The apple strudel is a classic and probably the best known Viennese pastry outside of Austria. The word strudel derives from the German word meaning ‘whirlpool’ referring to the super thin layers of flaky pastry – similar to filo – which is rolled up encasing the filling. Strudel is traditionally served in thin slices revealing the swirl pattern of pastry and apple. The filling itself is made of tart cooking apples, sugar, cinnamon, raisins and breadcrumbs. The final result is a wonderful contrast between the flaky outer layers of pastry and the slightly stodgy interior, the sticky-sweet filling and the fresh bite of the thinly sliced apples. It is simple, unpretentious and delicious.
This little pastry doesn’t come from Vienna, but rather from the Walviertel (‘forest-quarter’) region of Austria – to the north-west of the country, bordering the Czech Republic. It is less refined than the strudel, consisting of a sweet poppy seed paste encased in a potato pastry forming small domes that are then baked. The slightly salty pastry, with a texture similar to shortcrust, offsets the sweetness of the filling. Other fillings include strawberries or nuts, however, the poppy seed version is the original. These can be found in many bakeries around Vienna and, by the hundreds, in the Naschmarkt.
This iconic cake was invented by Franz Sacher in 1832. At the time, Sacher was a 16 year old apprentice, charged with inventing a special dessert to serve to Prince Wenzel von Mettermich and several important guests, as the head-chef was ill. The cake consists of two layers of dense chocolate sponge with a thin layer of apricot jam between them, all covered in a thick layer of shiny chocolate ganache. It is traditionally served alongside a dollop of whipped cream. Sacher’s son, Eduard, continued his father’s legacy, bringing the cake the fame and prestige it holds today. There is even a day to celebrate this dessert – National Sachertorte Day (5 December) where it is assumed that all Austrians take the day off to indulge in their chocolatey national heritage!
This dessert is made by wrapping layers of soft meringue and genoise sponge around a thick cylinder of cream. The resulting oblong-shaped sausages are then sliced up into their final schnitten (slices). The alternating yellow of the sponge and white of the meringue are supposed to resemble the pope’s robe (hence the name: ‘Cardinal’s slice’). The cream can be flavoured with coffee, vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. There is also often a thin layer of jam or fresh berries in between the meringue and the cream. What would appear to be quite a heavy dessert, due to the high cream count, is surprisingly light due to the amount of air packed into the sponge, meringue and the cream. The slight crunch of the outer crust of the pillowy soft meringue, the lightest genoise and the sweet whipped cream are all pretty wonderful.
When you first look at a Punschkrapfen (‘punch-cake’), you’ll undoubtedly notice its hot-pink icing and glacée cherry or fancy chocolate piping. But don’t be put off by its gaudy exterior; it has more to offer than it would seem at first glance. The small squares are made up of layers of cake crumbs, nougat, chocolate and apricot jam. And if we’re still not selling it, the whole beautiful thing is soaked in rum. The thick, pink icing which coats the outside, punschglasur, is itself made from rum. It may be smaller than the other slices of cakes on this list, but, as the colour of the icing warns, it’s pretty sweet, so just a small square is just enough.
As you may have guessed, this torte is named after the famous classical composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who came from Salzburg. Out of all of the items on this list, the Mozart-torte seems to be the hardest to pin down to an exact recipe. This is due to the fact that this cake is inspired by Mozartkugeln, balls made out of nougat (Viennese nougat: a soft, truffle like consistency) and pistachio marzipan, covered in chocolate. The interpretation at the popular traditional Viennese patisserie, Aida, is two layers of chocolate sponge with a thin layer of bright green pistachio marzipan in between, covered in chocolate ganache and topped with a small chocolate disc with Mozart’s little face on. For whatever reason, it seems Mozart equals chocolate, pistachio and marzipan.
Named after Prince Paul III Anton Esterházy de Galántha, a diplomat of the Austro-Hungarian empire, the Esterhazytorte was invented in Budapest in the late 19th Century, but soon found a place in Viennese patisseries. Many variations of this classic cake exist, but, generally, it consists of buttercream infused with liqueur sandwiched between beautifully thin layers of almond or hazelnut meringue dough (similar to macaroons) and topped with a white fondant icing with a distinctive chocolate pattern on top. The sides of the cake are covered in nuts, usually flaked almonds. The interplay of textures in this cake probably ranks as the best in this list. Light, crisp sponge, soft buttercream, the chewy (in the best possible way) fondant icing and the crunchy almonds all come together to do something pretty fantastic to your mouth.