Ari’s Pick: Mézes Krémes Torta

An incredible caramelized-honey cream cake

A new month and a marvelous new cake. You’ll find it in the Bakeshop and at the Deli bearing the Hungarian name, Mézes Krémes (May-zesh Krem-esh), which means that it fits well with our ever-growing and ever more popular range of traditional Hungarian pastries.

A full Mézes Krémes torta with one slice of cake on a white plate
Our Mézes Krémes Torta

First off, the cake itself is awesomely excellent. I’m not typically a big cake eater, but this one is seriously terrific. As in, I could eat a whole slice in about two minutes. It’s light and elegant with an exceptional caramelly honey frosting and filling. Mézes Krémes is four layers of tender, sweet honey sponge cake, lightly spiced with cinnamon, sandwiched between luscious layers of cream infused with “burnt” (i.e., caramelized) honey, dulce de leche, sour cream, and a hint of orange zest. For context, it’s said by those in the know to be as amazing as Dobos Torta.

The Origins of Mézes Krémes

a slice of Mézes Krémes torta
A slice of Mézes Krémes

Interestingly, in the way that all traditions move, weave, and evolve over time, this cake came to Hungary during the painful 20th century period of Soviet rule, from the end of WWII through to the 23rd of October 1989. In Russian, its name is Medovik (honey in Russian, is med. Bear is medved.) The cake was invented by a chef for the empress Elizabeth Alexeievna, wife of Tsar Alexander I, the tsar born at the time of the American Revolution and ruled until shortly after the founding of The Federal Republic of Central America. (Tsar Alexander’s death was followed by the revolt of liberal army officers in what came to be called the Decembrist Revolution, an event that’s probably now better known for the band). [Note from the Bakehouse: This cake continues to evolve over time! To create our version, we referenced a number of recipes and wove together pieces of many of them, including one of the most well-known, Michelle Pozine’s Russian Honey Cake.]

Its elegance makes it easy to imagine Mézes Krémes (or Medovik) being served—more likely in Russia with tea than coffee—in St. Petersburg back in the early 19th century while leaders argued over issues like the power of Napoleon in France (he invaded Russia in June of 1812) or the idea of ending serfdom (which didn’t happen in Russia until 1861).

There’s a wonderful subtle hint of bitterness that comes from the caramelization of the honey. You can eat it any time—great pairing with the Guatemalan coffee. I think it would be a beautiful addition to your breakfast table!

HUNGRY FOR MORE?

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Ari Weinzweig
Co-Founding Partner at Zingerman's | + posts

In 1982, Ari Weinzweig, along with his partner Paul Saginaw, founded Zingerman’s Delicatessen with a $20,000 bank loan, a Russian History degree from the University of Michigan, 4 years of experience washing dishes, cooking and managing in restaurant kitchens and chutzpah from his hometown of Chicago. They opened the doors with 2 employees and a small selection of specialty foods and exceptional sandwiches.

Today, Zingerman’s Delicatessen is a nationally renowned food icon and the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses has grown to 10 businesses with over 750 employees and over $55 million in annual revenue. Aside from the Delicatessen, these businesses include Zingerman’s Bakehouse, Coffee Company, Creamery, Roadhouse, Mail Order, ZingTrain, Candy Manufactory, Cornman Farms and a Korean restaurant that is scheduled to open in 2016. No two businesses in the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses are alike but they all share the same Vision and Guiding Principles and deliver “The Zingerman’s Experience” with passion and commitment.

Besides being the Co-Founding Partner and being actively engaged in some aspect of the day-to-day operations and governance of nearly every business in the Zingerman’s Community, Ari Weinzweig is also a prolific writer. His most recent publications are the first 4 of his 6 book series Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading Series: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business (Part 1), Being a Better Leader (Part 2), Managing Ourselves (Part 3) and the newly-released Part 4, The Power of Beliefs in Business. Earlier books include the Zingerman’s Guides to Giving Great Service, Better Bacon, Good Eating, Good Olive Oil, Good Vinegar and Good Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Ari regularly travels across the country (and world) on behalf of ZingTrain, teaching organizations and businesses about Zingerman’s approach to business. He is a sought-after Keynote speaker, having delivered keynotes for Inc. 500, Microsoft Expo Spring Conference, Great Game of Business Gathering of Games, Positive Business Conference at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, American Society for Quality (ASQ), and the American Cheese Society. Most recently, Ari and Paul Saginaw were invited to address an audience of 50,000 for the University of Michigan 2015 Spring Commencement.

One of Zingerman’s Guiding Principles is being an active part of the community and in 1988, Zingerman’s was instrumental in the founding of Food Gatherers, a food rescue program that delivers over 5 million pounds of food each year to the hungry residents of Washtenaw county. Every year Zingerman’s donates 10% of its previous years profits to local community organizations and non-profits. Ari has served on the board of The Ark, the longest continuously operating folk music venue in America.

Over the decades, the Zingerman’s founding partners have consistently been the recipients of public recognition from a variety of diverse organizations. In April 1995, Ari and Paul were awarded the Jewish Federation of Washtenaw County’s first Humanitarian Award. In 2006, Ari was recognized as one of the “Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America” by the James Beard Foundation. In 2007, Ari and Paul were presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award from Bon Appetit magazine for their work in the food industry. Ari was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Cheese Society in 2014. And Ari’s book, Building a Great Business was on Inc. magazine’s list of Best Books for Business Leaders.

Notwithstanding the awards, being engaged on a daily basis in the work of 10 businesses and 21 partners, writing books on business and in-depth articles on food for the Zingerman’s newsletter, Ari finds time to be a voracious reader. He acquires and reads more books than he can find room for. Ari might soon find himself the owner of the largest collection of Anarchist books in Ann Arbor outside the Labadie collection at the University of Michigan library!

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Did the idea for using dulce de leche and burnt honey come from Michelle Polzine’s Russian honey cake? It’s a very distinctive combination! If so, it’s a bit weird that you all wouldn’t acknowledge her, especially since this is a non-traditional mezes krema flavor profile.