Spit cake: tastes better than you might think.

Originally chimney cake was known as Kürt?skalács, but I have to be honest here and say that I have absolutely no idea how to pronounce that word. I’m told that it literally means “chimney cake” in Hungarian, and that’s good enough for me.

So chimney cake is Hungarian, then? Yes, but not exactly. It hails from Transylvania, which once made up the eastern portion of Hungary, but ever since 1945 has made up western portion of Romania. Which I suppose makes it technically Romanian, but then hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of Hungarian-speaking people still live in Transylvania. For them not much has changed other than the location of the border. Which I guess really makes it Hungarian. I dunno, it’s a tough call.

Food lore states that a chimney cake is called a “chimney cake” because originally the dough was wrapped around hot chimney pipes. I find that a stretch, no pun intended, since there are more than a few cakes of this style — so-called “spit cakes” — in Europe, and most of them date back to well before the time when tin chimney pipes were in common use.

What’s a spit cake? Why obviously a cake that’s roasted on a spit over a fire. What else could it be? Don’t answer that, I just ate lunch. Examples of spit cakes include German Baumkuchen, and boy do I ever have fond memories of eating that at Lutz Café on Montrose in Chicago. They make great Napoleons there too, but I’m on a different topic now so I’ll just leave that alone.

But where was I? Oh yes, Polish s?kacz is a spit cake, French gâteau à la broche is a spit cake. Spit cakes are, or at least were, pretty much everywhere in central Europe at one time. These days spit cakes are disappearing for reasons that are fairly obvious: health codes would never permit the word “spit” to appear on a menu. Also most people bake in ovens now.

Yet they’re due for a revival, at least in my estimation. They’re not difficult things to make. All that’s standing between most of us and a spit cake is a spit. Which I’m going to show you how to make this week, so stay tuned.

14 thoughts on “Spit cake: tastes better than you might think.”

  1. Oh my gosh! Baumkuchen! Too bad there’s no way to possibly make this at home T_T
    …or is there?

    1. Maybe not the 9-foot tall variety, but I’m told it is possible to do it at home. After tackling chimney cake I may find I have the gumption to try it!

  2. See now, things like this are the reason I love your website so much! I have never heard of a spit cake, let alone know how to make a spit… AND you include some history which is always a favourite of mine. Brilliant. 🙂

      1. Hi Joe. I made spit cake at a Culinary school in Charleston SC. which is now moved to Charlotte NC. (The School Johnson & Wales University) My instructor was Chef Armond Gronert. completely full blooded German. Hard teacher but very fun and when you are doing it right.lol we made spit cake it was several layers with I believe marzipan (very thin layer, and apricot gel) then more thin cake batter bake and repeat. but there was an liqueur that that was used after last layer of batter that was baked. what was the liqueur?

        1. Hi Helen!

          I love guys like that. Sounds like a baumkuchen. Those things are made with batter and usually flavored with liqueurs. Orange ones like Grand Marnier are the go-to’s for cakes like that, so that’s my guess!

          – Joe

    1. I’ve heard of this place, up on Devon Avenue. And here I thought there were mostly Russians and Indians up there. I’ll have to drop I next time I’m in town! Thanks again!

  3. Japanese love Baumkuchen, and many people try to make one at home.

    Home recipe is just like this,
    Make batter using a cake mix, and use a paper roll in the aluminum foil as a spit. Cover the roller with a foil.
    You need a large pan. In Japan, we have a large electrical ‘hot plate’ for barbecue.
    Pour batter in a heated pan to make a small pancake and after a while, roll a paper roller over the cake and do the same over and over.

    If you have time, try and find images of BAUMUKUHEN at home.

    1. Thanks, Nobumi!

      I really need to go one of those sometime. I haven’t had baumkuchen since I was back home in Chicago!


      – Joe

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