Vintage Recipe Project: Zserbo Szelet A Hungarian Dessert

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Zserbo Szelet A Hungarian Dessert

Vintage Recipe Project

In one of the vintage recipe binders I own I found a lovely piece of parchment paper with a recipe written on it. The name of the recipe was not written in English ( and I doubt there is an English translation for it because I never came across one.) 

Written at the top of the parchment paper is Zserbo Szelet


Zserbo Szeler, Hungarian, Dessert bar, vintage recipes

Zserbo Szeler an Hungarian dessert bar


An old Hungarian recipe

Check out all the lovely comments from readers who have enjoyed Zserbo baked by their grandmothers

 Sad as it makes me English is the only language I speak. I wish I knew how to speak German like my ancestors did but I grew up in a home where only English was spoken. I often wonder why if my grandmothers parents immigrated from Germany to the US and German was the language they spoke why didn’t they teach it to my grandmother. I wish she was still around so I could ask her.
hungarian recipes, hungarian dessert, traditional hungarian desserts, vintage recipes

A Hungarian grandmothers recipe

After searching the internet so I could figure out what this recipe was for I found that it is a Hungarian dessert. I am not sure if it would be considered a cookie or a cake like confection. Maybe one of you will have my answer.

There was a bit of confusion on my part since the handwritten recipe called for what looks like 1 1/4 cubes of butter. Again as I researched the recipe I paid attention to the amounts listed in the recipes I found. Some recipes included sour cream. Others didn’t. Some recipes called for baking soda and no yeast. Others called for baking powder and yeast. Some called for eggs and egg yolk. Others did not list egg as an ingredient.

The vintage recipe was my inspiration but I tweeked it a bit. The vintage recipe used a much smaller amount of flour for a smaller batch compared to the ones I found online. Most of the recipes made a huge batch which contained 3 or 4 cups of flour. I would have ended up with tons of this confection so I based my recipe creation partly on the vintage recipe I had and partly on the recipes I found on the internet. I also watched a video on youtube of a Hungarian Grandmother making a batch. Since I couldn’t understand a word she said or read the recipe that flashed on the video I am not sure if this dessert is supposed to be cake like or cookie like. 

Mine turned out cookie like and I am very happy with it. Matter of fact I couldn’t stop eating it while I was taking my photos. So if you see a smudge of chocolate where it isn’t suppose to be accept my apology for being messy.
Zserbo Szelet
2 cups all purpose unbleached flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup of warm milk
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp yeast
1 1/2 cups of walnuts
1/2 cup sugar
Apricot Jam or any jam of your choosing but apricot is the traditional jam used for this dessert.
1 12 ounce bag of bittersweet chocolate chips.
1) Grind 1 1/2 cup of of walnuts in a food processor, coffee bean grinder or a nut mill. Grind the nuts until they look almost like flour. You don’t want large pieces of nuts, you want a fine  powder. Put the walnut meal into a bowl and mix with 1/2 cup sugar.
2) Warm the milk in the microwave slightly. You want the milk to be luke warm. Add the yeast and stir. Set aside.
3) In a large bowl sift all dry ingredients together.
4) Cut one stick of unsalted butter into little pieces and stir into the flour mixture. Use your hands or a pastry cutter to work the softened butter into the dry ingredients. You don’t want the butter completely incorporated but to form crumbs.
5) Pour the yeast and milk into the bowl and then add the 1/4 cup of sour cream to the bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together and forms a ball. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth.
6) Cut the dough into 3 equal sized pieces. You can use a scale if you’d like.
7) Butter the bottom of a 8 1/2 by 13 inch sheet pan.
8) Roll out one piece of dough at a time until the piece of dough is large enough to fit into the bottom of your pan. Carefully roll the dough around your rolling pin and lay it into the pan. Streching and adjusting the dough so it completely covers the bottom.
9) Spread a generous layer of Apricot jam all over the top of the first layer of the dough. Be generous! Sprinkle half the walnut and sugar mixture over the jam and spread it to all corners with the back of a spoon.
10) Roll out the second piece of dough and repeat step 9.
11) Roll out the third piece of dough and carefully lay it over your second layer. You can sctretch the dough a bit if you need to so it covers the second layer completely. If not don’t worry about it!
12) Cover and let rise/rest about 1 hour in a warn spot. 
The dough will not rise hardly at all. I’m not sure if it needed more yeast or what. At this point I thought I was going to end up with a bunch of wasted ingredients because the dough didn’t seem to rise at all.
There is no way I was going to throw everything in the trash. As long as it tastes good I will eat it LOL.
I turned the oven on to 350″ and preheated it. Then I baked it in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 and cranked it up to 375′ for the last ten minutes to get some color on the top.
I pulled it from the oven and dumped the bag of chocolate chips on top of the hot dough. Once they started to melt I used an off set spatula to spread the melted chocolate over the top.
3/4 of the bag of chips would probably have been enough.
Allow to cool completly before cutting so the chocolate and the filling can set up.
I put mine in the fridge overnight because the chocolate just wasn’t setting up.
Once the chocolate is hard you can cut it into 1 1/2 or 2 inch square pieces. 
As I mentioned before I wasn’t sure whether this dessert is suppose to be cake like or cookie like but I have to tell you the recipe turned out cookie like and it tastes so good! I can’t get enough of it really. I am going to have to share it with  family and neighbors because I will eat the entire tray if it stays in my house.
Let me know if you try it out and what flavor of jam you use. This would be a great dessert to make for any family get together, baby shower or birthday party you might be going to. This recipe makes a bunch. 
I of course ate a bunch but I measured my tray and I figure I cut at least 36 or more 1 1/2 to 2 inch square pieces.
Thanks for stopping by! I hope you enjoyed the second recipe in my new Vintage Recipe Project.
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  1. says

    This looks amazing! When I first saw the photos I thought it was Millionaires Shortbread but when I saw the recipe it isn't. Millionaires Shortbread is a layer of shortbread biscuit topped with a layer of caramel topped with a layer of chocolate. It's my favourite thing but I don't make it too often because I eat it all!!

  2. says

    This is a dessert my grandma used to make when I was little. I grew up in Slovakia and my grandpa was Hungarian.

    Thanks for sharing it. I can't wait to make it for my kids. I don't have any of my grandma's recipes. They were all in her head.

  3. Sarah says

    My hungarian grandma died a few years ago, and I've been craving Zserbo like crazy! I found your blog and I have to say it looks like grandma used to make.

    Not sure about the consistency, but I remember it being dense. Can't explain if it was cookie like or cake like. More cake I would think. But good for you, it looks authentic! Thanks for sharing, my mouth is watering. Can't wait to make some.

  4. Judy says

    Thanks for sharing this recipe. I liked reading about your process of transforming the recipe. I know that many "mistakes" turn out to be the best recipes so you had a good chance of coming out with a winner.

  5. Tim Vidra says

    My Hungarian grandmother always made this. Thanks for this post that brought back some fond memories.


  6. Travis says

    Fantastic job! This looks amazing and very interested in trying this out. Thanks for sharing.

    We invite you to share this post and some of your favorite food posts on Food Frenzy.
    Please check out our community at

    Food Frenzy

  7. Andi says

    Christmas is Zserbó time in Hungary!!
    I was browsing for recipe ideas, and found your project! It's so cool!
    On the cake vs cookie part: we, Hungarians have cakes (torta) and cookies (keksz) and we have sütemény, which I think does not have and english name. Zserbó pastry is not crunchy, but not sponge-cake kind either, and it should not be dry. Hope it helps:)

  8. Kerri says

    German is spoken in Austria, but the language spoken in Hungary is Hungarian. I grew up listening to it when my mother and grandmother spoke it. I learned a small amount through my life, unfortunately. Wish I learned more. The recipe’s name is definitely of Hungarian origin. Perhaps the video you saw could have been in Hungarian.

  9. Kitty says

    I just wanted to add that this wonderful dessert originates from a very famous Hungarian pastry maker, Gerbeaud -est. 1858-. This was their trademark pastry and the spelling zserbo is simply phonetic Hungarian for Gerbeaud. They are still around:

  10. Cati says

    I’m first generation American – my family is from Hungary. I have a lot of recipes from my grand mother, her sisters, and my great-grand mother. I can read a little Hungarian and I have her original recipe for zserbo szelet. I believe these pastries are traditionally cut in small rectangles instead of the more American brownie-square fashion. The layers look great though! I’ve always made these with a chocolate topping that glazes to a shiny smooth finish -but any semi-sweet chocolate will complete the flavor you are going for.

  11. Viki says

    Fabulous recipe!!! First time I made it with apricot jam–delicious! This time I am making it with raspberry jam and I am going to top it with dark chocolate. Thanks for posting this recipe. It is now one of my favorites.

  12. Horanyi says

    I really like the style of cursive the original recipe was written in. I am from Hungary and I learned to write there. Based on my experience, I am almost positive that the hand written recipe was actually written by a Hungarian person who spoke English. Therefore I am sure that this recipe will satisfy my hankering for some old country flavor.

  13. Julian Halasz says

    This Recipe is indeed Hungarian. Very Popular for the Holidays. I learned it From My Grandmother as a kid back in Budapest, Whenever I make it here in the US those I share it with Always delighted. This is not a simple recipe and is not quick to make, but well worth the efforts.

  14. Roxanne says

    Thank you so much for doing the legwork on this recipe! I’ve been looking for years for something that translated Hun measurements and baking temps into good old US versions. Made these last year using your recipe for the first time and it was so much easier than trying to convert everything. Needless to say it was a hit, to the point where this year I’ve had to triple-batch it due to ‘popular demand’. If you liked using walnuts in this recipe another pretty yummy cookie to try is ‘vanilias kifli’, a crescent-shaped and decadent buttery concoction with powdered sugar on top. These two are our family’s Xmas go-tos. Kellemes karacsonyt kivanok!

    • says


      Thank you for stopping by and telling you how much you enjoyed the recipe! It warms my heart to hear how you have been looking for this recipe using US measurements. This is exactly why I love to share old vintage family recipes.

  15. Enci says

    Hi :)
    I’m a hungarian , I even like here. I found your page when I was searching hungarian desserts in hungarian because I wanted to share it with some german friends. Regarding your pictures I can say that you did it perfectly. :) It’s a really widespread recipe here. I think quite everybody likes it, even if they don’t like walnuts. You can find it at every occasion, for ex. at a wedding :)
    I’m really proud to see it here, and I’m glad to find this website :)
    Good luck with this blog :)
    Ahh and Andi is right. It’s a sütemény, nor a cake and nor a cookie :)

  16. Robin says

    I know this recipe well. It is made with semi sweet dark chocolate that takes on a shiny finish and cut into diamond shapes. It is delicious. The jam always is an apricot jam. Your’s looks almost completely authentic! Thank you so much!!

  17. Maya says

    Hello, I’ve heard about this cake from my Hungarian-American boyfriend for 4 years, and never had the pleasure of tasting it myselfI decided to look for a recipe and my boyfriend’s dad came across yours, and thought that it was the most authentic one out there. I baked it today and LOVED its sweet- tangy flavors! My boyfriend says that it really tastes like the yummy Zserbo that he used to love years ago…

  18. Kati says

    Hi, I’m first generation Hungarian and my mother used to make this since I was a child. Since she passed, I’ve made it many times – but I translated it from an old Hungarian cookbook with metric measures to English and American measures, and simplified the recipe a little.
    Looking at your portions, yours is a single recipe, whereas I doubled mine to get the volume out of it since it is so work-intensive. It generously fills a large cooking sheet and looks the same. “Kiados” as my Mom would say it.

    It is considered a “pastry.” Apricots and walnuts grew abundantly in Hungary, that’s why they’re used, however, you can sub anything else to your liking. You won’t be disappointed.

    I have looked at several sites and came to the conclusion that there is a certain margin of error for safely “tweaking” the recipe, for example: I just made four double batches using whole-wheat pastry flour and it came out heavenly. I also used apricot jelly on the first two, then berry on the second two. In addition, I substituted carob rather than chocolate icing for those of us who are sensitive to chocolate. My recipe called for yeast only, no baking soda, letting it rise once only after it’s all assembled.

    It was a lovely surprise to find your site. Congratulations on your success with this wonderful traditional dessert!

    • says


      Thank you so much for you stopping by and commenting. I am so happy that I shared this Zserbo Szelet recipe and it has been confirmed by so many Hungarian readers/commenters to be the real deal. Thank you for your comments with the story of this traditional Hungarian pastry recipe! I love to hear about family recipes that are still being enjoyed!


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