Wednesday, October 14, 2009

the National Cake of the Year! Flóra Cukrászda, Zugló

By now, summer has definately left the building. It lasted a nice long bit into October, but right now Budapest has grey skies, howling winds, cold rain, and we face another six months of that grey, noxious east European cold that reminds one that as regards climate Hungary is, essentially, the European equivalent of the US' midwest. Think Ohio or Indiana in winter. OK, you can now stop thinking about it. Sorry. That ends our happy routine of a daily coffee break at neighborhood outdoor cafe. Until last week, we had wonderful, warm fall weather, and we would often stop by the nearby Flóra Cukrászda on Erzsébet Királyné utja in Zugló for a coffee and a slice of cake. Not just any cake, but the National Cake of the Year! The Flóra is only one of our neighborhood pastry, ice cream and coffee parlors, but since it is near and has a couple of outdoor tables, it gets most of our custom. And it features the last few years worth of "national cakes." Such as the "Szatmar Plum Cake" seen above, winner of the 2009 National cake award. Apparently, each summer the National Pastry Bakers Association holds a competition for the best cake to represent a national birthday cake on the national holiday of August 20th, and our local cukraszda features these prominently on their top shelf.
And these are goooood... given that pastry and cake baking are something Hungarians do very well, it is frightening to see how well they can outdo each other on a yearly basis. These babies go for about FT 400 a slice, which is not bad compared to downtown cakes or anything you might encounter in any other European city. You are getting the best slice of cake in the civilized world (outside of Milan, I mean) for two bucks. You just can not beat that. Even if you don't like cakes. I don't know where the Flóra gets its cakes - they are certainly not baked on the premises - but they do take pride in their quality and they are always fresh. Fresh cake and coffee is something we absolutlely take for granted in Budapest and something we always miss when we go abroad. We're spoiled. We know it. We like it.
We don't actually eat cake that often, but when we do we like to do it outside in the late morning, taking out time and enjoying a sunny day. Well, that's over with until next May, it seems. Around this time of year all the outdoor cafes pack in their tables and Budapest goes into Arctic Explorer survival mode, huddled down in their heated ice dugouts waiting for the next planeload of supplies to be dropped onto the icy wastes of McMurdo Sound. For the next few month we will gnaw on our hard rations of seasonal beigli and kifli until the sun comes out, the tables return, and the new cake of the year returns to reign again.
On another note: Fumie posted a video she took from our MuPa concert on her youtube page. She had full permission to do photography at the hall, so she stuck her digital camera in video mode on the edge of the stage during the encore. Since we both only use our little Nikon Coolpix digital cameras for video, we aren't going to win any cinematography awards soon, but this is what we have - way too many Jews, Magyars, and Hutsuls singing and playing at once.


Aldamir said...

I spend a few months of the year living a few minutes walk away from Floria, so I find your observations about the neighbourhood interesting and educational.

I like Floria but the road is a bit busy to use the outdoor seating. If I want to sit outside I usually go to the smaller cukraszda beside Csalagato (on Amerikai ut) whose name I can't remember, as it is quieter; though the cake is nicer at Floria.

bébé said...

Dear Dumneazu!

It is not "Floria" but "Flóra" which is a hungarian female name! :-)

Unknown said...

Yes, it is Flóra, and it is a female given name in not only used in Hungary, but across Europe.

I like Flóra, but it seems each summer when its sweltering I get a hankering for some ice cream (theirs is better than most) while walking home they're on vacation.

In the late afternoon it's usually not so bad there on the street. I rather like the place as it's bright and clean you have some of those satisfactory community feelings.

I just don't share the same opinion as the author about Hungarian cakes and pastries. One cannot question their looks, as they're fantastic. I'm not so keen about some of the ingredients they use (or don't use) and the resulting taste.