Aristocratic feast - Eszterháza, the Hungarian Versailles

Let’s see what the wedding guests could expect at a 17th century aristocratic wedding.

Listing the guests and sending out the invitation letters was only a small part of organising a wedding, although for a family as large and respectable as the Esterházys, this alone required a lot of time and energy. In addition to the close family (which was already huge in itself), the lords of the area, the nobles, officials, and clergy living on the land had to be invited as well. Creating the seating plan was particularly time consuming because the gentlemen or families who had disputes with each other had to be seated far apart from each other. Ranks and dignities also had to be handled with great care, so that a person of minor rank should not be seated next to a bishop or an imperial ambassador.

By this time, cookbooks were already widespread, and for such special occasions, French and Italian cookbooks were preferred.

The most popular dishes included game meat, which implied wealth, as well as special sea fish and oysters. Various jellies, stuffed swans or roasted peacocks were also popular. Of course, cakes also had a central role to play in the wedding feast. This splendour and this aristocratic world inspired the following recipe, which reveals many secrets and takes us back to the fascinating world of the Esterházys.

Eszterházy cake (the original recipe)

Ingredients: Pastry: 10 egg whites, 300 gr powdered sugar, 350 gr ground walnuts or almonds. Cream: 200 gr butter, 200 gr powdered sugar, 150 gr ground walnuts or almonds, the inside of a quarter of a vanilla stick, 50 ml rum, 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Preparation: Beat the egg whites with the sugar into a hard froth, then add the nuts and mix. Use the mixture to bake 6 round shaped cake sheets of average size (23-25 cm in diameter).

For the cream, add a little water mixed with sugar to make sugar syrup, and flavour with lemon juice. Mix the butter with the walnuts / almonds until frothy and add it to the cooled syrup. Season with rum and vanilla. Grease the plates and the outside of the cake with the well-whipped cream. Top with white fondant, add cobweb-shaped lines onto it with melted chocolate.

“A cook’s work is short-lived: the better it is, the sooner it is gone! But he himself is a secret hero, who is mostly unknown, and his place of freedom and exile is the kitchen!” (Count Pál Esterházy, palatine, 1635–1713)