The first known record that hints at a family of cakes baked by rotating spit over cinders dates back to medieval times (about 1450) and is found in a manuscript from Heidelberg. The description mentions a strip of raised dough that has to be wound in a helix shape around a baking spit, and brushed with egg yolk before baking.
The first known recipe of Kürtőskalács originates from Transylvania, included in the 1784 cookbook of Countess Mária Mikes of Zabola ("‘kürtős kaláts’ à la Mrs. Poráni"). It makes no mention, however, of sweetening of any kind in the preparation. A recipe from the cookbook written by Kristóf Simai in 1795 in Upper Hungary (present-day Slovakia) first mentioned "sweetening subsequent to baking”.Trdelnik from Szakolca is based on similar preparation, with the cake surface covered in chopped nuts (e.g. walnut, almond) before baking, and sugar that is added only subsequent to baking. Extract from ‘Rézi néni Szakácskönyve’(Aunt Rézi’s Cookbook), published in Szeged in the year of 1876, with the first recipe that applies sprinkling sugar on kürtőskalács before baking to achieve caramelized sugar glaze.
Almost 100 years passed before the first mention was made of the next step in the evolution of kürtőskalács, the appearance of a caramelized sugar glaze, in Aunt Rézi’s Cookbook written by Terézia Dolecskó in 1876, published in Szeged, Hungary.The recipe suggests "sprinkling sugar (sugar almond) on dough on spit a priory to baking". Due to the heat, the sugar is caramelized and also enters in what is known as Maillard reaction. The sugar glaze that melts to become caramel forms a continuous coat, also adds to firmness of cake. Shortly afterwards, pure sugar (not almond sugar) was applied to the dough's surface before baking, even with the omission of sweetening subsequent to baking. Ágnes Zilahi’s cookbook entitled Valódi Magyar szakácskönyv (The Real Hungarian Cookbook), which appeared in Budapest in 1892, presents such a recipe.
The first mention of additional toppings applied to the caramel glaze appears in Rézi néni szakácskönyve (Aunt Rézi’s Cookbook).The use of ground, chopped or candied walnuts applied as an additional topping became popular only in the late 20th century. As far as we know Pál Kövi’s cookbook, Erdélyi lakoma (Transylvanian Feast), which came out in 1980, seems to be the first source with the tip of applying this type of topping. The wide spectrum of cinnamon, coconut, cocoa, etc. toppings started to receive wide application only at the end of the century.
The current, most frequently baked variant of kürtőskalács evolved in Szeklerland in the first half of the 20th century. It is specific to this variant that the surface of the raw dough wrapped around spit is flattened out by the usual procedure of rolling (turning) it on flat surface sprinkled with granulated sugar. By this procedure the sequential winds of dough strip wrapped around spit are pressed together, rendering the cake smoother, more compact in structure and more elegant. First written record of this technological step appears in Mrs. Zathureczky, née Manci Zlech’s cookbook, which was published in Barót between 1934 – 1943. The cookbook entitled Erdélyi ízek (Flavors of Transylvania), which appeared in Csíkszereda (Szeklerburg/Miercurea-Ciuc), published by Proprint Press in 2007, specifies recipe of the sort.