A glaze to cover everything—Behind the scenes: gingerbread maker Gyöngyi Rácz

A glaze to cover everything—Behind the scenes: gingerbread maker Gyöngyi Rácz

Sometimes you will find your path straight away, and sometimes you can follow one for decades, and still reach a point where you feel it is time to get off it. Gyöngyi Rácz, the creator of Cukorgyöngy, is precisely this kind of brave creator who in the end has combined everything important to her: hard work, craftsmanship, and a love of desserts. This is her portrait.


Smiling, cheerful, and sufficiently self-reflective—that’s how I would describe Gyöngyi Rácz even after only a few minutes of conversation. Her life has always revolved around foods and drinks, having worked in the gastronomy industry for twenty years, working her way up the ranks, and reaching the position of store manager. But eventually, something changed—she started to feel tired, that she was no longer motivated, that she wasn’t giving it what she had started with. She was burnt out. Then, something unexpected happened, on a trip to Prague with her partner.

“It was very cold, so we went into every shop there was. We also happened to pop into a specialized gingerbread shop, and my heart just leaped.”

Although there was no real tradition of decorating cakes in the family, and the last time she had any contact with gingerbread was as a child, she began to take an interest in the subject. So she started experimenting. First, she made them for herself and then for family and friends, but as is the case when you have a real talent, she quickly began to build a fan base. That’s when she met Anikó Vargáné Orbán, the owner and artist of Ékes-Édes Mézeskalács, whom she went to study from in Cserszegtomaj. Here she learned a million tricks of the so-called royal icing technique and the humility that turns gingerbread into a gift and decoration, while also making them delicious.

“I was completely drawn into this world. My partner had been planning to set up a tool workshop at home, but after basking in the scent of gingerbread spices all year, he instead suggested that I should have my own space.”

She took her new hobby so seriously that she turned Cukorgyöngy (meaning ‘sugar pearl’—the Transl.) into a career and quit her previous job. This surprised everyone, but she believed it had relevance. Gingerbread has a long tradition in places like the United States, for example, where icing is also taught at a very high level. She clearly saw that the success of marzipan was unbroken, but she believed that gingerbread had the potential to take over, as it could be more elaborate, more beautiful, and the taste can also be more delicious. Because from the very first moment, she vowed to market her products as food, even though this involved many more difficulties, obtaining licenses, etc.

“For me, creating is joy, freedom, and self-expression. Everyone is looking for something like this, and although it’s hard work, it’s really worth it.”

As well as taking on more and more commissions, she has also constantly been polishing the technique. She was determined to do it quickly, in large quantities, while keeping the quality impeccable. At the same time, the truth is that gingerbread is an artisanal product that cannot be mechanized—apart from kneading the dough, everything has to be done by hand. Over the years, however, she has developed a firm routine, planning each day like clockwork.

“I work with incredible logistics. On Mondays I knead the dough and do packaging, on Tuesdays I bake, Wednesday-Thursday I decorate, and Friday-Saturday-Sunday I run a workshop. In the meantime, I order the ingredients or coordinate with the customers.”

She soon realized that the market demand is huge, so much so that she can’t manage on her own. Although there are more and more people making gingerbread in Hungary, she sees them not as competitors but more as partners, since they still cannot meet the demand. Gyöngyi is also involved in multiple collaborations: she has been working for eight years with a cookie-cutter producer who makes templates for her collection, and she also had a working relationship with Zsuzsanna Loch, owner of Ezerarcú mézeskalács, which slowly grown into a friendship. Currently, they are planning a joint web shop and even a kind of ‘tour’ with their workshops.

Gyöngyi works almost entirely to order, but when time allows and inspiration strikes, she also creates her own collections, which always sell out almost immediately. For instance, she was recently hooked by a well-known series, which resulted in the creation of a mini collection, which then was snapped up by customers in no time. But the same thing happened with the Tuscany set. And what about when she sees a shape or pattern she likes?

“I think the whole world is one big photocopier where it’s very difficult to come up with something new. If I see something I like, I shape it in my own image. There’s so much to say with icing, and my goal is to show more and more of my own thoughts.”

From next year, she wants to come up with more work based on her ideas and establish herself as an artist. Workshops make up the bulk of her time, but she plans to expand, and Cukorgyöngy will now be a label not just for her, but for a larger team. The demand is there, and so is the motivation, and one way or another, gingerbread has a place in everyone’s heart.

Photos: Dániel Gaál

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