Known worldwide for its Sachertorte, Vienna offers a delicious selection of both traditional and innovative desserts in its coffee shops, cafés, ice-cream parlours and restaurants.
“When I think of Vienna, I think of good coffee and sweet comfort food like apfelstrudel, Sachertorte and sweet dumplings,” says Melanie Kröpfl. “You find them everywhere in the city’s tourist spots.” Kröpfl is a vegan pastry chef who leads baking classes in Vienna and prepares custom cakes to order.
Vienna is home to one of the world’s most famous cakes, the Sachertorte, which combines chocolate, chocolate and some more chocolate with a dash of apricot jam. The city is also known for its apple strudel, a flaky pastry filled with cinnamon-baked apples; krapfen, light, fluffy donuts; and kaiserschmarrn, thick, torn-up pancakes with raisins or plums.
Beyond the classics, Kröpfl explains that there are also trendy dessert spots in Vienna that crop up across Instagram, plenty of vegan offerings in restaurants, and cafés that specialise in plant-based, dairy-free cooking. These are some of the city’s dessert highlights and a few of Kröpfl’s favourites.
A krapfen is an Austrian version of a doughnut. Light and fluffy, the round pastry is filled with a sweet and sour apricot jam and is a favourite during Austria’s Carnival season, which runs from early January until Ash Wednesday. After assembling a team of pastry experts to taste 21 different versions of krapfen, Falstaff, a well-known wine and gourmet magazine in Austria, declared the one sold at Oberlaa to be the best in Vienna. With Oberlaa’s many locations around town, getting a krapfen wherever you are is easy. And if krapfen isn’t your thing, Oberlaa has plenty more in its display cases, including cakes, eclairs, tarts, strudel and baked pastries with marzipan and curds.
Café Landtmann serves sophisticated desserts in a luxurious setting of wood-panelled walls, heavy draped curtains and old-fashioned lights. Patrons at this famous coffee house have included Sigmund Freud, Marlene Dietrich, Romy Schneider, Paul McCartney and Hillary Clinton (not all at the same time). The desserts on offer include traditional and speciality options such as marble cake; a cherry and chestnut Sachertorte; punschkrapferl, a rum-soaked cake covered with fondant; and Landtmann’s cake, which is made with a hazelnut base, orange-flavoured marzipan and hazelnut nougat.
Interested in trying Sachertorte, the famous Austrian chocolate cake with apricot jam and chocolate icing, but on a plant-based, no-dairy diet? Simply Raw Bakery serves a vegan and raw version of the legendary dessert made with a date, walnut and raw cacao base, organic apricot jam and dark chocolate. Otherwise, “you can find nut-based cakes, cookies, pralines, juices, smoothies, lattes and even some savoury snacks like the raw club sandwich,” says Kröpfl. “The bakery itself is very pretty, but tiny and therefore often crowded. I like to take their cakes to go.”
Stuwer is a restaurant serving a full menu of Austrian cuisine, but its apple strudel and kaiserschmarrn, two Austrian classics, are must-tries. Apple strudel’s history dates back to the end of the 17th century. The name means “whirlpool,” and the sweet treat is served in various countries, including Hungary and Germany. Stuwer’s version has a delicate pastry wrap and perfectly balanced flavours. Kaiserschmarrn is a pancake that is torn into pieces partway through the cooking process, and traditionally mixed with sugar and raisins or stewed plums. Stuwer’s combines rum raisins and grilled plums to delicious effect.
For an Instagrammable and healthy dessert experience, Superfood Deli is the way to go, Kröpfl suggests. “They offer trendy foods like smoothie bowls, raw chocolate and fresh juices,” she adds. Superfood Deli has three locations, in the fourth, sixth and seventh districts, and serves up protein shakes and coffees with açai berry, coconut and guarana, as well as bowls with fruits, chia seeds, cocoa and other “superfoods”.
Looking for sweets like the ones your grandma makes? Head to Vollpension, where all the food is prepared by omas and opas, the German terms for grandmas and grandpas. These omas and opas, whose average age is 64, make food based on their own recipes. Stop in for a slice of home-made cake baked throughout the day and a side of eggnog liquor (plain or with poppy, coffee, milk foam or even Fanta).
When it comes to ice cream, Veganista is Kröpfl’s top choice. Owned by two sisters, Veganista is popular with ice-cream fans of all stripes and has quickly expanded to eight locations in Vienna. “You can always find crazy flavours like blueberry-lavender or cinnamon-oatmeal,” Kröpfl says. “Plus they have seasonal specials like apple strudel or salted pretzel ice cream.” Most of the ice creams are made with soy milk, but there are varieties with coconut, oat or almond milk for those with soy allergies. Some are made without refined sugar. For something extra special, try Veganista’s ice-cream sandwich.
At this little spot, all the ice cream is made with organic milk from the owners’ cows, which live on a farm in Lower Austria. The shop strives to use local and organic ingredients for its ice-cream flavours, which include poppy seed, baked apple, chestnut and quince. For an especially Austrian treat, go for the pumpkin-seed-oil ice cream, a flavour you’re unlikely to find outside Austria and Bavaria.
For an old-school coffee-house experience without the long wait of a hotspot like Café Central, check out Café Sperl. Open since 1880, Café Sperl is a long-time meeting point for artists and intellectuals, where you can snack on plum and apricot cake, Salzburger cheesecake, poppy-seed pie or the café’s signature cake, which is made with chocolate, cinnamon and almond paste. Travel back in time with one of these treats alongside one of the café’s many coffee concoctions.