Austrian pastries are second to none. We have visited numerous cafés and confectioneries in the country and can confirm that Austria is “The Pastry Paradise”.
It would have been irresponsible and impossible to write for a website about Austria without reporting about the country’s pastries. We have therefore taken it upon ourselves to thoroughly investigate Austria cafés and confectioneries, to test their pastries.
I have always had a sweet tooth and a love for pastry. Austria is nothing short of a paradise for a pastry gourmand. Coffee and pastry time is essential to Austrian culture, and they take it quite seriously. Thus, you will find somewhere to enjoy a good cup of coffee and a piece of cake, even in the tiniest villages. The variety of pastries and coffees is impressive and generally of excellent quality.
Innovative pastry chefs
Being a pastry chef in Austria means the competition is stiff, and you must work hard to be at the top of your game, not just by offering a great variety but also by regularly inventing new cakes. Naturally, this comes on top of making the perfect classic pastry. This makes Austria a cake paradise. Moreover, I like the Austrian style of serving good sizeable eatable pieces rather than tiny, overly complicated structures that one often finds in other countries.
Choosing from all the delicious pastries and cakes in the confectionaries (Konditorei in German) is hard. However, trust your instinct and go for what pleases your eye. The products are always presented on glass showcase counters, making it easy to have a good look first. Even though you have ordered from a waiter in most cafés, you can still study the selection at your leisure before you order. Nonetheless, let me explain a few of the most important terms used in Austria.
< Click on the images to enlarge >
Torte, Schnitten, Kuchen and Strudel
Torte is used for layered cream cakes from which a triangular-shaped piece is cut. Schnitten usually means square pieces of slightly less sophisticated pastry, even though these are also masterpieces of flavour. However, you will also run into the term Kuchen, which often is baked in bread-loaf tins or similar, and has the same consistency as muffins. The flavours are usually added before it is baked. Last but not least is the famous Strudel. The puff pastry with apple filling is well known in most of Europe and North America as The Austrian / Bavarian dessert.
Notwithstanding, also popular in Austria is the Topfenstrudel. Topfen is a kind of fresh cheese made of milk. You will also find cakes with creamy topfen in them. If you like cheesecakes, you will also like Topfentorte or Strudel.
Pastry paradise time
Just as the Britons have their “tea-time”, the Austrians have pastry time. Usually, the confectioneries (Konditorei) serving cakes will be busy between 2 and 4 pm. Thus, to have the best choice, getting there earlier is better rather than later. Also, beware of the so-called “Ruhetag”, meaning that most serving establishments will close 1-2 days a week. However, most places will be open seven days a week in busy tourist areas or during the high season. Nonetheless, most places of some size, even villages, have more than one café, and they never close on the same day.
Not for diabetics
My final note on the pastry paradise Austria is that it can be less of a paradise for people with diabetes. Although natural or artificial sweeteners are slowly creeping into pastry chefs’ recipes, it will be hard to find something if you cannot eat sugar.