There is a good chance that this post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through them, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you! As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. As ever, all opinions are my own.
If you only know one thing before you visit Vienna, let it be this: they take their cakes seriously.
In fact, the coffee house culture in Vienna is so important it has been deemed an ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’ by UNESCO since 2011. Viennese cafes have a unique atmosphere which I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Waiters in waistcoats and bow ties brush past businessmen conducting meetings, tourists in trainers, hats and scarves, and housewives meeting for an afternoon catch up, all enjoying steaming cups of coffee and indulgent cakes. The Viennese café is a melting pot for Vienna as a whole, where visitors can kick back and relax, together or by themselves. And, obviously, these cafes are the place to sample the best cakes in Vienna.
You can order a huge range of coffees and cakes in a Viennese cafe, and in some cafes you can even order a full-sized meal of traditional cuisine. During my recent trip to Vienna, I was on a mission to sample the best cakes the city had to offer. Here I have listed my top 5 so that you know exactly which cakes to try on your next trip to Vienna.
Apple strudel is a many-layered pastry filled with an apple sauce and sprinkled with powdered sugar. It is usually served warm alongside either ice cream, whipped cream or custard/vanilla sauce. Traditionally, the strudel is served in thin slices.
If you’re visiting Vienna in winter, the Apfelstrudel is the perfect solution to the freezing temperatures. I ducked into the cosy and wood-panelled Café Hawelka to escape from the biting cold, and it was the perfect place to try my first Apfelstrudel. The combination of the sweet, warm pasty and the tangy apple filling had me salivating! This was not only my first Apfelstrudel, but also my first experience in a Viennese café, and it didn’t disappoint. If you want to try one of the most historic and traditional cakes Vienna has to offer, you can’t go wrong with an Apfelstrudel.
Arguments have been going on for years over where, exactly, you can find the “original” Sachertorte. That it was invented in Vienna is certain, but Café Demel and Café Sacher both lay claim to the original. Demel sells the “Eduard Sacher-Torte” and Café Sacher sells the “Original Sachertorte”.
Regardless of whose is the original, it’s no secret that the Sachertorte is a fan favourite. It’s typically a dense chocolate cake with a thin layer of apricot jam along the top and sides, which is then coated in dark chocolate. There is often a layer of jam through the middle of the cake too. It is normally served with whipped cream.
I planned to sample the Sachertorte at both Demel and Café Sacher but, on seeing the ridiculous lines at both venues, decided the queue was not worth it. Instead, I tried Sachertorte at Café Central, which is lauded as one of the best cafes in Vienna. What I found unique about this cake is that it lacks a sickly sweet, intense flavour.
3 Esterházy Torte
Created in Budapest in the late 1800’s, the Esterházy torte is not really an “Austrian” cake. Regardless, the Esterházy Torte quickly became one of the most popular cakes in the Austrian-Hungarian empire. Because of this, Esterházy cake is definitely one to try whilst you’re in Vienna.
The cake consists of four or five layers of almond meringue dough, with spiced buttercream (using either vanilla or cognac) in between each layer. Esterhazy torte is topped with a fondant icing and decorated with milk chocolate stripes. As a finishing touch, flaked almonds are stuck to the sides of the cake to add a bit of crunch.
My boyfriend and I shared a slice of the Esterházy Torte and a slice of the Mozart Torte at the plush Café Landtmann, alongside liquor coffees. It was the perfect way to wake up once some afternoon drowsiness had set in. In fact, I think Esterházy Torte was my favourite of all the cakes we sampled in Vienna. The cream inside the sponge had a mousse-like texture, and the cake was really light. This was perfect as it meant we didn’t feel like we needed a lie down afterwards!
4 Mozart Torte
Café Landtmann’s interpretation of the cake named after one of Austria’s most successful citizens consists of a moist chocolate base topped with layers of pistachio cream, nougat and a thin chocolate mousse core. A chocolate disk displaying Mozart’s face tops the cake. The filling of this cake is rich, creamy and delicious, yet still surprisingly light.
Interestingly, there isn’t a universal agreement as to what constitutes a Mozart torte. In fact, the only thing that seems to be found in each cafe’s interpretation is nougat. I’ve heard some interpretations include marzipan, some include whole pistachios, and some include neither! If you see Mozart torte on the menu it’s definitely worth ordering – not just because it’s delicious, but also because you’re never quite sure what you’ll get!
Planning a trip to Vienna? You NEED to read my perfect 2 or 3 days in Vienna itinerary!
Like the Apfelstrudel, the Topfenstrudel is a soft and chewy pastry normally served warm with custard/vanilla sauce. What makes it different to the Apfelstrudel is that this variation has a soft and creamy quark filling. I didn’t know what quark was, but the best way to describe it is a kind of creamy, very mild and soft cheese. Despite containing cheese, this dish is sweet and tastes like a pudding.
One of the greatest things about the Topfenstrudel is its creamy and smooth texture, and the fact that it has such a unique and mild flavour. In combination with the vanilla sauce the result is a comforting and filling dessert.
I enjoyed my Topfenstrudel at Café Hofburg. Although the Café itself was nothing special, it was one of the few places where I saw Topfenstrudel on the menu, so if you’re dead set on trying it it’s worth stopping by.
What was your favourite cake in Vienna? Let me know in the comments!