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Eclairs Cafe Pink Rum Cake

Subject: Eclairs cafe rum cake
From: Brenda
Date: 8/12/2020, 6:10 AM
To: phaedrus@hungrybrowser.com

On 8/11/2020 5:30 PM, Brenda wrote:

Hi!

My name is Brenda and I have been searching all over for someone to contact 
about Éclair cafe. It was my aunts favorite bakery in NYC and her favorite 
cake was the rum cake with jam, pink frosting and chocolate sprinkles. 
I was hoping you could help me find a contact of the baker who worked there 
or a recipe? Please let me know any info you have! Thank you!

Best,
Brenda

Hi Brenda,

The first thing that I found out is that there is an "Eclair Bakery" currently in business at 305 E 53rd St. in New York, NY. It is a French bakery, and it does not appear to be related in any way to the famous Eclair Cafe that was at 141 West 72nd Street in NYC.

The Eclair Cafe  and Bakery on West 72nd Street was owned and operated by Alexander M Selinger for more than 50 years. He died in 1998 at the age of 91. Selinger was born in Italy in 1906, but the family moved to Czechoslovakia in 1909 when he was 3 years old. He migrated to New York in 1939, where he opened the Cafe Eclair that same year.  The Cafe & Bakery was styled as a Viennese coffee house and specialized in Viennese/Austrian pastries, although there may have been Jewish culinary influences as well as influences from Italy and Czechoslovakia.

Biographical information from:

The Center for Jewish History
15 West 16th St.
New York, NY 10011
inquiries@cjh.org

See:  Center for Jewish History

Alexander Mario Selinger was born on August 26, 1906 in Lendinara, Italy to Victoria Friess and a Czech father who owned a sugar factory. The Selinger family moved to Austerlitz (today Slavkov in the Czech Republic) in 1909, and Alexander was educated in Brünn (today Brno). After graduating, Alexander worked for the sugar broker Borowitzer Zuckerfabrik, traveling frequently between Czechoslovakia, Austria and Italy. Alexander immigrated to New York on an Italian passport in June 1939 and that same year opened Café Éclair on 141 West 72nd Street in New York City. Café Éclair resembled old Viennese cafés, serving Austrian delicacies to a clientele of mostly European Jewish refugees. Over time, Café Éclair expanded into a wholesale chain, with a factory and additional bakeries in Brooklyn and Manhattan. The business had many prominent clients, such as Bob Hope, Jackie Kennedy, Ed Sullivan and others. Notably, Selinger purchased America’s first croissant-making machine in America for the café's use. The business was sold to a new owner in 1993 and Alexander retired in 1995. He died in Florida on June 12, 1998.

There are articles about Eclair Cafe on these sites and mentions of the pink rum cake, which also may have been sold at Macy's at some point in time:

Secrets of the Cafe Eclair

Hungry Gerald

Chowhound

So, what was this "pink rum cake"? I had absolutely no success finding a recipe for "Eclair Cafe's Pink Rum Cake." Selinger was said to have not been a pastry chef himself, so he must have employed bakers at Eclair and at his satellite bakeries around the city. However, I could not find any mention at all of any of his employees. He sold Eclair in 1993, but I was unable to locate the name of the buyer.

I then began searching for "pink rum cake" recipes. I found a few, but none with any mention of Eclair. Since Eclair was styled as a Viennese/Austrian coffee shop, it seemed possible that the Eclair pink rum cake could be a pastry that Selinger brought with him from Europe. Searching for "Viennese pink rum cake", I found an article about "Punschkrapfen", which is a famous Viennese pastry, and which is a pink rum cake, similar to a petit four and with apricot jam and rum and pink frosting.

Now I'll go out on a limb and speculate that Eclair Cafe's pink rum cake was simply their version of Austrian/Viennese "punschkrapfen". See the article here: Wikipedia: Punschkrapfen

I found recipes for punschkrapfen on these sites, some with photos of the pastry:

Punschkrapfen Recipe

Strudel and Schnitzel

Punschkrapfen Cakes

Don't be put off by the fact that many of the photos are of a cylindrical pastry. Punschkrapfen is made either way, cylindrical or square like petit fours.

The actual "pink rum cake" recipe from Eclair is not on the Internet, and I do not see any way to obtain it.  However, if you make the punschkrapfen recipe, I think you may find that is very similar to, if not exactly, what your aunt remembers from Eclair Cafe.  If possible, show her the photos on those sites and ask her what she thinks. The chocolate sprinkles are probably not part of the original Viennese recipe, but could be added if desired.

Phaed

Hi Phaedrus

Thank you so much for your time and effort in research for finding this 
for me I really appreciate it! I will definitely be looking at the those 
pictures and recipes and hopefully one looks similar to her! 
Thanks again!

Best,
Brenda 


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