The fabled Mary Cake is brought back to life in Bewley’s Cafe: ‘It’s a story about what refugees bring to us’


It is a story of riddles, subterfuges, displaced refugees and the “golden threads” of chance. And at the heart of this tale of international intrigue is a small, conical, chocolate-covered cake – known to generations of Dubliners as the Mary Cake.

Yesterday Hazel Carmichael, granddaughter of Victor Bewley, owner of the café that bears the family name, and Carolina Malagon, granddaughter of the cake’s Hungarian inventor, met for the first time.

Hazel came from the UK and Carolina from the US to celebrate the resurrection of a cake that was all the rage back when Noel Purcell sang The Dublin Walk: “It can be heaven for Dublin / With coffee at 11.”

Together they created the ‘lost’ recipe for the Bewleys’ favorite – although they were unaware of each other’s existence until a year ago, when Hazel chanced to think of the fabled cake.

“I feel like this gives something back. Created by a refugee who came to this country and shared it with the Bewley family, it was loved by Dubliners for decades. It’s a story of what refugees bring to us,” Hazel said yesterday.

The story began when Hazel was unexpectedly asked to speak at the online launch of her sister Fiona’s book. Victor Bewley’s memoirson March 29 last year.

She spoke about her days there and the luxurious Mary Cake that got her thinking about the long-gone recipe.

She contacted Cól Campbell, the current owner of Bewley’s, and his mother, Veronica, to see if they still had the recipe for this mysterious marzipan-infused chocolate bomb. They didn’t, but they shared Hazel’s passion for recreating it.

It soon emerged that after the Russians crushed the failed Hungarian Revolution in 1956, Victor Bewley was harboring a number of refugees, including a master confectioner named Henri Spelter – whose only complaint about Ireland was that people called him a “baker “ designated. , which he felt didn’t quite do justice to his achievements.

Hazel’s cousin Bill Bewley provided Spelter’s name and the fact that Mary Cake was named after Mary, Queen of Hungary – and not, as the Bewleys claimed, Mary, the wife of Bewley’s then-head baker Alfred Bewley.

A Hungarian friend then told Hazel that Henry Spelter probably came from a dynasty of confectioners in Budapest who bore that name.

On April 20 last year, Hazel Googled the name and discovered that Henry Spelter had died in New York eight days earlier at the age of 92.

“Classically trained as a master confectioner in Hungary, Henry kept alive the recipes passed to him by his father, Henry Spelter III, who owned the Spelter confectionery on Elizabeth Boulevard in Budapest,” the obituary reads.

“He fled Hungary as a refugee on foot with his family during the 1956 revolution and lived in Dublin, Ireland, where he continued to work in his trade, at Bewley’s Cafe, the city’s premier cafe and bakery.”

Hazel found Henry Spelter’s obituary and left a condolence, referring to the Bewley connection. Intrigued, his granddaughter Carolina began her own search for Hazel as she didn’t have her contact details.

Carolina eventually found a mention of a cake she created called the Toadstool Brownie featured in her local paper in Watford, outside London.

It turned out that Carolina was writing her grandfather’s memoirs describing Henry’s arrival at Bewley in Dublin.

“Henry was assigned as a ‘table hand’, working side by side with others at a long table, but it was difficult because he didn’t speak English. Mr Alfred [Bewley] suggested that Henry could make samples of the craft he had learned in Hungary in the afternoons,” she said.

“There was a younger baker, Barney [Brendan Johnston, who produced Mary Cakes for Hazel’s wedding]who sympathized with Henry and tried to ease the difficulties of adjusting to a new life in a new country.”

To Hazel’s delight, her new friend also had recipes for the Hungarian Marika cake, a version of which had been developed for the Dublin palate.

During June and July of last year, Hazel, who runs her own baking studio, worked on several versions using Carolina’s real-chocolate 1970s American version of the recipe — “ending up creating a ready-made Mary,” as she puts it.

The Mary Cake is now sold in Bewley’s, topped with the Ukrainian flag instead of marzipan, with €1 from each cake going to Red Cross relief efforts.

“Henry Spelter gave back to those who took him in – and now we’ve come full circle with the recreation of the Mary Cake,” said Hazel. The fabled Mary Cake is brought back to life in Bewley’s Cafe: ‘It’s a story about what refugees bring to us’

Fry Electronics Team

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