Mezeskalacs or honey cakes is not only delicious dessert,
but can also be a beautiful table decoration.
Bake it out for yourself!
Hungarian Gingerbread or Honey Cakes
Submitted By: Marie Simon Gowan
Check out her FaceBook page: https://www.facebook.com/HungarianHeritage
…was brought to Europe in 992 by the Armenian monk Gregory of Nicopolis (Gregory Makar). He left Nicopolis Pompeii, to live in Bondaroy, France, near the town of Pithiviers. He stayed there seven years, and taught gingerbread baking to French Christians. He died in 999.
During the 13th century, gingerbread was brought to Sweden by German immigrants. In 15th century Germany, a gingerbread guild controlled production. Early references from the Vadstena Abbey show how the Swedish nuns were baking gingerbread to ease indigestion in 1444. It was the custom to bake white biscuits and paint them as window decorations.
The reign of King Matthias (1458–90) was a high point in Hungarian history, for both culture and food. Through his Italian wife, Queen Beatrice, King Matthias brought Italian cooking to Hungary. During this period, cooking was raised to a fine art.
When the Turks invaded Hungary in the sixteenth century, they brought their cooking customs with them. These included the use of the spice paprika and a thin, flaky pastry called filo (or phyllo ) dough. They also taught the Hungarians how to cook stuffed peppers and eggplants. The Turks introduced coffee to Hungary.
Austria’s Hapsburg monarchy gained control over Hungary from the seventeenth century to the beginning of the twentieth century. Under Austrian rule, German and Austrian cooking styles influenced Hungarian eating habits. During this period, Hungary became famous for its cakes and pastries.
The flaky pastry dough called filo or phyllo was brought to Hungary by the Turks in the seventeenth century. Instead of the honey and nuts used in Turkish pastry, the Hungarians filled phyllo dough with their own ingredients to make a dessert known as strudel. Strudel fillings include apples, cherries, and poppy seeds.
The first documented trade of gingerbread biscuits dates to the 17th century, where they were sold in monasteries, pharmacies and town square farmers’ markets.
Mezeskalacs is the Hungarian version of gingerbread cookies, even though they have more cinnamon than ginger. They are also known as honey cookies, or honey cakes. They are delicious, can be decorated beautifully and are often seen at the holiday markets in Hungary. I made them for the first time last Christmas and did so again for Easter. I looked over many recipes and made a recipe my own. It was a hit from the beginning and I will continue to make these. I am especially fond of the ones I did for Easter, as this was the first time I attempted Hungarian folk art floral designs done in icing!
- 2 ½ cup flour
- 2 tsp baking soda
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup honey
- 4 Tbs butter
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 ½ tsp powdered ginger
- ½ tsp cloves
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- In a small, heavy bottomed pot melt the butter and honey.
- Mix in the sugar once the butter and honey become liquid, but don't bring to a boil.
- Allow to cool.
- In a mixing bowl, blend together 2 cups of the flour (reserve ½ cup for mixing time), the baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt. I mix using a whisk.
- Once the sugar, honey and butter mixture is cool enough, add your (lightly beaten) eggs to the mixture and stir thoroughly. Don't let the honey start to solidify in the pan before mixing your eggs in. I mix the eggs in when the mixture in the pan is just slightly warm and still easily stirred.
- Mix your wet ingredients into your dry ingredients. I mix by hand and will add some of the reserved flour to stiffen the dough as needed. It is going to depend on the temperature and humidity of your kitchen as to whether or not you will need that extra flour.
- Mix dough until well incorporated. I flatten the dough out and cut into quarters.
- Wrap each quarter into plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- When ready to make your cookies, take each quarter of dough out individually. They work best if well chilled.
- Roll out your dough on a lightly floured board to about ⅛” and use cookie cutters of your choice.
- Bake on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper at 350 F for about 8-10 minutes, depending on their size and the thickness of your cookie sheet.
- Allow to fully cool before icing or decorating.