Early records

The oldest Central European records of food made with roasted, rather than baked, dough come from 15th-century Germany and Italy.

The first known Central European recipe with evidence that it describes a precursor of the modern "stove pipe cake" is in a book published by a man from Silesia (now in Poland) in Wittenberg (now in Germany) in 1627. He called the cake Spießkuchen, "spit/skewer cake." Its modern German name, Baumkuchen ("tree cake"), appeared later and eventually took over.


The most common word is kürtőskalács, "chimney cake" (the second half from the Slovak and Slavic koláč, "cake" or "round cake"),


... others include dorongfánk (rolling pin/staff doughnut), kürtősfánk (chimney doughnut); historically, especially among the Romanian Transylvania Szeklers also botkalács, botratekercs, and the Szekler old local teöke beéles (cozonacul secuiesc in Romanian).


The recipe for the sękacz (wood knot) is similar to the recipe for the Baumkuchen, but the batter is allowed to drip, forming branch-like shapes extending from the cylinder.


The šakotis (branched), also ragius, raguotinis (spiky, horned), is largely identical with the Polish sękacz.


Lithuania chose the šakotis as its emblematic national dessert for the European Union's "Café Europe" initiative in 2006.


The gâteau à la broche (spit cake) is similar to the Polish, Austrian, and Lithuanian "stove pipe cakes."

Latin names

Although no one's mother tongue since the Roman times, Latin was used as the language of education and academic writing in Central and Western Europe through the 18th-19th century. One of the early Latin translations of the name of the spit-roasted cake came from the Moravian and international scholar Jan Amos Komenský (English: John Amos Comenius), who spent some time close to Transylvania, in Šarišský Potok (now Sárospatak in Hungary), where he may have become acquaited with it if he did not know it from home.

Soon afterward, in 1655, Komenský published his dictionary in Zurich, Switzerland, with the German phrase Spieß kuchen ("spit cake") and its Latin translation obelia (from the Greek οβελός, "spit, skewer"). Among the terms other scholars used were placenta obelias, placenta cylindrica, placenta versatilis, obelius.


Initially, the German names were commonly hyphenated or spelled as two words, Spießkuchen (Spieß-kuchen), Baumkuchen (from 1682), Baumstriezel, Prügelkuchen; and in Austria Prügeltorte, Prügelkrapfen, Ringkuchen ("ring cake"), Ringelkuchen.

Unlike trdelník, the recipe for Baumkuchen puts batter onto the spit in layers while it is being roasted, so the structure of the finished and sliced "chimney cake" is reminiscent of tree rings.


Like Skalický trdelník, the Baumkuchen from Salzwedel, Germany, was registered as Salzwedeler Baumkuchen among the EU's Protected Geographical Indications in 2010.



The Tirolean Prügeltorte is similar to the Lithuanian, Polish, and French "chimney cakes."


Q: What is the Central European stove pipe cookie?

The assumption that the cake was baked on a stove pipe came from "reverse engineering" in some people's thinking. Rather than from the way it is made, the name has come from its shape. Freshly made, the spit-roasted, flue-shaped cake can stand upright with aromatic steam rising from the inside making it reminiscent of a chimney. Its version called Skalický trdelník can be made only in Skalica and its vicinity, as the European Union lists it among its Protected Geographical Indications. The ingredients can come from elsewhere, though, for instance, the ground walnuts on the crust are mostly imported from the United States, Ukraine, and Hungary.

It is called just trdelník elsewhere in Slovakia and in Czechia. Spit-roasted cakes are known under different names in other Central European countries. The Slovak recipe is similar to that of the kürtőskalács in Hungary and parts of Romania. While also spit-roasted, the Baumkuchen known in parts of Germany, and its more closely related sękacz made in north-eastern Poland, šakotis in eastern Lithuania, Prügeltorte in western Austria (Prügelkuchen in Saxony), and gâteau à la broche in western France use somewhat different recipes.

Trdelník's Slovak story

The Slovak name is based on trdlo, a historical and regional word for "a churn-staff" (or a pole employed as a farm tool in general), which was probably used as the spit when roasting the cake in the past. The oldest record comes from nobleman Anton Bernolák's dictionary compiled in 1787-1797 (it was published later). He gave the German equivalent of trdelník as Ringkuchen, "ring cake."


Nobleman and professor Juraj Palkovič's 1821 translation of trdelník to German was Prügelkrapfen, "stick/staff doughnut," commonly used in Austrian German. References to trdelník appeared in Slovak press and literature sporadically throughout the 19th century, a few sources said it was also called kotúč ("circle, disk"). While the preserved references indicate it was known among the Slovaks in various places from at least the 18th century on, one author's lack of information about its spread (he wrote in 1891, mistakenly, that the word was peculiar to the Banská Bystrica area) also suggests that trdelník may not have been among the widely recognized desserts.

Trdelník's Skalica story

Local Central European legends place the emergence of the spit-roasted cake to the distant past – in Lithuania to a popular 16th-century queen; in Hungary to a German cook who came to Transylvania; in Skalica to a nobleman from the 18th century. Whatever its real early beginnings, the available evidence suggests that the "chimney cake" had not started turning from noblemen's delight into a folk dessert in those areas until later in the 19th century.

The first written record attributing trdelník to Skalica dates to the 1910s and says it was already famous in the area. Its commercial-bakery production started there in the middle of the 20th century, and its reputation grew to the degree that the town was able to persuade the European Commission in 2007 to include Skalický trdelník, i.e., with the attribute "of Skalica," as one of the European Union's legally recognized Protected Geographical Indications, which mandate that a registered food item must not be marketed with the local attribute unless it was actually made there (the regulation does not restrict the use of the name trdelník itself, nor of any other name under which it may be sold).


The recipe for the trdelník and its parallels in Romania and Hungary requires that the yeast-raised dough be rolled into a long cable, which is then wound around a thick, cylindrical spit and roasted over the fire with no more dough added. Among the longest tredlníks was one made in Skalica in 2014 that was 6.8 ft. long and weighed 7.7 lb.