Wednesday 4 January 2012

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 © by Merisi


  1. Oh, Yum...your photos of those beautiful tortes and your entertaining description is more than I can bear. Gotta have cake. Now. So much for the new year's diet. Oh well, I'll start again tomorrow. I promise.

  2. ~~The Viennese Ministry of Cake~~

    for real?
    they all look loverly to me
    i would gladly sit down
    to any,
    to each & everyOne!

    {{ be back
    for the Punch Squares!
    you can count on it
    as i just know
    some will be
    Pink. }}

  3. Martha in Vienna,
    hope you found a good source of sweet calories.
    I still have to taste those lovelies. ;-)

    ha! I am the Secretary of Cake and Coffee at the VIENNESE MINISTRY OF CAKE, and I have a full committee working on the Punch Squares! ;-)

  4. Thank you Ms. Merisi. Who knew that Vienesse pastry was a masters course in and of itself!

    I especially like the white balance on the coffee cup, water glass and tray.

  5. A delightful play you are telling us here, in parts. Can't wait for the next installment! Now...anyplace that has a Ministry of Cake - really? - has a part of my heart too.

  6. It is my husband´s birthday today and I am making him fish soup. One of these for dessert would be great though ;-)

  7. OK Merisi, I shall take one of each of the Viennese Petit Fours, but those Punch Squares look like they would be my favorite.

  8. I was there till yesterday!
    Thank you for the cafe tips Merisi!
    Basak : )

  9. I had no idea how rich in history the names are. Fascinating. Happy New Year to you!


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