Making Chimney Cake

Kinda sweet, kinda smoky, sorta crunchy, sorta nutty…chimney cake has a lot going for it beyond the entertainment value — which is considerable. It would make a great surprise ending to a grill party, as a waning fire is the perfect amount of heat for this unique sweet. All you need is a spit, some dough and the toppings at the ready. Here’s how it’s done. Start the dough by combining your dry ingredients in one bowl…

…and your wet ingredients in the other.


And combine.

Mix until a rough dough forms…

…then knead for about three minutes. By hand it’ll take five minutes, but as you know I’m a machine guy. I’ve never seen a labor-saving device I didn’t like.

Set the dough in a lightly oiled bowl to rise for about 45 minutes. The dough can be allowed to ferment for 15 minutes, then refrigerated for up to three days. Remove it from the refrigerator half an hour before you plan to use it.

Meanwhile prepare a charcoal fire if you don’t already have one handy. You want it about twenty minutes past its meat-grilling prime. This is too hot, but you get the idea.

While the dough is rising, make your topping. Combine the nuts, sugar and cinnamon in the bowl of a food processor…

…and grind roughly.

Lay the topping out on a sheet pan. Have it ready by the grill along with some vegetable oil, melted butter and a brush.

When the dough is twice its original size (or more)…

Remove it to a lightly floured board and pat it down to about a 3/4″ thickness.

Then use a pizza cutter to cut it into a curlicue, which when its unwound will be one long strip. The thickness isn’t all that important because you’re going to stretch it out shortly.

You want the dough about like so. This will make several cakes, but you’ll just wind it on and tear it off like so much duct tape.

First brush your spit liberally with vegetable oil.

Now wind on the dough. Wrap it around once and tuck the end under. You want to stretch the dough as thin as you reasonably can without tearing it, since an over-thick layer will remain raw in the inside.

Stretch and wrap for the length of the spit, then roll the whole thing on the counter to flatten the dough out and make it even.

You want it less than a 1/4″ thick, see?

Now roast. Insert the handle on your spit and put the cake over the fire. Rotate it as you sprinkle on liberal amounts of sugar, then let it rest. Check the spit after about 30 seconds. If you’re already seeing brown spots, move the cake further from the heat. The cake should take about 20 minutes to brown on all sides.

See that caramel crust starting to form? That’s love Transylvania style, my friends.

When the cake is well browned all over, take it off the fire and remove the far side handle from the spit. Apply some more butter, then roll the cake in the topping.

Oh yeah.

Getting an un-seasoned spit to release the cake can be a problem. I needed to loosen mine with a long, skinny boning knife, but that was all the trouble I had. I then simply up-ended the spit onto a plate…

…and that’s why they call it chimney cake, friends. Happy grilling season!

UPDATE: To watch a Romanian one-up me on both technique and turnout, go here!

27 thoughts on “Making Chimney Cake”

  1. Wonderful find; thanks! We discovered these while in Prague where they are sold as street food and called “Trdlo.” They are often prepared in quantity over a gas flame, on metal rollers. They are removed with heavy gloves, then presented in a napkin. See this random video and look for more by typing in “Trdlo.”

  2. Hi Joe
    This blog is great…. as for Kurtoskalacs. I discovered it three years ago in Hungary. I too first baked Kurtos over the open fire, but then decided to make Kurtos a business idea. I now make and sell specialist Kurtos ovens (electric or gas) all over the world and advise my customers how to set up there own business baking and selling great tasting Kurtosh…. the possibilities are endless. We just made a ‘piña colada’ flavour Kurtos for one customer. Add rum to the dough, insert dried pineapple into the dough and roll in coconut when baked….. Check out my web site and to see my beautiful ovens!

      1. Thanks Joe, by the way I LOVE the first bit of text “Kinda sweet, kinda smoky, sorta crunchy, sorta nutty…chimney cake has a lot going for it beyond the entertainment value” might have to ‘borrow’ that xxxxxxx

  3. yummy…what dough do you use? like cinamon rolls? can be baked in rotiserie oven?

  4. For us grill-less, apartment-bound cooks — have you tried this recipe under the broiler?

    1. Yes, the broiler should work just fine, Zenzi!

      Let me know how it goes!

      – Joe

  5. This sounds like a fantastic way to get sparks flying at any outdoor outing–I was linked here through another blog, but thought I’d drop by to say that I love what you’ve done with this great recipe. Thanks so much for sharing! I checked out your “spit roasting” tutorial and had the same questions about using a rolling pin (for us indoorsy, urban folk), so I might give that a try, for better or for worse. Cheers!

    1. Hey Ala! Thanks!

      Just be sure to use an un-laquered pin if you’re going to do that. Best of luck…don’t set the house on fire! 😉

      – Joe

  6. Hello Joe,
    Enjoyed reading it! I was growing up eating KK on the Balaton lake in Hungary every summer and now that my kids are fanatic KK lovers, I decided to make my own at home – and this is where I need some help! Where can I find the right tools like rolls, charcoal grills with rotators? Thanks – Andras

  7. Hi Joe!
    Thanks for the post!!! I’ve been wanting to bake this for years! Do you have a list of ingredients for this cake? Thanks

    1. Am I ever pleased to hear you say that, Gabi! And yours look so much better than mine it’s ridiculous. What are you using for the roller there? I hear a rotisserie motor going also. But here’s to Transylvania, some of the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen!


      – Joe

  8. I would like to clarify something about Transilvania ,well this beautiful county is part of Romania ,it is like this from 1918 when it was the big reunification .So when we talk about chimney cakes yes it is a local tradition from Transilvania considering it as a county not a country.
    I am proud to be Romanian and I think we deserve respect under any circumstances .enjoy the chimney cakes now with all the information updated !!!!

    1. Hello Juliana!

      Thank you very much, I mentioned that in another post on the subject but it never hurts to remind people. We Americans aren’t known for our grasp of geography!


      – Joe

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *