Sunday 13 November 2011

Coffee and Petit-Fours, Anyone?
Merisi's Virtual Coffee House Tours

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



  1. I LOVE petit fours! do you know my sister and I once made our own? it was fun, but it took all day, and ultimately, I decided that in the future, buying them would suffice. But at least I can say I did it! Enticing photos of all these goodies.

  2. Sue,
    I imagine it being quite time consuming, amazing you did do them yourself! The ones in the pictures were set out for the invited guests of the reopening celebration (I was not one of them, just there by chance).

  3. I used to go and buy my "petits-fours" from Cassel's in Fontainebleau.
    But a new "pâtisserie" opened in a next-door village and we can get the most delicious petits-fours from there. Easy, handy, lovely !!!

  4. Isn't the name "petit fours" just a weird little name? It sounds very unappetizing to me, although they look amazing.

  5. Dear Merisi,
    I was so excited to read the pastry descriptions and cannot wait to read more!

    Also your definition of "Zugereiste" brought a laugh!!

    I know it is something my mother-in-law would have enjoyed, so I take a moment and imagine a time when I would have shared this with her. She is very ill and we try to think as many happy thoughts for her as we are able. Thank you for giving us another nice thought.

    Hugs to you,


  6. How did I miss this..?
    The spoon MUST be facing downwards.
    I didn't realize..
    Please forgive :(

  7. Oh Marie-Noëlle,
    how interesting
    You don't like/do to Cassel's in Fontainebleau anymore
    I wonder where you go now? :)

  8. Superbe
    Coloré !

    Bravo pour ce si joli billet autour d'un petit café !!!


  9. A wonderful post, Merisi! I look forward to the next act.

  10. To Parisbreakfasts:

    Our new "boulangerie-pâtisserie" is :

    -very good quality
    -very creative
    (-and getting successful now)

  11. I do believe the Esterhazy is the cake of my childhood - although we then (and now) referred to it as 'Baba's cake'. Because a trip to Vienna in the spring is quite possible (Hooray!) I'm looking ahead and have already lost some weight so that I can eat pastries until they come out of my ears. Keeping my fingers crossed.


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