Deliciously soft and fluffy Hungarian chimney cake with a crunchy sugar cinnamon exterior. Adapted from an authentic traditional recipe, this recipe is suitable for home baking.
Growing up in Romania, kürtőskalács (short name kurtosh) is one of my favourite treats of all times. Every single tourist hotspot in Romania will have a food truck or stall serving this fire-roasted sweet treat.
They are so good that whenever I visit Romania, I have one every day. And that’s no exaggeration! This amazing pastry can be tricky to find in Western Europe and the United States. Since I’ve been missing it a lot, I decided to recreate this traditional chimney cake at home!
Today I’m sharing this recipe with you all, so you can taste the authentic flavours at the heart of Transylvania. If this is your first time trying chimney cake, get ready to fall in love!
This authentic recipe is used to make my playful Chimney Cone Carrots with Vanilla Cream. They’re ideal for Easter or themed birthday parties!
What is chimney cake?
In a nutshell, chimney cake is a traditional Hungarian pastry. It is a sweet bread shaped like a hollow cylinder and coated with sugar and cinnamon. They are made from a brioche kind of yeast dough. The chimney cake dough is then shaped into long strips, then wrapped around a wooden spit.
This delicious hollow cake can have many different toppings. The most common are sugar, cinnamon, walnuts, almond flakes, and cocoa powder.
Traditional chimney cakes are cooked over hot coals and open fire. This gives them a wonderful crispy crust and a beautiful golden brown colour.
Chimney Cakes were created by the Székelys, a Hungarian population living in Transylvania (Romania). Found all across Eastern European countries, these cakes are especially popular in Hungary, Romania, and Czech Republic.
In Hungarian, kürtőskalács literally translates to ‘chimney cake’. It comes from the word 'kürtő', which refers to the chimney of a traditional coal stove.
These delicious pastries have a lot of different names across Europe. In Romania they are known as ‘colac secuiesc’, which roughly translates to ‘Hungarian bread’. It can be found in most fairs, festivals, summer, or Christmas markets. These tasty treats are considered to be more of a seasonal pastry or for special occasions.
In Czech Republic a very similar variation of this Hungarian pastry is called ‘trdelnik’. This famous street food can be found all across Prague and in most tourist hotspots. It is commonly shaped like a chimney cone and filled with ice cream or Nutella.
Although created more than 500 years ago, kürtőskalács became popular across the globe in the middle of the 20th century. Nowadays it’s considered a staple of European gastronomy.
In the United States, this amazing, coiled treat was made popular by the House of Chimney Cakes. They have all kinds of flavours and toppings to choose from. Use the recipe below to make your own at home, even better and tastier!
What does it taste like?
Chimney cake tastes like sweet milk bread and have a fluffy texture. Traditionally cooked over open flame, it has a crispy crust.
The flavour can vary a lot depending on the toppings sprinkled over the dough. Traditionally, a mixture of sugar, cinnamon and ground walnuts is used. Other variations include almond flakes, hazelnuts, cocoa powder, sprinkles, or chocolate.
Chimney cakes can also be made shaped like chimney cones. They can hold any type of fillings like ice cream, Nutella, chocolate, or pastry cream. I used this recipe to make the cones in this Chimney Cone Carrots with Vanilla Cream.
How to eat it
Eating kürtőskalács can be a messy business, so here’s how to do it right. For plain chimney cakes with no fillings, start by uncoiling the pastry strips. Break off small pieces and eat with ease!
If you’re eating a chimney cone with ice cream, try to eat as much of the filling as possible. Then uncoil the cone as you go along and eat smaller chunks of pastry at a time. This way you’ll have less mess or crumbs all over your face!
- Authentic: this recipe is inspired by traditional recipes from Transylvania. Follow the steps below to make authentic kürtőskalács in the comfort of your home!
- Easy to make at home: not everyone has access to open fire and wooden spits, so this recipe is adapted for home baking. All you need are some wooden rolling pins or empty beer cans and an oven.
- Perfect texture: this recipe yields soft and fluffy cakes with a perfect crunchy crust.
- Very versatile: you can be as playful as you want with the toppings and adapt them to your taste. Use anything from plain sugar to cinnamon, coconut flakes or sprinkles.
Equipment & tools
Traditional chimney cakes are made over hot coals and using rotating wooden spits. This recipe is adapted for home baking, and all tools can be found in regular shops or online:
- Wooden rolling pins – They should be around 14-15 inches in length and 1.5 or 2-inches in diameter. Ensure the pins have no plastic parts or anything that can melt in the oven. I like to use classic wood pins with thinner handles. This makes it easier to place them on a tray. Personally, I do not like using French rolling pins as they can slide off the baking tray.
- Aluminium foil – Wrap all wooden pins with aluminium foil to prevent the dough from sticking to it. This makes it easier to remove the cakes after baking.
- Alternative: empty beer cans – They make an excellent replacement for rolling pins. Use tall, large beer cans and wash them well before use.
- Pastry cones – If making chimney cones, you need stainless steel pastry cones as a mould. Alternatively, use aluminium foil to make a cone shape and use it as a base.
All ingredients used for this recipe can be found in most households. Here’s what you need to make the perfect kürtőskalács:
- Flour – Plain all-purpose flour is needed for this recipe. I do not recommend using bread flour, as it can make the dough too hard. Self-rising flour is not suitable for this recipe, as we will be using yeast as a rising agent.
- Yeast – The rising agent in this dough. I like using fresh yeast as it gives the best rise. However, you can also use instant dry yeast for ease.
- Sugar – Plain sugar is added to sweeten the cake. You do not need a lot of sugar in the dough, as sweet toppings will be added on top.
- Milk – Used to make the dough extra tender and sweet. I recommend using full fat milk, but you can use semi-skimmed or skimmed as well. Plant-based milk alternatives can also be used.
- Butter – Used to enrich the dough and make it extra soft. I recommend using non salted baking butter for best results. Ensure the butter is softened to room temperature before using.
- Eggs – Large eggs are needed in this recipe. Ensure they are at room temperature before using. Extra egg yolks can also be used to make egg wash to brush the cakes.
- Salt – Used to balance out the flavours. I recommend using fine salt.
- Optional: vanilla – Although optional, vanilla extract adds a lovely, sweet flavour to the dough. You can also use vanilla bean paste for a stronger flavour.
Traditional kürtőskalács are fairly plain, topped with a cinnamon sugar mixture. Sometimes they also have ground walnuts added to extra crunch and flavour.
More modern versions can have the following toppings:
- Ground hazelnut or other nuts
- Almond flakes
- Cocoa powder
- Coconut flakes or shredded coconut
- Poppyseeds or sesame seeds
- Fruity Pebbles
- Cocoa Pebbles
- Crushed Oreos
- Crushed Biscoff cookies
- Graham Crackers
- Freeze dried strawberry chunks
- Matcha powder
How to make Chimney Cake at home
The process for making chimney cake is similar to any enriched, sweet dough. Here’s how:
Making the dough
- Dissolve yeast and sugar into warm milk. Let sit for a few minutes until foamy.
- Combine the yeast mixture and all the wet ingredients, then mix well.
- Pour in the flour and mix to form a rough dough.
- Knead by hand or use a dough hook on a stand mixer. Continue kneading until the dough is smooth and non-sticky. Place dough in a greased bowl and let proof in a warm place until doubled in volume.
Shaping the cakes
- Roll out the proofed dough into a rectangle. Use a pizza cutter to cut out wide strips of dough.
- Use palms to roll each strip into longer strips of dough. Cover wooden rolling pins in aluminium foil, then brush
- Start coiling the dough around a wooden pin. Leave some space between each strip.
- Roll the pin on the work surface to flatten the coils and connect the dough.
Toppings & Baking
- Brush each chimney cake with a generous coating of egg wash or melted butter.
- Put the toppings into a tray or large plate, then roll each cake through it. Ensure the coating is even all around.
- Place the rolling pins on top of a deep tray, with the ends of the rolling pin on the outside. The dough should not touch the bottom of the tray.
- Bake whilst rotating the cakes twice to keep their shape. Remove when golden-brown in colour.
Variation - Chimney Cone
This recipe is also suitable for making chimney cones, which are perfect for holding ice cream or other fillings.
The process for making the sweet dough is exactly the same. The only difference is in shaping the cones. Wooden rolling pins are not needed, and instead we will be using stainless steel pastry cones.
- Brush the pastry cone with melted butter. Start rolling thin strips of dough around, from the tip to the wider base.
- Press down and roll the cones to flatten the dough and help the strips stick to each other.
Once shaped, you can brush the cones with egg wash and roll them through your favourite toppings. Bake until golden brown in colour.
You can fill the cones with anything you like. Here are some of my favourite fillings:
- Ice cream
- Vanilla cream
- Kinder Bueno spread
- Cream cheese frosting
- Baileys cream
- Taro Paste
- Whipped cream
- Fresh fruit
How to store
Chimney Cakes taste best freshly made, within a few hours of baking. I recommend eating them piping hot, as this gives the most authentic experience!
Kürtőskalács need to be consumed within a day of baking, because they go hard very quickly. To prolong their shelf-life, let them cool down completely, then cover in plastic wrap and seal tightly. This will make the crust less crispy, but it will keep them from hardening for a few hours.
If you enjoyed this recipe, you will love these too:
If you’ve tried this recipe out, please don’t forget to rate and comment on this post. I love hearing from you, so feel free to reach out to me on social media as well and tag me in your posts!
Chimney Cake Kürtőskalács Recipe
- 1 large rolling pin (for rolling the dough)
- 2 or 4 smaller wooden rolling pins* (14-15 inches long, 1.5-2 inches diameter)
- aluminium foil
For the dough
- ⅓ cup milk, lukewarm (80 grams)
- 1 ½ teaspoons instant dry yeast* (7 grams)
- ¼ cup sugar (50 grams)
- ¼ cup butter, softened (50 grams)
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 3 ¼ cup plain all-purpose flour (400 grams)
- 1 egg, for brushing
- 1 tablespoon milk, for brushing
- 1 cup sugar (200 grams)
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ cup ground walnuts (50 grams)
For the dough
- In a small bowl add warm milk, 2 tablespoons of sugar and yeast. Mix well then let sit for 5-10 minutes until the mixture becomes foamy or bubbly.
- In a separate large bowl pour the remaining sugar, yeasty mixture, softened butter, eggs, salt, and lemon zest (optional). Combine everything with a wooden spoon or spatula.
- Pour in the flour into the wet mixture and mix until a dough forms.
- If using a stand mixer, use the dough attachment to knead the dough for 4-5 minutes. If kneading by hand, lightly flour the work surface, then tip the dough onto it. Knead for 7-10 minutes, until the dough is no longer sticky and springs back when poked with the finger.
- Grease a large bowl with vegetable oil, then place the kneaded dough into it. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel. Let proof for at least 30-45 minutes or until double in size.
- Once proofed, roll the dough into a rectangular shape about 1.5-inches in thickness. Use a pizza cutter to cut 4 equal strips.
- Work with one piece at the time. Keep the remaining dough covered with plastic wrap to prevent it from drying. Use your hands to roll each strip of dough into long coils around 1-inch in thickness. Each coil should be about 20-25 inches in length.
- Cover rolling pins with aluminium foil to prevent the dough from sticking. Gently wrap each dough coil each wooden rolling pin, without overlapping the dough.
- Roll the pin around a few times, while applying a little pressure to flatten the dough and make the swirls stick together. Repeat process for the remaining chimney cakes.
- Prepare the egg wash by mixing 1 egg with 1 tablespoon of milk. Use a pastry brush to coat each chimney cake with egg wash.
- Pre-heat oven at 350°F (180°C).
- Crush walnuts into small pieces by placing them into a ziplock bag and smashing them with a rolling pin. There should be smaller pieces, but still crunchy.
- Combine the ground walnuts, sugar, and cinnamon on a tray or large plate.
- Roll the chimney cakes through the topping mixture, pressing gently to help it stick. Ensure all sides are covered evenly.
- Place the rolling pins with chimney cakes on top of a deeper tray. The handles should rest on the edges of the tray, so the chimney cakes do not touch the bottom of the tray.
- Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the rolling pins on the other side.
- Bake for another 10-15 minutes or until golden-brown in colour.
- Serve immediately whilst still warm.
- Smaller rolling pins are used as a mould for the chimney cakes. Ensure they are entirely wooden, with no plastic or meltable pieces. Please see section 'Equipment & Tools' in blog post for more details.
- Instant dry yeast can be replaced with fresh yeast. In this recipe, 20 grams of fresh yeast are needed.
- Storing: Serve kurtos kalacs hot or within a few hours of baking. Cover in plastic wrap until ready to consume.
- Nutritional value is estimative and it's calculated per serving with sugar coating walnut (this recipe makes 4 servings).