The story behind these heirloom dessert recipes from central Europe is just as special as the recipes themselves. By Sharon Hudgins • Photographs Courtesy Eve Wirth
When Ella Szabó fled her homeland during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, she never dreamed that someday she would become a member of a U.S. Olympic swimming team, an accomplished baker in America, and the author of a cookbook about Hungarian desserts. But a chance encounter with a fellow Hungarian on a beach in Connecticut led to Ella’s becoming the custodian of a collection of pre-World War II recipes from Central Europe that form the core of her new book today. Elegant Hungarian Tortes and Homestyle Desserts for American Home Bakers, by Ella Kovács Szabó, with Eve Wirth, was recently published by University of North Texas Press. Full disclosure: I edited this cookbook and contributed additional material to it. What attracted me to this project was the personal history of Ella Szabó and how those heirloom recipes, handwritten in German and Hungarian, had serendipitously come into her possession. Unlike so many other personal recipe collections that were lost during wars, revolutions, and displacements of people in Europe during the 20th century, these miraculously survived to be published today.