named after a Swiss-born Hungarian confectioner Emil Gerbeaud and sometimes it can be looked up under his name too – Gerbeaud Cake (which is pronounced the same as Zserbo). Interesting is that the Zserbo Cake was supposedly not Mr’s Gerbeaud creation and was only invented after he passed and named after him

The Zserbo is a delectable layered cake made of yeasted dough alternating with apricot jam/ butter and ground walnuts all covered in a chocolate glaze. The yeasts in this recipe do not play a significant role and the dough will eventually bake into a thin & crispy biscuit rather than a fluffy pillowy dough. The cake is not too sweet so for me this is an ideal dessert to indulge on but if you’re a sweet tooth you might need to add more sugar than what the recipe states. I grew up on cakes like this one combining nuts (mostly walnuts), apricots or plum butter and/or poppy seeds as these are staples of our sweet cuisine. I guarantee that you’ll fall in love with the combination of tart & sour apricots, earthy walnuts and the sweet chocolate


(for 9 x 9″/ 22 x 22 cm square pan)


400g AP Flour

40g Powdered Sugar

7g Active Dry Yeasts

90g Milk

180g Butter, unsalted & softened

2 Egg Yolks, at room temperature

30g Sour Cream or Thick White Yogurt

Zest from 1 Lemon

A Pinch of Salt

Walnut & Apricot Filling

300g Ground Walnuts

100g Sugar, powdered or coarse

3g Cinnamon

400g Apricot Jam/ Butter, thicker consistency

50g Rum (optional)

Chocolate Glaze

200g Chocolate, chips or bar

30g Butter, unsalted


1. In a bowl of your standing mixer or a bigger mixing bowl combine together 400g of Flour, 40g of Powdered Sugar, Zest from 1 Lemon and a pinch of Salt. Add to dry ingredients 180g of softened unsalted Butter and using a batter attachment or your hand combine all ingredients together until roughly incorporated or until you’ll get a “sand-like-texture”

2. In the meantime, combine together (in a smaller mixing bowl) 90g of Milk (doesn’t have to be warm) with 7g of Active Dry Yeast and stir well. Add 2 Egg Yolks and 30g of Sour Cream and mix together until fully incorporated. Pour liquids into the bowl with flour & butter and using your hand, knead the dough until well incorporated for about 5-7 minutes. The mixer usually doesn’t combine ingredients well at this point so I prefer hand-kneading. The dough will be firm but should be well incorporated, possibly tearing or cracking when pulled. Divide the dough into four equal parts, wrap them into a plastic foil or into a ziplock bag and place into the fridge for half an hour (if you don’t have much time you can skip the fridge part but the dough might be breaking apart when rolled)

3. In the meantime while the dough chills in the fridge prepare the filling. For a Walnut Filling simply mix together 300g of ground Walnuts with 100g of Sugar, and 3g of Cinnamon (more or less up to your taste) and set aside. Mix Apricot Jam/ Butter with 50g of Rum (if using – but trust me, it’s a great kick) or a little bit of water so the jam spreads better and set aside

4. Prepare the baking pan and line it with parchment paper. Take the dough out from the fridge and start with rolling out the first piece of the dough into the size of your baking pan making sure that the dough is big enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Using a fork or skewer poke a few holes into the dough and then spread 1/3 (third) of the Apricot jam on top of it. Sprinkle 1/3 (third) of a Walnut mixture on top of jam and cover with the second rolled-out dough. Repeat the process with the rest of the dough & filling (dough-jam-walnuts-dough-jam-walnuts, etc…). You should end up with a last, fourth layer of the rolled-out dough on the top. Remember to always poke a few holes on the surface of the dough before spreading jam over it. Once the cake is all assembled let it prove at room temperature for 30 minutes before placing it into the oven (make sure to cover the cake in the pan with a clean towel while proving so it won’t dry out)

5. After half an hour of proving place the cake into the oven and bake it for approximately 30 minutes (can be slightly longer or shorter depending on your oven) at 380°F/ 190° Celsius. Once baked, let the cake cool down completely before removing it from the pan. When cooled, carefully remove the cake from the baking pan and turn it upside down. Cover the whole cake with a chocolate glaze and wait until the glaze sets before slicing (I know, it’s not always possible : ) To make a Chocolate glaze simply melt 200g of Chocolate with 30g of Butter in a pot over boiling water (double-boiling method). The cake stays fresh for quite a long time, roughly up to four days. Store sliced Zserbo in an airtight container and keep it in the fridge and optionally reheat prior to serving (I like it both, warm & cold). Zserbo slices freeze well too so you can freeze them for a longer period of time. Thaw Zserbo at room temperature or reheat in the microwave when sudden sugar cravings occur : )

Dobrú chuť,

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