Vienna has Sacher, the USSR had the Prague cake and Bulgarians have Garash. What’s the one thing they all have in common? You can easily dub them “chocolate deaths” – or “oh, sweet heavens” if you can manage finishing an entire piece of these cakes without feeling like you’ve developed diabetes.
To put it simply, Garash is a classic chocolate cake, which you can find at most supermarkets, bakeries, cafes and confectioners all across Bulgaria. It’s a rich and heavy (some might even say hearty) dessert, which will leave you feeling full for quite a while, despite the fact that the recipe usually calls for a tiny amount of flour (think a tablespoon or two) or no flour at all – the latter formula is allegedly the one used in the original recipe.
Where it all started…
Regardless of many people’s beliefs (and regardless of the simplistic looks of the cake), this dish is not a Soviet dessert. On the contrary! It was actually developed long before the Soviet times in Bulgaria by a masterful baker whose origins had nothing to do with the USSR.
Back in the distant 1885 a young Austro-Hungarian confectioner named Kosta Garash settled into the riverside town of Ruse, nestled on the banks of the Danube. Shortly afterwards he started working at the local grand hotel, which attracted high society crowds and numerous politicians on daily basis. Some of its most well-known visitors include public figures like Alexander of Battenberg, Henryk Sienkiewicz and Henry Irving. With lavish furniture, draperies and silverware imported directly from Vienna, the hotel quickly rose to stardom and the confectioner Kosta Garash had to come up with an exquisite menu for his guests’ impeccable taste.
He formulated a recipe for a layered cake with rich chocolaty flavor complimented by nuts and a creamy ganache, naming it after himself. At the beginning of the 20th century he left Ruse behind to move to the capital city of Sofia where he worked at another grand hotel’s refined kitchen.
Between 1900 and 1917, up until his death, the name “Garash” was regarded as a true symbol of elegance, class and noble taste on a moderately affordable price. The cake was served to the public masses visiting the hotels in Ruse and Sofia and the Garash family’s bakeries, as well as to those who ordered home deliveries from the confectioners. Long after Kosta Garash’s death the very first recorded recipe for the Garash cake was published in a Bulgarian cookbook from 1936.
Although the grand hotels in which Garash once worked were later demolished and his bakeries closed, his splendid cake survived the tests of time and became a traditional Bulgarian dessert, equally adored by the highlife and the commoners. Even nowadays it remains one of the most popular types of desserts for locals and foreigners alike.
What’s so special about it?
It may not resemble a groundbreaking work of art, but the Garash cake is definitely a unique chocolate dessert. Creamy and nutty, the cake’s original formula has been kept a secret for more than 100 years. Numerous variations of the recipe exist all over the web, but nobody really knows Kosta Garash’s one.
The easiest recipes call for a tiny amount of flour (around 50 grams or so), which serves only as a thickening agent for the layers that are based on crushed nuts, granulated sugar and egg whites. The icing is made out of more sugar, egg yolks, beaten cream and dark chocolate. And the ganache is truly the “cherry” on top of this cake – it’s the heaviest, most satisfying and chocolaty component of all aspects of the Garash cake.
Some of the recipes include avocado or seed oil, others require gelatin, while many don’t need any amount of flour at all. As far as the nuts go, the options are walnuts, pistachios or almonds. Traditionally the cake is garnished with more crushed nuts or with white/ green coconut shavings on top.