You hear a lot about Viennese Cafe culture and the great coffee houses of Vienna. It’s so important to Vienna and to Austria, that in 2011, “Viennese coffee house culture” was listed on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List. I wanted to check it out for myself. Don’t hate me for what I’m about to say next: I don’t like coffee. Sorry to everyone who loves it. I just can’t get over how it tastes.
But I LOVE the smell of it brewing. However, I will make an exception occasionally (hello Monday work mornings). If I’m going to be having coffee there better be a slice of cake with it and in Vienna there is not shortage of places to grab a slice of cake or two.
I wish I had more time to explore all the cake shops and cafes in the city, but I doubt that would have been good for my waistband. Here are a few that I did visit.
For most people, when you say Vienna and cake, they immediately think of the Sachertorte. The famous Sachertorte is a chocolate cake with a layer of apricot jam and coated in a dark chocolate icing. It was invented in 1832 by 16 year old Franz Sacher and then further developed by his son Eduard Sacher while working at the famous pastry shop Demel. The cake was first served at Demel and then later at the Sacher Hotel which Eduard opened in 1876. The hotel claimed to have the only authentic recipe for the dessert. However, Demel made the same claim. Eventually the matter was brought before the law and in the end, Hotel Sacher won the rights to the phrase “The Original Sachertorte.”
That doesn’t stop others from imitating it though, including Demel. They just can’t call it the original. There are many imitations of the cake around the city – I even tried a version at another cafe (see below).
All this fuss over a cake! I don’t even understand it. This is just speculation, but I think the whole controversy over the name made it even more famous and people flocked to have a taste of it to see for themselves. It eventually snowballed and now everyone goes to have it. This cake is so important in Austria that it even has a special day – December 5 is National Sachertorte Day.
The whole time I was there, I felt really uncomfortable. I felt like an impostor among all the classy people. The cake itself, I don’t particularly care for. I found it to be extremely dry and I don’t like apricot jam. The cake is served with a side of unsweetened whipped cream. There are plenty of people who adore this cake and you can even purchase it online for shipment around the world.
Open daily from 8:00 am to midnight
Kurkonditorei Oberlaa is a well known pastry and confectionery shop in Vienna. Konditorei is the German word for a pâtisserie and confectionery shop and you will see it everywhere around the city. Oberlaa stands out from the crowd because of their commitment to using quality ingredients in all their desserts from the finest chocolates to high quality nuts and fruit to the best butter.
The first time I went to Oberlaa was in the middle of summer and I was traveling with 5 other friends. We didn’t end up eating there. Why? Because while we were checking out the menu posted, one of my friends accidentally walked into a server causing plates and food to go flying. Hilarious, but the others found it embarrassing and didn’t want to be seen eating there in case the servers decide to spit in our cake. Little did we know that this was actually a part of a chain and we could have just gone to another location.
I returned on my next Vienna trip to get dessert on the way home for the night. The counter offers a spread of delicious cakes, macarons and chocolate. There was so many things to look at and choose from! We picked up a slice of mango chocolate cake (I can never say no to mango!) and a chocolate mousse cake, each €3.50. Both were delicious. They offer breakfast and lunch items as well and if you’re looking for gluten, lactose or egg free items, they have you covered.
Kurkonditorei Oberlaa [German]
Neuer Markt 16
Open daily from 8:00 to 20:00
You can spot this cafe all throughout the city. I was curious about it so I decided to pop in for a visit. I like to think of it like a classy version of an American diner that only serves cake, pastries and coffee. Service is quick and efficient and the interior even looks a little dinerish with its retro pink and brown interiors and plastic or upholstered seating.
If you’re on the go, they have standing tables where you can quickly eat and drink before you head out. We opted for a table. They have plenty of different offerings on their menu. In the end I ordered their version of the Sachertorte, an apple strudel – another popular Viennese pastry – and a latte to go along with it. Apple strudels are famous in the region and taste and look similar to the North America pie, but less sweet. Maria, in the Sound of Music, even sings about apple strudel in her My Favourite Things song so it must be good.
Items here are at a lower price point compared to the other two places. A pastry or slice of cake can range between €2 – €3 depending on what you order. I surprisingly liked this imitation of a Sachertorte more. It was a little fluffier and had a better texture to it.
Aida Chocolaterie & Grosskonditorei [German]
Opernring 7, 1010 Wien // Singerstraße 1, 1010 Wien
Hours vary for each location but generally: Weekdays: 7.00-22.00; Weekends + Holidays: 8.00-22.00
Depending on what kind of experience you’re looking for there are plenty of cake shops and cafes to satisfy. Hotel Sacher is the classiest of them all and Aida is on the opposite side of the spectrum. For something in between, head to Oberlaa.
Have experienced Viennese coffee culture for yourself? Did you visit any of these cafés or other ones?