Austrian Cuisine (Österreichische Küche) and its Habsburg tradition

Austria Cuisine is a consequence of its history as a multinational empire, where different kinds of cultures contributed their very own variations. The Habsburg Empire stretched from the borders of Imperial Russia to the Adriatic and consisted of more than 10 nationalities with over 51 million people speaking 16 different languages. Within the last 7 centuries, the regions Habsburg rule extended over Switzerland, Alsace, Burgundy, Spain, Holland, Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia and Italy. All of which have influenced Austria’s cuisine in their own way. Austrian cuisine is most often associated with Viennese cuisine but there are significant regional variations such as cuisine from Lower Austria, Burgenland, Sytria, Corinthian, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Tyrol and Vorarlburg. Three examples of Austrian famous dishes are Sacher torte, Tafelspitz and Wiener Apfelstrudel.


1. Sachertorte 



This chocolate cake is said to be invented in Vienna by Chef Franz Sacher in 1832 for Prince Wenzel von Metternich and Metternich’s important guests. Metternich’s personal chef who was supposed to create the special desserts for them at that time was ill and the task was given to Franz Sacher during Sacher’s second year of training in the Metternich’s kitchen. The guests were very pleased with the cake created by Sacher.

After Sacher completed his training as a chef, he opened a specialty delicatessen and wine shop in his hometown in Vienna. His eldest son, Eduard carried on his culinary legacy. Eduard completed his training in Vienna with the Royal and Imperial pastry Chef at the Demel Bakery and Chocolatier. At this time, Eduard improved his father’s recipe and developed the cake into its current form today which was first served at the Demel and later at the Hotel Sacher founded by Eduard in 1876. Since then, the cake remains among the most well-known culinary specialties of Vienna.

There were trademark issues over the use of the label “The Original Sacher Torte” developed between Hotel Sacher and Demel bakery in the early decades of the twentieth century. This led to an agreement that gave Hotel Sacher the rights to use “The Original Sachertorte” label and gave Demel the rights to decorate its cakes with a triangular seal that labelled “Eduard-Sacher-Torte”.

The basis of the entire confection is a chocolate cake, thinly coated by hand with best-quality apricot jam. The chocolate icing on top of it is the eminence feature. It tastes best with a portion of unsweetened whipped cream.

The Original Sacher Torte is produced according to the original recipe which is a well-kept secret known only to confectioners at Hotel Sacher in Vienna.

The link to the recipe:


2. Tafelspitz 



Tafelspitz is a Viennese traditional boiled beef and considered to be the national dish of Austria. In the Middle Ages, it held great significance for the menu of all social classes within the Vienna’s community. Cattle could be easily taken to Vienna from the breeding grounds during that time such as from Hungary, Galicia, Marchfeld etc. which was a major advantage compared to short-legged animals such as pigs and sheep since the corresponding transportation possibilities did not yet exist. The Viennese City Council did not yet differentiate among the various cuts of meat when determining prices in the middle of the 16th century; only the highly valued parts such as tenderloin or sirloin traded at higher prices. The meat was mostly boiled since people then also obtained the beef soup as an appetizer. Beef was thereby affordable for the majority of Viennese.

Based on historical records as far back as 1836, shows that boiled beef could be found on the imperial family’s menu every day. Emperor of Austria, Franz Joseph I declared that the boiled beef was his favourite meal and during this time, the Tafelspitz gained its prime in popularity. The boiled beef had to be served to him every day except on fasting days. His wife, Empress Elisabeth also favoured this dish. The beef soup, with its numerous combinations of ingredients, which came about while boiling the beef, was likewise favoured by the imperial couple.

The popularity of beef in Vienna can be determined by an account written by a traveller, “In the meat pots of Vienna, Viennese beef is prepared; that unique, delicious, tender, juicy, matchless, superb, beloved, longed-for Viennese beef.” A century later, Joseph Wechsberg, the Old Austrian essayist and gourmet, wrote “in Vienna, a person who couldn’t talk learnedly about at least a dozen different cuts of boiled beef didn’t belong, no matter how much money he’d made or if the Kaiser had awarded him the title of Hofrat (court councillor) or Kommerzialrat.”

Vienna achieved a unique international position early on with the typical small cuts of beef. Among the many beef delicacies, it is undoubtedly the Tafelspitz that has gained the greatest fame. Good-quality beef, a few vegetables, aromatic spices and plenty of water to cook in are the vital ingredients for this most typical Viennese meal. One of the actual secrets of the exceptional success of boiled beef or Tafelspitz in Vienna has always been the variety of side dishes such as mashed potatoes, deep-fried cauliflower, macaroni, apple horseradish, chive sauce, horseradish bread sauce, green beans with dill, romaine lettuce with peas, cream spinach, cream kohlrabi, pumpkin, as well as roasted potatoes. Slices of bone marrow which have been boiled along with the main dish are also often added.

The link to the recipe:


3. Wiener Apfelstrudel 



The Apfelstrudel or Apple Strudel was the favourite dessert of Empress Sisi and Crown Prince Rudolf and it is considered to be the national dish of Austria.Strudel is most often linked with Austrian cuisine but is also a traditional pastry in the areas previously owned by the Austro-Hungarian empire. Apfelstrudel is the most broadly known form of strudel in these countries. The oldest Strudel recipe is from 1696, a handwritten recipe at the Wiener Stadtbibliothek, The Vienna City and State Library.

The strudel gained popularity in the 18th century through the Habsburg Empire (1278-1780). Strudel is linked to the Ottoman Empire’s pastry baklava and came to Austria via Turkish to Hungarian and Hungarian to Austrian. The baklava requires thin dough, a method likely honed by either the Greeks or the Ottomans. The pastries made with this type of dough are called filo pastries. The pastries are popular in the Balkans and the Middle East. It is very likely that the method behind the filo pastries arrived to Central Europe via the Ottoman Empire, as the Habsburgs had constant interactions with the Ottomans.

Apple strudel consists of an oblong strudel pastry with apple filling inside. The filling is made of sliced apples, sugar, cinnamon, raisins, and bread crumbs. A juicy Apfelstrudel should be baked with good ripe apples that are tart, crisp, and aromatic. According to the Schönbrunn’s Apfelstrudelshow (a show at the café in the Habsburg’s royal palace in the outskirts of Vienna that demonstrates how to make the “royal and official” version of the Apfelstrudel), the secret is using sunflower seed oil. This makes the dough highly flexible and elastic. Apfelstrudel is most commonly served with coffee or tea.

The link to the recipe:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s