Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace
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Tuesday, June 7, 2016


Welcome back to History Undressed, our regular first Tuesday blogger and author, Kathleen Bittner Roth! Kathleen Bittner Roth! Today she's got a fascinating and scandalicious article for us. Enjoy!


By Kathleen Bittner Roth

Clara Ward (1873-1916), born in Detroit to Michigan’s first millionaire, had a destiny unlike other American women. In 1889, Prince de Caraman-Chimay of Belgium toured the United States. He took one look at the very wealthy fourteen-year-old beauty and declared his love. 

No matter that he was twice her age, had virtually no money in his princely coffers, and was of little consequence in the looks department, on May 19, 1890, fifteen-year-old Clara married the prince in Paris. Americans were ecstatic over their legitimate European princess, and the press went wild. 
Perhaps Clara, Princess of Chimay, as she preferred to be called, shouldn’t have married quite so young.

In early 1896, two years after the birth of her second daughter, Princess Clara and Prince de Caraman-Chimay were dining in an elegant Parisian restaurant when she met a dashing Hungarian musician by the name of Rigó Jancsi (Rigó was his family name. Jancsi means Johnny in Hungarian. To this day, Hungarians use this formal presentation of their names.)

Rigó was a ruggedly handsome Gypsy violinist who began a series of secret meetings with the lovely Princess. In December of 1896, the two declared their love for one another and departed Paris for Budapest.

Prince Josef immediately began divorce proceedings. Once again, the press went wild with headlines screaming—Gone with the Gypsy!

Rigó, a primis violinist, not only played for his new wife, one evening he ended up in the kitchen of their favorite Budapest restaurant where he helped to create a chocolate mousse sponge cake, a gift to his Belgian Princess. In honor of the romantic love story, the chef in collusion with Rigó named the cake Sutemeny Rigó Jancsi. 

Unfortunately, Clara’s finances dwindled. With her greatest talents being her beauty and fame, while Rigó fiddled (on the violin and with other women) Clara took to the stage in Paris at the Moulin Rouge and Folies Bergère wearing skimpy outfits. She sold postcards and photographs in her skin tight, revealing clothing. Her outfits were so revealing, Kaiser Wilhelm II forbad the display of photographs bearing her likeness in the whole of the German Empire.

Clara divorced the cheating Rigó and married again, but the cake and her legacy live on. To this day, you can still find the cake, Sutemeny Rigó Jancsi, on restaurant menus in Budapest. And if you want the film version’s peek into the life of Clara Ward—Princess of Chimay—Cole Porter’s musical Can-Can was based on the Princess, and starred Shirley MacLaine as Pistache, dancing in a skin-tight, flesh-colored costume ala Clara Ward.

If you’d like to try the confection named in her honor, and you aren’t able to make the trek to Budapest (where this author currently resides), here’s the recipe:

Sutemeny Rigó Jancsi

Sponge Cake:

  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled to lukewarm
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup plus 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 10 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons dark rum
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 7 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
For the cake: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper. In a large bowl, cream 3/4 cup butter with 1/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add cooled melted chocolate and beat in egg yolks one at a time.
In a medium bowl, beat egg whites and pinch salt until whites cling to the beater. Add remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
Lighten the chocolate mixture by stirring in 1/3 of the whites. Then, carefully, fold in the remaining whites. Sprinkle the flour over the batter and, carefully, fold it in without decreasing the volume.
Pour into prepared pan and bake 12-15 minutes, or until cake starts to pull away from the sides. Do not overbake. Cool a few minutes on a wire rack and then invert onto the rack. Remove parchment paper and let cool completely.
For the filling: Meanwhile, Place 10 ounces chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to a boil in the microwave or on the stovetop and pour over chocolate. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand 10 minutes. Add rum and vanilla and stir until smooth. Refrigerate 1 hour. When cold, whip the filling until volume has doubled.
Assembly: Cut the cake in half and place one half on a rack. Spread the filling over the cake and top with the remaining cake half. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
For the glaze: Meanwhile, Place 7 ounces chocolate, butter and corn syrup in a microwaveable bowl. Heat on full power 1 minute. Add vanilla and stir until completely melted and smooth. Let cool 10 minutes.
Set the rack holding the cake over a pan to catch drips. Holding the glaze 2 inches above the cake, pour the glaze evenly, using a spatula to cover the sides, if necessary. Refrigerate 20 minutes or until glaze is set.
This cake is very rich. Cut into 5 by 7 rows for a total of 35 small squares. Refrigerate leftovers.

Kathleen Bittner Roth thrives on creating passionate stories featuring characters who are forced to draw on their strength of spirit to overcome adversity and find unending love. Her own fairy tale wedding in a Scottish castle led her to her current residence in Budapest, Hungary, considered one of Europe’s most romantic cities. However, she still keeps one boot firmly in Texas and the other in her home state of Minnesota. A member of Romance Writers of America®, she was a finalist in the prestigious Golden Heart® contest. Find Kathleen on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, Pinterest and www.kathleenbittnerroth.com.

PORTRAIT OF A FORBIDDEN LADY is book two in Those Magnificent Malverns series: A young widow returns to her childhood home after a forced absence and faces her first and only love, but despite their powerful attraction, danger compels her to remain his forbidden lady.  ORDER YOUR COPY!

THE SEDUCTION OF SARAH MARKS is book one in Those Magnificent Malverns series: When a proper Victorian miss awakens next to a handsome stranger, she must rely on the man's benevolence as she struggles to regain her memory and hold onto her heart. ORDER YOUR COPY!

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