A whimsical Hungarian dessert: women’s whim cake

Women’s whim. Already its name tells a lot, as if its recipe was created by a whimsical lady who had put it together following a sudden mood.
I find its recipe among the first ones that my grandmother’s wrote down into that already yellow-turned notebook that she started to fill up with recipes when my grandfather and she began their life together. As she still uses this notebook daily, I decided several years ago to copy the whole content by hand- maybe I have already sensed it by intuition how often I will go through those pages while writing Taste of Memories blog.
When I ask my grandmother on the phone about women’s whim, she becomes thoughtful. She has to go to that recipe in her booklet because as soon as she sees her own handwritten rows, she already knows which one is that and how to make it.
“Did I put a note, that it is delicious or whom does it come from?”, she asks while looking for the recipe.
“No, Mami, I copied it word by word, there isn’t any remark”, I answer.
“Well, I wasn’t really proficient at that time I guess…Later I always made a comment on side because this was my way to remember. If there is a remark that “it is delicious” then it means I liked it really much.”
Meanwhile she finds the recipe and starts reading it aloud then we discuss preparation.
“Mix in a bowl 280 grams of flour, half package of baking powder, two tablespoons of sugar…of course, now I remember. This is a delicious cake. Egg white grows nicely on top while baking and will get a nice colour. You ask how much sour cream you should add? Oh, I see, I didn’t write the amount…You know, add as much as it takes up…Whether you need to let it rest in the fridge? No, I never did it, just knead the ingredients together, roll it out and then put it right into the oven!”

Later I find two different recipes in two old Hungarian cookbooks: one author uses a yeasted dough as a base, the other one doesn’t pre-bakes the dough, just rolls it out and puts the meringue on top. I must state, maybe that is the reason why women’s whim got its name…it is so whimsical….Anyway I stay at my grandmother’s version.
I put together the dough, I add as much sour cream as it takes up but when I roll it out I realise I should have added a tablespoonful more. Mami, my grandmother used to bake it in a rectangular baking tin, but I prefer a different shape so I take my pie mould with a removable bottom and line it with the dough. I pre-bake the base, then spread apricot jam on top and significantly reduce heat to 160ºC in order to dry rather than bake the meringue. The plan is good, but the result is surprising for two reasons. Nr 1: the dough doesn’t keep its shape so it slips down on sides. Nr.2. Because of the reduced heat it needs more time in the oven, so the base dries out.
Despite of all these facts the cake disappears at home slice by slice quite quickly (thanks to my family) but I definitely need a problem-solving/brainstorming conversation with my grandmother. woman's whim cake from the Taste of Memories Hungarian country kitchen woman's whim cake from the Taste of Memories Hungarian country kitchen
“My dear, I didn’t reduce the heat at all. I took it out, let it cool down, spread with apricot jam, decorated with egg whites and put it back for another 10-15 minutes. What degrees did you set the oven on? 200? Ok, let’s reduce just a little bit, let’s say 180. Be careful when pre-baking the dough, it should be really light-coloured!”
I decide to keep the pie mould although it didn’t keep the shape so well, but sides remained nicely zigzagged. But I experiment with different sizes, shapes and materials: rectangular, round, metal and ceramic. Surprisingly ceramic seems to work the best with this cake maybe because it heats up and holds heat evenly. Mami is right regarding temperature.
I buy hyacinth for her at the flower shop to bring the scent of spring to her home and alongside with a mini women’s whim cake for testing.
She gladly slices a piece of it- while she is “feeding” me with wonderful fried vegetables- and bites into it. “My dear, this is really nice!”
As for me, I don’t need any greater praise, however- as already so many times on this blog- it was a real team work…

Women’s whim cake
280 g flour
a half package (7 g) of baking powder
2 tablespoons (45 g ) caster sugar
60 g melted butter
60 g sour cream
4 egg yolks (egg whites will go into the meringue)
apricot jam

For the meringue:
4 egg whites + 2 egg whites (optional)
6 tablespoons (50 g ) powdered sugar
1 package vanilla sugar

Preheat the oven to 200 ºC. Mix flour and baking powder then add sugar, melted butter, egg yolks, sour cream and knead it until a soft dough forms. Butter a 28 cm diameter pie mould (or several smaller ones) then roll out the dough thinly, large enough to line the mould with it. Pick it on several spots with a fork and bake for 8 minutes until it gets a light colour. Let it cool down, reduce oven heat to 180 ºC and beat egg whites with powdered sugar and vanilla sugar until it forms stiff peaks. Fill it into a piping bag. My grandmother’s original recipe added two extra egg whites to the meringue, but if you don’t need two egg yolks for another purpose, it would go wasted. I have tried the recipe with four egg whites and however maybe it won’t be that rich in meringue but it still works. Spread apricot jam on top of the dough and decorate with egg whites. Bake for 15 minutes, until meringue gets a golden brown colour. Slice with a wet knife.woman's whim cake from the Taste of Memories Hungarian country kitchen woman's whim cake from the Taste of Memories Hungarian country kitchen woman's whim cake from the Taste of Memories Hungarian country kitchen woman's whim cake from the Taste of Memories Hungarian country kitchen www.tasteofmemories.com woman's whim cake from the Taste of Memories Hungarian country kitchen www.tasteofmemories.com woman's whim cake from the Taste of Memories Hungarian country kitchen www.tasteofmemories.com woman's whim cake from the Taste of Memories Hungarian country kitchen www.tasteofmemories.com woman's whim cake from the Taste of Memories Hungarian country kitchenwoman's whim cake from the Taste of Memories Hungarian country kitchen www.tasteofmemories.comwoman's whim cake from the Taste of Memories Hungarian country kitchen www.tasteofmemories.comwoman's whim cake from the Taste of Memories Hungarian country kitchen www.tasteofmemories.comwoman's whim cake from the Taste of Memories Hungarian country kitchen www.tasteofmemories.com woman's whim cake from the Taste of Memories Hungarian country kitchen www.tasteofmemories.com woman's whim cake from the Taste of Memories Hungarian country kitchen www.tasteofmemories.com woman's whim cake from the Taste of Memories Hungarian country kitchen www.tasteofmemories.com woman's whim cake from the Taste of Memories Hungarian country kitchen www.tasteofmemories.com woman's whim cake from the Taste of Memories Hungarian country kitchen www.tasteofmemories.com

Judit Neubauer

Judit Neubauer

Judit Neubauer is a food photographer, chef and writer living in a small village in Northwestern Hungary. Her bilingual blog, Taste of Memories is about life in the Hungarian countryside. While she is bringing new life into the 90 year-old house and orchard of 18 fruit trees she cooks and bakes her family’s old recipes and tries to preserve traditions and old knowledge about how to live in rhythm and harmony with nature.

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