Josip Brna: Rab cake lives its sweet life on the throne of the gastronomic offer of Rab, but also beyond

The tradition from the 12th century continues, the Simply the Best award has arrived.

Author  Blanka Kufner

17. April 2024.

Rab cake is a special delicacy whose tradition lasts for centuries. It enriches Croatia's culinary heritage, and Rab, unique and magical, is at the very top of the gastronomic offer of Kvarner and Croatia because of this delicacy.

It used to be present only at special events such as weddings or baptisms, and today it is given as a special gift to a dear person on different occasions.

"Rab cake is our traditional delicacy, which I first started producing for sale. Later, my son Josip and his wife Margarita joined me", she told us Vilma Brna which almost three decades ago decided to expand the story of the Rab cake. 

The company Vilma slastice doo is engaged in the production of chocolate, biscuits, cakes, various other sweets and the Rab cake as their most famous product.

"We raised our tradition to a higher level and now Rabska torta is known and sought after far beyond the island and can be bought in gastronomic souvenir shops in cities all over the country.", he tells us, adding that they hope to offer it outside of Croatia in the near future. 

Photo: Vilma Slastice (archive)

Photo: Vilma Slastice (archive)

A perfect combination and ratio of ingredients

The Rab cake greatly contributes to the tourism offer of the island because it is a top delicacy that represents the tradition - primordial Rab. It is also recognized as a souvenir, so tourists and fellow citizens like to buy it as a gift for their loved ones. Gin 1177 is also becoming more common.

"Gin 1177 is a Rab gin, it relies on flavors from the Rab cake, that's why it got its name 1177. That's the year when the Rab cake is mentioned, when our Benedictine sisters served it to Pope Alexander, who took refuge on our island due to a storm at sea", he describes. 

Since Roman times, Rab has been known as the happy island, Felix Arba. Saint Marin, the founder of the Republic of San Marino, was born here. King Edward VIII is on Rab. enjoyed with his love in the beautiful bays of the island, in the 12th century the pope took refuge on the island from a storm, and that event and that year is the first written trace of the existence and serving of Rab cake. 

The cake of that time was made by the Benedictine sisters who recently celebrated the millennium of their existence, they preserved the recipe and maintained the tradition. The Pope was taken aback by its taste and the pleasure it provides, and so are others who taste it today.

The once mystical guesswork of ingredients is now well-known. The cake contains almonds, i.e. almonds, oranges, lemons and maraschino, a fine cherry liqueur. With the careful and careful preparation of these ingredients, a special dessert is obtained, which after tasting remains in the memory forever. The secret is, therefore, in the perfect combination and ratio of ingredients.

Photo: Vilma Slastice (archive)

House of Rab cake

The Brna family owns the House of Rab cake, which they use to promote the island's tradition and culture, and which is designed as a gastro-museum.

"It is a place where you can see the whole process and finally taste the perfect Rab cake", describes Vilma's son Joseph who continues the family business. It is located in the old city center, near the city lodge, which has been a gathering place for citizens for centuries.

The House of Rab cake is a happy place just like Rab is a happy island. In it, the feeling of tradition and warmth is present everywhere, it smells like freshly grated lemon peel and oranges, like a freshly baked cake - like joy! It is the biggest promoter of Rab cake and the place where the tradition continues. 

The House of Rab cake is celebrating a decade of existence as part of the company Vilma Slastice, but it all started much earlier with Vilma Brna, when in 1996 she dared to leave a large tourist company and set up a confectionery production business.

She was soon joined by her son Josip, who together with his mother, and with a sense of beauty and goodness, made Rab cake a brand that became known far beyond the island of Rab. The house is just a logical sequence of the story about that special dessert.

Then it happened Gin 1177 which followed on from the Rab Cake and which can also be enjoyed in the House of Rab Cake. Some of the ingredients that are its trademark are found in this aromatic craft gin.

The drink delights with the freshness obtained from the peel of the orange and lemon and the warmth provided by the almond. Gin 1177, which captures the scent of the sun and the sea along with the aromas of the most carefully selected ingredients, delights from the very first taste.

"And so from the 12th century, from an unexpected visit, and today, when we expect tourists, the Rab cake lives its sweet life on the throne of the gastronomic offer of Rab, Kvarner and Croatia. No significant event can be celebrated without this delicacy, it is a sure gift for any occasion", says Josip, pointing out that the Rab cake is part of the Happy Island.

Photo: Vilma Slastice (archive)

Photo: Vilma Slastice (archive)

Quality improvement

The House of Rab cake came as a logical and no less courageous continuation of the business, he says, because it was designed as a gastro-museum, while on the other hand it needs to be profitable in order to survive.

"Today, over 200 organized groups of tourists pass through it during the season, and here, accompanied by a guide, they can hear everything about the history of the dessert, but also about Rab, and of course see the process of creating our products.", says the enterprising Rabl resident.

He adds that the employee Ružica is the one who always welcomes guests with a smile and works diligently all summer kneading and baking delicacies.

National annual award Simply the Best which they recently received, as well as the gold medal from this year's Sabatina for the drink Aperitivo Arba 1889, which was named after the year when tourism began on the island of Rab, are evidence of quality and perseverance.

"The Simply the Best award is another in a series of recognitions for our efforts to be simply the best. It is a special recognition for a creative approach to the realization of a souvenir program based on the peculiarities and traditional gastronomic heritage of our island.", points out Josip.

Photo: Simply the Best
Photo: Simply the Best 

In the end, we talked briefly about the beginnings with the founder of the business. "I worked in a large tourist company, but due to my personal need for creative expression, I dared to open my own business and start from scratch. I had vision and knowledge, which seemed to me the most important. Afterwards, I realized that I was also very brave", admits Vilma.

The involvement of her son Josip, who was very young at the time, but also creative, brave and hardworking, made her business much easier. He expanded the range of products and made a breakthrough on the market outside the island.

"It was easier together. Mostly due to consultation and mutual complementation. The business is now run by Josip and Margarita. I am still active in the way that I continue to prepare Rab cake and other desserts", says the energetic Vilma Brna.

Photo: Vilma Slastice (archive)

Photo: Vilma Slastice (archive)

Author  Blanka Kufner

17. April 2024.