Kurtos Cakes: Sarasota's Tubular Transylvanian Treats
While kurtos cakes are certainly traditional and unique, more than anything they are delicious.
Everybody has a journey. Some people live in the same town their whole lives. Some are wanderers, never staying anywhere long enough to get bored. Some people leave their home country, find themselves in paradise, have kids and open a business that celebrates their heritage and passion. Aniko Gulyas, owner and operator of Kurtos Inc., finds herself in that latter group.
Aniko, who runs her business out of Rise Kitchen, grew up in Hungary where she eventually went to college, earning her degree in hospitality. Her international internship brought her to the Lido Beach Resort in May of 2005, but that decision wasn’t entirely random. “When I was 12, I spent two weeks in Sarasota,” Gulyas remembers. “I always knew I would be back.”
Starting a business doesn’t happen overnight and kurtos cakes were merely a memory of her childhood. But three and half years ago, she gave birth to a set of twins and Aniko wanted to make sure they had a piece of her Hungarian home to call their own.
“I started to miss certain tastes and smells and with the kids, I wanted to bring that heritage to them,” Aniko says. So, she started making them kurtos cakes and on August 31st of this year, Kurtos Inc. was born.
Now, fine reader, I’m sure you’re busy wondering what exactly is a kurtos cake. Well, good news! I’m literally about to tell you and I thank you for your patience.
A kurtos cake is a traditional Eastern European dessert with its first recorded mentions dating back to the Transyvanian 1400s. It starts with a raised dough that’s wrapped like a helix around a wooden cylinder before being rolled in turbinado sugar. The cylinder is then placed in a specialized oven that rotates the sugar coated dough until it’s fully baked.
When the kurtos cake is removed from the oven, the sugar is fully caramelized and acts as an adhesive. The cake is then rolled in any number of toppings like crushed almonds, chocolate or coconut. At first glance, it appears as a whole pastry, but because of the way the dough is wrapped it actually spirals out when pulled at one end, allowing for easy portioning for you and maybe a friend. If they’re lucky.
While the kurtos cake is an old dessert, Aniko makes sure to add her own new creations to it. She has her standard flavors, but she also encourages her customers to create their own confectionary concoctions. As Aniko tells it, “If I think I can make it, I’ll do it.”
Aniko also goes against the classic kurtos mold with a savory version of the cake. A recipe that she developed in her kitchen, these cakes offer unsweetened dough with savory ingredients like cheese. “To be eaten after dinner with a glass of wine,” she says with a smile.
All of the dough and ingredients are 100% natural and handmade and Aniko makes every effort to buy locally. It’s this kind of dedication that has helped Kurtos Inc. become so successful in such a short amount of time. In less than a month of being opened, kurtos cakes are already being carried in six different local bakeries.
Aniko also attributes much of her early success to the people of Sarasota. “I really love living in Sarasota. The people here appreciate traditional and unique foods,” she says. And while kurtos cakes are certainly traditional and unique, more than anything they are delicious. A great dessert with a twist.