I think Demel is classified as a Café-Konditorei – a patisserie with a café – and I don’t think there is one more grand in Vienna. Today, it still displays its title of Imperial and Royal Court Confectionery Bakery, it having supplied the Imperial palaces. Here, read this article about Demel written in the 1967 for Gourmet magazine. Fancy and exclusive! Now here’s a more recent article about the konditorei written for Saveur magazine – it explains how Demel had been purchased by a gourmet food company in 2002 and how the general riff-raff like us can now visit.
We visited on a Sunday at about brunch time and just managed to grab a table before the hoards of post-mass churchgoing Viennese descended upon the cafe. We sat upstairs, which I do recommend as one can choose one’s cakes in relative peace, without the crowds trying to order takeaway downstairs competing with you for space. There’s also more light upstairs.
There’s a menu for all the drinks and savouries and some desserts but the real fun comes in choosing your cake from the displays. How can one choose?!
First, though, drinks: a hauskaffee (brewed coffee served with whipped cream) for me and a hot chocolate for Blai. The coffee was lovely (how can you go wrong with whipped cream?) and while Blai’s chocolate seemed very sweet at first, it started to grow on us.
We also ordered a savoury dish off the brunch menu: Würsteleierspeis’ mit Schwarzbrot, deliciously soft scrambled eggs cooked with sliced frankfurters, something I sought to recreate almost immediately back home. The dark brown bread was just like the kind I avoided as a child but that I now love, all chewy and nutty.
Of course, this was the moment I was waiting for – time to choose our cakes! After a lot of hmm-ing and haw-ing, I settled for a slice Esterhazytorte, thin layers of hazelnut sponge sandwiched together with buttercream and topped with fondant. Blai had already chose his from a distance, the rather pink and flashy Elisabethschnitte, sweet strawberries embedded in light, fluffy strawberry mousse and coated in chocolate icing. They were both incredible.
We returned to Demel the following day, Monday, our last day in Vienna, to try more of their confections. I was surprised to see just as many locals as tourists there on this weekday.
Again, something savoury first (having just cakes for brunch always seemed wrong to me!) – Frische Eierschwammerl auf Tagliatelle – sauteed fresh chanterelles with tagliatelle in a delicious white wine and cream sauce, ordered off a special menu. I had seen lots of chanterelles for sale at the Naschmarkt that weekend and they must’ve been in season.
Then more sweets! Blai wanted to try their Sachertorte to see how it compared to that at the Sacher Café. The main difference seems to be in the number of layers of apricot jam – Demel’s had one while the Sacher Café’s had two. I certainly preferred that from the Sacher Café; more jam provides more moisture and their chocolate icing had a better flavour.
I chose a slice of apfelstrudel with a side of vanillesauce, like a fantastic hot creme anglais. The strudel was chock full of apples, raisins and cinnamon and was gorgeous with the sauce. I only wish they hadn’t heated up my slice as the pastry had lost its crispness.
As with all of Vienna’s cafes, you’re welcome to stay and linger for as long as you require. I could have stayed the entire day! I couldn’t leave without a little souvenir and we took home a small marmorgugelhupf, possibly the best marbled butter cake I’ve ever had. Highly recommended.
Can you tell I absolutely adored Vienna?
K.U. K HOFZUCKERBÄCKER
CH. DEMEL’ S SÖHNE GmbH