Thursday 20 January 2011

Coffee and Petit-Fours, Anyone?

Ein Kleiner Brauner
Espresso with milk
served the Viennese way

Viennese Petit Fours
Esterhazy Cake, Punch Squares
and Sachertorte

Name That Cake
A play of many acts
and no end
in sight

A Short Introduction

I am always a bit hesitant translating
the names of Austrian pastry.
Each time I try, I get bogged down in details,
matters become instantly complicated,
and by the time every one has been consulted -
the historian, the anthropologist,
the sociologist, the musicologist,
the food scientist, the Professor of Heraldry,
and - let's not forget - the proper authorities
at the Viennese Ministry of Cake,
I am out of breath.

Writing novellas
must be a breeze compared
to explaining the origin and background
of Austrian pastry names.
And we are not even
talking about the subtleties
of language and tongue in cheek
the Viennese like to confuse us Zugereiste* with!

Act I

- entering stage left -
Named after the House of Esterhazy,
a Hungarian noble family
that goes back to the Middle Ages
and whose destiny has been intertwined
with the Habsburg Empire for centuries.
It is beyond explanation why they ended up
having a rather humble Schnitte (slice)
and not a whole cake elevated to their peerage!
A Schnitte simply does not reflect adequately
the weight of history this brave family
has helped carry for more than half a Millennium!

Luckily, we are living
in the 21st Century and
in the European Union.
In the good old times,
wars have been started
over less weighty incidences.

You see, nothing is simple,
everything is complex
where Austrian pastry naming
is concerned:
An Austrian pastry chef may well cut
a Stück Torte - slice of cake
(for simplicity's sake,
cake here is a stand-in for Torte,
we don't want to cry into our coffee
over the cake versus Torte question, do we?),
but he will not cut a Torte into Schnitten!

I herewith declare
The End
of Act I


Coming soon:

The Punschkrapferl
Losely translated as Punch Squares,
but trust me, there is so much more
to be told about it!

*) Zugereiste:
In Vienna: Anybody who arrived here
since the House of Habsburg collapsed

18 October 2010
at the newly reopened
Café Museum
Corner of Operngasse
and Friedrichstrasse,
a stone's throw
from the State Opera

Images and Text
Copyright by Merisi



  1. oh oh oh
    that i could plop down
    on one of those red, plump chairs
    have you explain
    Viennese pastry to me
    most happy....


    {{ each yummy bite
    seems like a treasure
    to me

    so easily
    i can see
    why each pastry must be
    with honor
    and sacrifice of time }}

  2. I want to eat that pastry while sitting on my couch that matches those chairs!

  3. Somepinkflowers,
    merci, what an honour
    your paean to pastries! :-)

  4. She writes,
    there are large comfortable round corner sofas at the Café Museum that would fit your purpose perfectly! :-)

  5. I had no idea pastries were so complicated.

  6. Merisi,
    Is there really a Viennese Ministry of Cake? There must be, there should be. These recipes need to be protected. I'm wondering if my grandmother's Walnut Torte is the Esterhazy. I'll compare the recipes today with ones in my Viennese cookbooks. I'm so excited that little tastes of these gems are waiting for me in Vienna - someday.

  7. Charles Gramlich,
    it was all so easy, when we were little! ;-)

    Esterhazyschnitten are made with ground filberts (hazelnuts).

    The Viennese Ministry of Cake exists only in my imagination, in a palace built by Zuckerbäcker. ;-)

    Btw, there is a Zuckerbäckerstiege - a confectioners staircase - in the Hofburg, the Imperial Palace! Yes, it is true. I walk by there often, always hoping that one day the door is open and I can sneak in.

  8. Oh, yes, I'll take some, please!

  9. Tess Kinkaid,
    my kind of girl! :-)))

  10. Woooooow ! Austrin pastries ! Sachertorte ! I would like to be member of your Ministery ! hohoho ! The best Ministery of the whole world ! :D

  11. I nominate Merisi the Arch Duchess of Coffee and Confectionery.

  12. Oh Merisi, am glad I'm not posting items that require descriptions involving nuances between a Torte and Cake of the German language into English;) but I think most know what petit fours are (I think)

  13. the Viennese Ministry of Cake
    Are you serious?
    I think you are... :O
    Gorgeous shots as only you can capture.
    The almighty Viennese glass with the uniquely almigthy Viennese spoon resting serenely on top.
    I wonder how this came about...
    A Viennese mystery..?


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