Aranygaluska, also called golden dumpling cake, butter puffs, and monkey bread, has been extolled by Jewish immigrants from Hungary for years. I first noticed a recipe for the cake in George Lang’s The Cuisine of Hungary from 1971. Aranygaluska probably started as a rich cake, like the German Dampfnudeln (see my Jewish Cooking in America) served with fish or soup on Fridays, when no meat was allowed for Catholics. Jews who separated meat from dairy in their diet would serve it with a fish or nonmeat soup.
Agnes Sanders, who grew up under Communism in Miskolc, Hungary, kindly showed me how she makes aranygaluska in her kitchen on New York’s Upper West Side. “It wasn’t bad growing up during the Communist [period] in Hungary,” she told me. “Everyone was equally poor but we could go anywhere.” When her mother died, her father, fearful that she would not marry a Jew, sent her to Detroit to live with an uncle in 1965. Everyone else in her family had died in the Nazi concentration camps.
Agnes’s version of aranygaluska, learned in this country, was not as rich as I remembered it. I have tweaked her recipe here and there, adding ingredients like vanilla to the cake. I also add a chocolate alternative to the nuts, called kuchembuchem (one of those marvelous made-up Yiddish rhyming names), often made with leftover babka dough. Try one or both versions.