Sutemeny Rigo Jancsi: The Hungarian Chocolate Cake With A Dramatic History

No matter the time period, culture, or country, the allure of scandal is a universal guilty pleasure. Today, we have soap operas, tabloids, and dramatic reality TV shows to satiate our drama lust, but Hungarians of years past creatively integrated a historic scandal into a sumptuous, unforgettable dessert. Sutemeny Rigo Jansci is a chocolate cake that not only comes with layers of mousse and apricot jam but also with juicy layers of gossip from the turn of the 20th century.

Sutemeny Rigo Jancsi portrays the fleeting yet passionate romance and scandalous love triangle between American socialite and sex icon Clara Ward, her Belgian-prince husband, and a traveling musician named Rio Jansci. Ward fell for Jansci in 1896 after hearing him play the violin at a Parisian restaurant where she was dining with her then-husband, Belgian Prince Joseph de Caraman-Chimay. After a whirlwind love affair, Ward decided to leave the opulent, proper lifestyle of a royal for the adventurous, artistic, and nomadic lifestyle of a traveling violinist.

Ward and Jansci eloped, traveling from France to Budapest, where a local confectioner conjured the deliciously deviant cake to honor their affair. Some stories say that Jansci himself worked with the confectioner to create the recipe as a celebration of his and Ward's marriage. The scandal sparked rumors and intrigue both in Europe and Ward's native America, often occupying valuable real estate in newspapers. The cake was an even more iconic sensation, lasting longer than both the scandal and Jansci and Ward's short-lived marriage.

Details and variations of the cake

"Sutemeny" is the Hungarian word for desserts, referring to cake, cookies, and pastries, and Sutemeny Rigo Jansci is named for the Hungarian musician who invented it with the help of a confectioner in Budapest, where the newly wedded couple arrived after eloping. The decadence of this chocolate cake is on par with its creation story. It is an ultra-extravagant chocolate cake consisting of layers of chocolate sponge cake, creamy chocolate mousse spiked with rum and vanilla, and a rich, shiny chocolate glaze. Variations on the mouse filling might add espresso or apricot jam or involve brushing a layer of rum simple syrup over the sponge cake for extra moisture.

The dessert has remained a mainstay at pastry and dessert shops around Hungary, displayed and served in individually sized cubes revealing the various decadent layers of cake, mousse, and glaze. Because it was invented at the turn of the 20th century during the Austro-Hungarian empire, Sutemeny Rigo Jansci was and still is enjoyed in the various countries the empire formerly encompassed, including Italy, Austria, and Croatia.