Breaking the sugary mold with adventurous flavors and modern design, a fresh cast of Hungarian confectioners is paving the way for a high-style take on the classic pastry shop. These patisseries will satisfy your craving for the sweets on any end of the spectrum.
For Budapesters with intense cravings for unusual sweet treats: Sugar Design Confectionery (Paulay Ede utca 48, Budapest 1061, +36 1 321 6672) is your salvation. Tucked away on a side street in central Pest, steps away from the tourist hoards on Andrássy utca and Liszt Ferenc tér, the gleaming interior of this dessert outlet draws a gasp at entrance. The audible surprise comes from the sensory overload of the kaleidoscopic collection of cakes and candies set against a radiant white backdrop. It’s a Willy Wonkaesque wonderland, only better because it is real.
“By incorporating design into all segments of our business, from the style, texture, and ingredients of desserts to interior layout and visual communication, we wanted to push Budapest’s sweet scene with something contemporary, cool and wild,” says Gergely Lábady, CEO of Sugar. Together with owner and chief cake designer Eszter Horváth, a scion of a well-known confectioner family as well as an established stylist, they have raised the bar for cool confectionaries in Hungary. The Circus Collection, Sugar’s newest concept and reinvented dessert line debuting in the winter of 2014, takes dazzling liberties with the spangled world of clowns, performing artists and magic. Recalling childhood memories of technicolor cakes, there are peanuts shaped like mini éclair donuts, walnut-chocolate pretzels, and the “Clown”—a ball of Sicilian mascarpone-pistachio mousse coated in white chocolate and sour cherry jelly.
Another innovative dessert outfit embracing over-indulgence to its fullest is Zazzi Confectionary (Bécsi utca 57-61, Budapest 1036, +36 1 240 0688), located just a few streets down from Kolosy tér. The aesthetic has a prim and polished vibe, but the clean-cut displays highlight resolutely artisanal treats, handmade daily by doctor-turned-confectioner Dr. Melinda Erdős and Margit Varga, who turned to dessert making after receiving a bachelor of arts degree. Following their vision of introducing new flavors to the Hungarian palate, the enterprising duo have created strawberry-and-cactus cream cakes, lime-and-basil baskets, and cookies dense with ginger, to name a few.
As the name suggests, contemporary cakes are the rigueur de jour at Cake Shop Budapest (Jozsef Attila utca 12, Budapest 1055, +36 30 721 0773), a little spot near the buzzing Erzsébet tér. Dessert maven Fanni Sallay is the mastermind behind this cool visual feast, which boasts stylish fixtures in mute tones, as well as cool flavor combos inside the low-lying counter. A rotating team of eight confectioners work on their individual cake creations throughout the month, while also hosting a range of courses for sweet-tooth lovers and baking aficionados. For every familiar dessert there’s a delightfully reinvented one, filled with seasonal and preservative-free ingredients like chestnuts, caramel, and chocolate in winter, as well as trays of cupcakes, macaroons, cake pops, and curd-cheese dumplings.
“Our aim is to reignite and develop palates in an engaging way, especially for the growing group of customers who are paying closer attention to the quality of what they consume,” says Peter Oczella, who did a career swerve with his wife Eva to open La Delizia (Jókai utca 13, Budapest 1066, +36 30 304 0531), Hungary’s first boutique biscuit factory. You won’t find like-Grandma-made-simplicity here, just a menu of revisionist biscuits that lists rosemary-vanilla, pruned apples with oatmeal, white truffle-cream with pruned apricots, chili-pumpkin seeds with Belgian chocolate, and giant lavender-cream macaroons. The pair’s commitment to premium-quality also plays on the design front, from hand-made antique furnishings across the split-level space to air-tight metal containers covered in “100 Grams of Love” and “Greetings from Hungary” stickers. But it’s the first-rate edible ingredients used in the 30-strong assortment of bite-sized baked goodies and other sweet treats (think melt-in-your mouth mousses and fruity milk rices) that make these not only the most delectable in town, but guilt-free to boot. “It’s not cheating on your diet if it’s all natural,” he says.
Doughnuts in Hungary used to be synonymous with dense sugar bombs topped with sugar. Enter The Donut Library (4 locations), a chain of new-wave doughnuts shops that have not only raised the profile of these sugary orbs with the culinary gentrification previously focused on pizza and burgers. Successfully marrying American-style doughnuts with local flavors beloved by Hungarians, the locally made, seasonally-changing line-up features heavy-hitters such as the ones topped with chocolate and vanilla glaze, but there are also more adventurous ones with walnuts and pistachio shavings, alongside fruit and jam-filled varieties.
More Modern Sweet Spots:
ChocoDeli (Csengery utca 48)
Cuppcake Factory (Krisztina körút 75, +36 20 387 0391)
Édesmindegy Dessertbar (Pozsonyi út 16, +36 30 502 9358)
Fánki Donuts (Nagymező utca 6, +36 30 570 4102)