“Hungarians have a different way of making puff pastry than the French,” explains Mike Harrison, owner of the venerable Farkas Pastry Shoppe on Lorain Road in Ohio City. He was hesitant to share more, protecting one of the many secrets that have served the bakery well for almost 50 years.
Puff pastry is the basis for Farkas’ most popular desserts, including the Esterhazy torte—a cake made with five layers of dacquoise (a baked meringue), ground almonds or hazelnuts, real buttercream, apricot filling, and a drizzle of chocolate. The torte is named after 19th-century prince Paul III Anton Esterhazy de Galántha, of the Esterhazy dynasty, with roots going back to the Middle Ages.
The entire baking process of the Esterházy torte takes two to three days in order to enable each layer to cool and set before adding the next. The result is an airy, crispy confection. Unlike other cake-based tortes, the Esterhazy torte contains no wheat and is gluten free.
Popular with Hungarians and Eastern Europeans as a holiday dessert, the bakery will make at least a thousand Esterhazy tortes during the winter season. Luckily for us, they can be ordered anytime with at least two days notice. At just $25 each, the special torte is a real bargain considering each is handmade from Old World recipes that pastry chef Sandor Farkas brought from his native Budapest.
Hungarian families from the region regularly visit Farkas Bakery to stock up on their authentic Esterhazy torte as well as their nut and poppyseed rolls, Linzers, Gerbeaud, Napoleons, and a savory pork crackling biscuit called tepertős pogacsá that is every bit as wonderful as it sounds.
Mike started at the bakery in 2008 and assumed ownership in 2010, bringing with him a diverse food background that includes working with well-renowned chef Parker Bosley.
“It was fascinating to learn the old recipes and techniques and to be part of keeping them relevant,” Mike says. “The Esterhazy torte appeals to the Hungarian families that live in the area as well as newer customers looking for a signature dessert that you can’t find just anywhere.”
It was important to Mike that the community accepted him at the helm of this institution, and he worked carefully under the watchful eye of Sandor’s son, Attila, to make the transition seamless. He also wanted to add some new items designed to appeal to a new generation, like brownies and lemon squares, which have become quite popular.
Attila Farkas, now in his 80s, still comes in on Saturdays to greet customers at the counter and to make his famous sós stangli, a puff pastry filled with Meister Dairy Swiss cheese.
“His name is on it,” explains Mike. “The place is always gonna be his.”
To get a taste for yourself, visit Farkas Pastry Shoppe at 2700 Lorain Avenue in Cleveland; 216.281.6200; FarkasPastries.com