Subject: Eclairs cafe rum cake
Date: 8/12/2020, 6:10 AM
On 8/11/2020 5:30 PM, Brenda wrote:
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!
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
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
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:
I found recipes for punschkrapfen on these sites, some with photos of the pastry:
Strudel and Schnitzel
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.
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!
Date: 11/19/2020, 8:06 AM
I just read your answer to one Brenda who was looking for a recipe from the famed Eclair.
You are absolutely right, it is the Punsch Krapfen, or as I know it, the Punschtorte,
that she is looking for! I am Hungarian and used to go to the Eclair as a young immigrant.
This dessert is still served everywhere in Hungary but is not one of my favorites, as it
is too sweet. In Hungary it is spelled puncstorta: