Kürtőskalács, or the easier to remember/pronounce “chimney cake”, is a Hungarian sweet snack which is sometimes referred to as “spitcake.” Don’t let the names fool you.
It’s made by wrapping a long thick string of dough around what looks like a rolling pin skewer. The dough is brushed with butter or egg yolk, coated in sugar, and left to rotate over hot coals. Watch it happen here. The sugar becomes caramelized and once toasted, different flavored sprinkles are added on top (coconut, cinnamon, vanilla, chocolate, crushed walnuts). It’s then slipped off the skewer and wrapped; you can tear off pieces of the cake and it unravels like the inner tubing of a toilet paper roll. Sorry, bad association. It tastes best when it’s still warm off the coals. The outside has a sugary crust while the inner part of the strips remains soft like bread. Basically, if sweet pretzels and cinnamon rolls had a baby, it would be a chimney cake dipped in awesome.
Based on their little sign next to the grill and what I dug up online, the chimney cake originated in Transylvania when it was still Hungarian territory. Born in the bakery of the Szeklers, or Hungarian Szekleys. Szekleys were Transylvanian warriors who were rumored to be descendants of Attila’s Huns. They have pride in their effect on Hungary because Magyar tribes were said to be related to the Huns and thus, the Szeklers are a subgroup of Hungarians in the mountains of Romania. “Magyar” is used interchangeably with “Hungarian” but can also refer to the Hungarian language.
The cake is served at special occasions but can be found made and sold by street vendors throughout Budapest. Like Hungary’s pálinka, kürtőskalács are an EU protected geographic indication of Slovakia (but they’re called Trdelník). Regardless, they remain Hungarian to me.