In 1910, Károly Gundel became the manager of the Wampetich restaurant in the City Park, where they served not only Hungarian and French dishes, but also some of his own creations. Gundel’s pike-perch, Gundel stew or the Gundel salad.
However, the origin of his famous composition of a crêpe filled with rum, raisins, walnut, and chocolate sauce is still a mystery. According to a legend, the recipe is not his creation, but the achievement of the wife of Sándor Márai, Lola. Reports suggest that after the 200th performance of the play Márai Adventure, during a celebratory evening in the restaurant, Lola’s pancake was the real sensation.
Ilona Matzner started collecting recipes and cooking obsessively. In his Diary of 1969, famous Hungarian writer Sándor Márai describes his wife’s ragged notebook, and that many had written into it: her mother, her mother-in-law, her friend. However this notebook was lost and we can never find out whether the recipe was in it or not. But it is certain that the editions of Gundel’s Small Hungarian Cook Book from 1934 to 1937 do not include the recipe. They are filled with cabbage, walnut, jam, and chocolate sauce.
It does not get a mention in Elek Magyar’s Book of a Thousand New Flavours of 1935 either, even though Gundel and the “Flavourmaster” worked together several times. In fact, the recipe does not appear in any other book of the era. Probably, because it did not exist yet. Following the above story, Gundel perfected Lola’s recipe and put it on the menu as Márai pancake. However, no menu with such a name has been found. The first mention of it was in the book Kitchen Art by János Rákóczi (inventor of Rákóczi-túrós) published in 1964. According to this: “Gundel-pancake: see walnut pancake but we add 50 gramms of raisins and a little rum into the walnut mixture, then we pour chocolate sauce on it while serving.” Reading this simple recipe, the author must have been unaware that this would become the most popular Hungarian dessert of all time.