In the name of research, I have been slowly working my way through the many and varied cakes of Vienna, as offered in the many and varied Konditoreien [cake shops]. Here are just a few of the many delights I have sampled over the last few years.
It takes three years to train to be a confectioner or Konditor. Many of the well established ‘names’ in Vienna have been established for 100 years or even longer. Several still proudly boast the ‘K. und K. Hofzuckerbaecker’ in their name. The K und K means the royal and imperial [kaiserlich und koeniglich] confectioner or, to English speakers, ‘by royal appointment’. It was a warrant to provide the Emperor and his court with cakes. We know the Emperor Franz Joseph, who died 100 years ago thisyear, was partial to a Guglhupf in the afternoon [a two tone sponge cake]. In the Hofburg palace, one of the 54 staircases is called the ‘Zuckerbaecker/confectioners’ staircase’.
The big names from these glory days, still in business today, include K. und K. Hofzuckerbaecker L Heiner [established 1840].
K. u. K Gerstner started around 1847, they now provide a high quality catering service in an inner city palace in addition to their cakely creations. They are a haven of sweetness on the main shopping street in the first district: Kaerntner strasse.
Then there is Demels. Perhaps the most famous. They say on their website that Everything began in 1786 when confectionery assistant Ludwig Dehne from Württemberg settled in Vienna.
He started selling frozen stuff and expanded into to candy/chocoalte, jam-filled doughnuts and Mardi Gras beignets, and other bakery goods. It became a trysting place for gentlemen and beautiful Viennese ladies at Dehne’s, enjoying the artfully formed and decorated sweets, unquote.
Ludwig Dehne’s son August sold the shop in 1857 to his first assistant Christoph Demel – so for me Demels dates from 1857
So at Demels you get the special waitresses called the Demlerinnen who used to speak a special kind of 3rd person German to you. In recent years with them opening up in New York, and through various ownership changes, they have become a victim of their popularity and you face a long wait in the summer to get even a sniff of a table so, for me this detracts from the whole experience. The cakes are prepared in an open kitchen which customers can look into and see the finished decorating touches. The windows are always a wonder.
In the year 1891 another conditorei got the envied K und K court supplier title and that was Sluka near the Town hall. It has an old fashioned charm still.
and then there’s the Hotel Sacher. Established in 1878 but the famous cake – which had a lengthy court case in Austria to determine who could use the term ‘original Sacher torte’ – was invented, so the story goes, for Prince Metternich in 1832.
It is an experience to eat Sacher cake in the Sacher hotel – but it is often uncomfortably crowded and you can eat it in most cake shops in Austria. Demels won the right to call their Sacher torte the original Sacher torte. More of that later in a separate posting.. but to finish – here is that Sacher torte…
To be continued……