Hořice Rolled Wafers

From an old family recipe

The story of Hořice Rolled Wafers

The year is 1812. Napoleon has been defeated in Russia; his ragged army retreats. Many soldiers, some sick, wounded and frozen, make their way to Hořice where they are welcomed and cared for. One particularly serious case, the personal cook of Napoleon himself, stayed with local resident Mrs. Líčková whose tender, attentive care saved his life and brought him back to health. Without money, he tries to express at lest a portion of his gratitude by confiding to her the secret method of preparing Napoleon's favorite treat — rolled wafers. At the time no one imagined what a blessing this small gift would be for the descendants of the caring widow and even for the entire city.

At first, Mrs. Líčková used the recipe to make wafer rolls privately for family celebrations and as sweet presents for her friends. But her wafer rolls are savored, inquiries increase, interest grows. And so, attempting to satisfy the demand, her daughter, Mrs. Kliková, without betraying the secret, begins to distribute wafer rolls from door to door and baking gradually becomes her career. She could be seen with her wafer tongs and a basket or wheelbarrow going from building to buildingt hrough the city and surrounding villages. Among the populace she earned the nickname "The Rolled Wafer Woman" or "Granny Wafer Roll".

Although, with the passage of time, there arise many more or less successful imitators, the original secret recipe remains the mother to daughter inheritance of only one family. The tradition is followed by the daughters of Mrs. Líčková: Mrs. Rubličová and Mrs. Dmychová. Hořice Rolled Wafers become world renowned a generation later when one of Mrs. Dmychová‚s daughters marries confectioner Karel Kofránek who provides the production with a firm business base. Kofránek‘s Rolled Wafers won 65 awards in the Austrian Empire and were exported to France, England, Germany, Turkey, The United States and even China; spreading the fame of the Czech lands and Hořice world wide. Kofránek's rolled wafer scepter was passed to his daughter Marie, married name Vilenbachová, who wielded it until the famed treat from Hořice finally came under the dark cloud of nationalization. While, especially in the city, there were many companies (M. Vilenbachová, L. Dvořák, F. Fejt, R. Čížek, K. Hudský, Fabingerová, A. Luštinec) after 1949 they were all closed and production was taken over by the nationalized Pardubice Gingerbread Company and later by the Prague Industry for Non-perishable Baked Goods. Hořice Rolled Wafers left Hořice and began to be produced everywhere. The work of several generations was destroyed. The tradition however survived. In many families the baking enthusiastically continued although they produced almost exclusively for their own use. In short, the people of Hořice couldn't imagine life without rolled wafers and in 1967 the Community Services Department renewed producion.

And today? After 1989 there was an enormous surge in rolled wafer production. According to the records of the Office of Trade Licensing in Hořice, Podkrkonoše, 25 entrepreneurs are producing rolled wafers in the city and neighboring villages. They ‚re all making a living—at least for now. We visited some of the places. Clearly the oldest living expert on rolled wafers is seventy-nine year old Mrs. F. Luštincová who now, just for her own needs, bakes according to a recipe passed down from her ancestors (incidentally, even in this family the traditional story is that they received the recipe from a French soldier so everything could have happened differently). "Earlier many families made a living by baking rolled wafers; each guarding their recipe like a secret which was passed from parent to child. Today many people are producing who used to do something completely different: butcher, doctor, electrician, Mileta textile employees and so on. They began mass production and the rolled wafers aren‘t like what they should be. They don't contain what belongs there. A native of Hořice recognizes a good rolled wafer at first glance. It should have a slightly cracked surface, not smooth like paper, and a golden brown color. It was a big mistake that the city gave away a world famous brandname and didn't make sure that Hořice Rolled Wafers were not produced everywhere (Kladno, Tábor, Č. Budějovice and so on). Earlier it was only here in Hořice…"

Vlasta Hovorková, a trained professional baker and maker of Hořice Rolled Wafers, bakes and rolls wafers at home with her husband, a native of Hořice, in a mini-workshop on two hand-operated forms using an old family recipe. Last year they produced fourty thousand rolled wafers which they distribute in simple yet attractive little boxes. The designer of the decorative blue design based on patterns taken from local folk costumes is the academician painter Tůma. "Our philosophy," say the Hovorkas, "is basically that first we must produce a good product and once it becomes famous then we can expand production, not the opposite. We use our family's name as our brand name because we have nothing to be ashamed of. We can't compete with larger producers in quantity but then, they can't equal our quality. As a patriot of Hořice it insults me when someone works poorly and spoils the good name of the city and the other producers. We watch over the storage and display conditions of our buyers. We have our own requirements. Most people today want to mainly just make a profit," says Mrs. Hovorková, "I want my work to make a living, not a fortune…"

source: Český ráj (Regionální týdeník Českého ráje a Podkrkonoší), roč IV., č. 7., Vladimír Havrda, 1993: English translation © 2007 Mark Hirschler The History of Our Company

My great-grandmother Anna Kořinková began making Hořice Rolled Wafers around 1950, at first for her family and relations and then for other customers. I don't remember my great-grandmother but I sure remember the rolled wafers of my grandmother, Anna Hovorková. I frequently scrounged them from her and always coated the carpet thoroughly with crumbs. No celebration was complete without rolled wafers on the table.

After 1989, when private enterprise finally began to blossom, my mother, Vlasta Hovorková, could start a business. At that time she was the only professionally trained baker among the many new producers.

Our rolled wafers began to gain popularity and so I took over the business when my mother retired. I felt that it was only right that this sweet tradition continued. Production steadily increased even though we work without employees. It's truly a family business. Only in this way can we maintain our quality and the secret; for which we thank the previous generations of our family.

Milan Hovorka

Copyright 1991-2013