Simple Cakes

Appears in

Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafes of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague


By Rick Rodgers

Published 2002

Not every Kaffeehaus is a temple to Torten, those complex creations of the pastry chef. Many cafés pride themselves on their simple but tasty “homemade” desserts, more along the lines of what Oma (Grandma) would have made. These cakes can be whipped up in a small back kitchen and displayed for perusal on a counter, often right in their baking pans. They are also in the repertoire of many home cooks, who will make them at a moment’s notice for an afternoon Jause.

Austro-Hungarian bakers call these cakes Kuchen. While there are exceptions, Kuchen are usually made from a creamed butter-sugar base and served without any frosting or icing (as opposed to Torten, which are most often highly decorated sponge cakes). Until recently, baking powder was looked down on by “serious” bakers, and many of these cakes were leavened by eggs alone. That prejudice is changing because the chemically leavened cakes have a lighter texture that today’s tastes prefer. On the other hand, as desserts are rarely enjoyed without a cup of coffee in hand or a moistening mound of whipped cream, the dryer, solid consistency of the old-fashioned cakes hardly matters; it all boils down to a matter of taste. When a cake is baked in a rectangular pan, it can also have the suffix “-fleck,” or piece, indicating that the cake will be cut into squares for serving, as in Zwetschkenflecken (“Plum Squares”). These are not to be confused with Schnitten (“slices”), which are quite tall and are addressed in their own chapter.

Rouladen (Roulades) are another favorite cake in the Kuchen family. They are actually a category of Torten, made from a whipped-egg base and filled with some kind of simple whipped cream. The simple garnish of confectioners’ sugar distinguishes it from more complex Torten.

Gugelhupf’s distinctive fluted tube shape puts it in a category of it sown. Originally a yeast cake, it is now often baked in the modern method with baking powder. Many variations exist, but Marmorgugelhupf (Marble Gugelhupf) is as popular as any cake can be.

    In this section