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Zserbó Szelet is a traditional Hungarian cake with layers of yeasted dough, apricot jam, and walnuts that’s topped with a dark chocolate glaze. It blurs the lines between pastry and cake, and is completely irresistible.

front view of Zserbó Szelet on plate with white rose in background

A few years ago, I tried so many mouth-watering desserts during my summer in Europe. Prague in particular was full of patisseries and cafés, and after walking around all day, who wouldn’t be in the mood for a little treat?

Tucked into the back end of a cobblestone street, there was a pastry shop where I first experienced Gerbeaud cake. It was hard to pick just one thing to try when things like Sachertorte and Krémes (also called Cremeschnitte, this is a creamy vanilla custard cake) were staring at me from the pastry case! But I settled on Zserbo, and boy was I glad I did.

close up front view of slice of Zserbó on white dessert plate with gold trim

If you’re anything like me and have trouble deciding between a pastry or a piece of cake, you’re going to love this. The flavor is more pastry than cake, but the shape is cake-like!

For this classic Hungarian cake, yeasted dough is baked between layers of apricot jam and sugared walnuts, and then topped with just enough chocolate glaze to perfectly counter-balance the sweet apricots and nutty walnuts. It’s perfection.

And I’m going to show you step-by-stpe that it’s completely do-able in your own kitchen!

2 slices of gateau gerbeaud on white plates with white roses on table

What is Zserbó Szelet?

Zserbó szelet recept means “Zserbo slice recipe”, and it’s also called Gerbeaud slice (or Gerbeaud cake) after Emil Gerbeaud who invented this cake.

This cake is made of layers of yeasted dough, apricot jam, and walnuts. And to gild the lily, the top is glazed with a thin dark chocolate icing. It’s part pastry, part cake, with the perfect amount of sweet fruity flavor and nutty flavor, with a touch of chocolate to round it out. In a word, this cake is a masterpiece!

Zserbó Slice Ingredients and Substitutions

Ingredients Explained

In this section I explain the ingredients and give substitution ideas where applicable. For the full recipe (including the ingredient amounts), see the recipe card below.

zserbo slice ingredients

Walnut Filling Ingredients

  • Walnuts – walnut is traditionally used to make Zserbo, but you can swap out the walnuts for any kind of nuts you like
  • Granulated white sugar – the sugar and walnuts form a sandy, crumbly mixture
  • Vanilla extract – this ingredient is optional, but I like the subtle flavor and aroma of vanilla here

Zserbo Dough Ingredients

  • Instant yeast – a classic Zserbó Szelet is leavened with yeast
  • Granulated white sugar – we use a little sugar to feed the yeast (technically you can leave it out since we’re activating the yeast with milk instead of water, but it doesn’t hurt to add a touch of sugar as a fail-safe)
  • Whole milk – the milk should be lukewarm, about 110F
  • All-purpose flour – I like to weigh the flour when I’m baking for more precision, but if you don’t have a kitchen scale, I also give the amount in cups in the recipe card below
  • Salt – a little salt elevates the flavor of everything else and ensures our cake isn’t bland
  • Unsalted butter – similar to brioche dough (and viennoiseries in general), the dough for Gerbeaud cake is enriched with butter, egg yolk, milk, and sugar; butter adds a ton of richness and flavor
  • Egg yolks – egg yolks add rich flavor and help make a softer, more tender crumb
  • Granulated white sugar – like brioche, Zserbo slice is enriched with sugar to give the dough a sweet, rich flavor
  • Vanilla extract – optional, but recommended for flavor and aroma

Other Ingredients

  • Apricot jam – apricot is traditional, but you can use any type of jam you like
  • Unsalted butter – to grease the dough bowl and the baking pan

Chocolate Glaze Ingredients

chocolate glaze ingredients
  • Powdered sugar – or granulated white sugar
  • Whole milk – or water
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder – this lends a rich chocolate flavor
  • Unsalted butter – for rich flavor and to help our glaze set
  • Vanilla extract – pulls out the chocolate flavor notes in the cocoa powder
  • Sea salt – salt is a natural flavor enhancer and we only need a little bit to elevate the flavor of everything else

Instructions

Make the Walnut Filling

how to make walnut filling for zserbo
  1. Add all ingredients to a food processor.
  2. Process until the mixture forms fine crumbs (don’t grind it so much it forms walnut paste though!).

Make the Dough

Pro Tip: I find the easiest way to make this dough is in the food processor!

how to make dough for zserbo cake in food processor
  1. Add the yeast, sugar, and warm milk to a medium bowl and gently stir to combine. Let it sit at room temperature until puffed and foamy, about 10 minutes (this will activate the yeast).
  2. Meanwhile, add the flour and salt to a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and process until combined (a few small lumps of butter are fine).
  3. Add the activated yeast mixture, egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla to the food processor.
  4. Pulse a few times, and then process until the mixture comes together to form a dough ball, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary.

Briefly Chill the Dough and Then Roll it Out

rolling out dough for gerbeaud cake
  1. Butter the inside of a large bowl. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces, roll each piece into a ball, and put the dough balls in the bowl.
  2. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill 15 minutes in the fridge.

Assemble and Bake the Cake

how to assemble and bake zserbo szelet cake
  1. Working with 1 ball of dough at a time, roll it out to an 8-inch square. Carefully pick up the square of dough and place it into a buttered 8 by-inch baking dish. Use a fork to poke several holes in the dough (this is called “docking” it and will help prevent bubbles from forming as it bakes). Dollop 1/3 cup of apricot jam on the docked dough, and gently spread it out evenly.
  2. Evenly sprinkle 1/3 of the walnut filling on top of the jam.
  3. Roll out the second ball of dough the same way, and place it on top of the walnut filling layer in the pan. Dock the dough, spread on 1/3 cup of apricot jam, and evenly sprinkle on 1/3 of the walnut filling. Repeat this layering process with the third ball of dough. Roll out the fourth ball of dough the same way, and place it on top of the walnut filling layer in the pan. Dock the dough. (You will have a total of 4 layers of dough and 3 layers of apricot jam/walnut filling. The top layer is dough.) Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to proof.
  4. Bake the cake (uncovered) until its golden around the outside, about 30 to 35 minutes at 350F. Cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.

Top with the Chocolate Glaze

glazing zserbo slice

Once the cake is cool, add all ingredients for the chocolate glaze to a small saucepan over low heat and whisk until the mixture is smooth.

Pour the chocolate glaze on top of the cake and spread it out evenly. Let the glaze set before slicing into diamonds, rectangles, or squares.

Variations

  • Lemon or orange. Add 1 tablespoon freshly-grated lemon zest or orange zest to the walnut filling.
  • Cinnamon. Add 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon to the walnut filling.
  • Jam. Apricot jam is traditional for Zserbo, but you can go with whatever fruit you like, such as raspberry jam, cherry jam, strawberry jam, etc.
  • Nuts. Walnuts are classic, but swap them out for your favorite: hazelnuts, pecans, almonds, etc.
Zserbó Szelet on white plates on rustic dark wooden table

Tips for Success

  • Don’t skip the 15 minute chill time. This lets the dough rest a bit and helps make it a lot easier to roll it out.
  • Use parchment paper to roll out the dough. This dough is easy work with in general, and if you roll it out on parchment paper it’s even easier!
  • Plan ahead. This cake is better on the second day than on the first! The flavors marry beautifully, and something magical happens as the pastry absorbs some of the filling.
  • Don’t slice the whole cake at one time. Unless you think the whole cake will get eaten! This is because the cake stays a lot fresher tasting if you wait to cut it until right before serving.
  • Heat your knife when you slice it. You know the phrase “like a hot knife through butter”? Here it’s essentially like a hot knife through chocolate glaze: smooth! Use a large, sharp knife and between each cut, rinse it with hot water and dry it off completely.
2 slices of Zserbó cake on plates with music sheets and babys breath

Storage

Once the chocolate glaze is set, you can store this cake covered in the fridge for up to 5 days. Instead of cutting the cake into slices all at once, wait to slice it until before you want to serve it. Then let the sliced cake sit at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes before serving to take the chill off.

front view of zserbo cake slice on white plate with roses

Zserbó Szelet Recept FAQs

How Do You Pronounce Gerbeaud?

The name Gerbeaud is of French origin; it’s pronounced “jer-bow”. However, the “j” is a soft “j”, like the sound “si” makes in the word Asia, or the sound the second “g” makes in the word garage.

What is the History of Gerbeaud Cake?

Emil Gerbeaud, a Swiss confectioner, moved from Paris, France to Budapest, Hungary in the late 1800’s to work with Henrik Kugler in his renowned patisserie called Kugler. As of 1884, Gerbeaud became owner of the pastry shop, which became known as Café Gerbeaud.

Gerbeaud’s staple confection was this layered apricot walnut cake, which spread in popularity throughout Hungary. In Hungary, this cake is traditional for Christmas and Easter, but it’s also served for other special occasions.

You can read more about the history of Zserbó Szelet on Zserbo.com and Culinary Hungary.

More Cakes From Around the World

diamond shaped slice of gerbeaud cake on white dessert plate with gold trim

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an edible mosaic submark initials

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Zserbó Szelet Recept (Hungarian Gerbeaud Cake Recipe)

Prep Time45 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Other Time2 hours 45 minutes
Yields: 20 servings
Zserbó Szelet is a traditional Hungarian cake with layers of yeasted dough, apricot jam, and walnuts that’s topped with a dark chocolate glaze. It blurs the lines between pastry and cake, and is completely irresistible.

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Ingredients
 

Walnut Filling:

Dough:

Chocolate Glaze:

Other:

  • 1 cup apricot jam
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter for the dough bowl and the baking pan

Instructions
 

For the Walnut Filling:

  • Add all ingredients to a food processor and process until the mixture forms fine crumbs (don’t grind it so much it forms walnut paste though!).

For the Dough:

  • Add the yeast, sugar, and warm milk to a medium bowl and gently stir to combine. Let it sit at room temperature until puffed and foamy, about 10 minutes (this will activate the yeast).
  • Meanwhile, add the flour and salt to a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and process until combined (a few small lumps of butter are fine). Add the activated yeast mixture, egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla to the food processor. Pulse a few times, and then process until the mixture comes together to form a dough ball, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary.
  • Butter the inside of a large bowl. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces, roll each piece into a ball, and put the dough balls in the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill 15 minutes in the fridge.

To Assemble:

  • Butter the inside of an 8 by 8-inch baking dish.
  • Working with 1 ball of dough at a time, roll it out to an 8-inch square. Carefully pick up the square of dough and place it into the prepared baking dish. Use a fork to poke several holes in the dough (this is called “docking” it and will help prevent bubbles from forming as it bakes). Dollop 1/3 cup of apricot jam on the docked dough, and gently spread it out evenly. Evenly sprinkle 1/3 of the walnut filling on top of the jam.
  • Roll out the second ball of dough the same way, and place it on top of the walnut filling layer in the pan. Dock the dough, spread on 1/3 cup of apricot jam, and evenly sprinkle on 1/3 of the walnut filling. Repeat this layering process with the third ball of dough.
  • Roll out the fourth ball of dough the same way, and place it on top of the walnut filling layer in the pan. Dock the dough. (You will have a total of 4 layers of dough and 3 layers of apricot jam/walnut filling. The top layer is dough.)

To Bake:

  • Preheat the oven to 350F.
  • Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to proof.
  • Bake the cake (uncovered) until its golden around the outside, about 30 to 35 minutes. Cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.

For the Chocolate Glaze:

  • Add all ingredients to a small saucepan over low heat and whisk until the mixture is smooth.

To Finish:

  • Pour the chocolate glaze on top of the cake and spread it out evenly. Let the glaze set before slicing into diamonds, rectangles, or squares.

Notes

  • Storage: Once the chocolate glaze is set, you can store this cake covered in the fridge for up to 5 days. Instead of cutting the cake into slices all at once, wait to slice it until before you want to serve it. Then let the sliced cake sit at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes before serving to take the chill off.
  • Plan Ahead: This cake is better on the second day than on the first! The flavors marry beautifully, and something magical happens as the pastry absorbs some of the filling. For the best flavor, wait to slice the cake until right before serving.
  • Slicing Tip: Use a large, sharp knife and between each cut, rinse it with hot water and dry it off completely. You can cut this cake into square, rectangle, or diamond shapes with each piece about 1 to 2 inches.
  • Recipe Inspiration: These recipes on the following two websites were starting points for me when I was testing this recipe: Zserbo.com and Kitchen Bliss
  • Recipe Yield: This recipe makes 1 (8 by 8-inch) pan. I generally cut this cake into 1 to 2-inch pieces (square, rectangle, or diamond-shaped), but you can slice it however you want. I find that this recipe yields about 20 servings (it’s rich!).

Nutrition

Calories: 305kcal | Carbohydrates: 38g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.4g | Cholesterol: 47mg | Sodium: 42mg | Potassium: 96mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 21g | Vitamin A: 377IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 27mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutritional information is automatically calculated and should be used as an approximate.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Hungarian
Keyword: Gerbeaud Cake, Gerbeaud Cake Recipe, Gerbeaud Slice, Zserbo Cake, Zserbó Recept, Zserbo Slice, Zserbó Szelet, Zserbó Szelet Recept

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zserbo aka gerbeaud cake recipe pin
Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
About Faith

I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

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2 Comments

  1. Could I use a springform pan instead of a square 8×8?

    1. Lara, Yes, a springform pan would work well, just make sure it’s around the same size (an 8 or 9-inch springform would be perfect).

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