Monday, August 18, 2008

Majestic Austrian Morsels

It may seem rather odd to be posting about Austria's most famous Emperor, Franz Josef I on a sultry day in August but such is the case because, today, dear visitors, is the day he was born in 1830 and my cookbooks know no boundaries. Besides, Emperor Franz Josef I, had a favorite dish and if you have ever visited before, you know how I am about favorite dishes. Now, I'm not going to go into one of those long drawn out posts that I am trying to trim down a bit. What I am going to do is highlight a few Austrian specialties including the traditional meal of boiled beef (tafelspitz) which also happens to be the National Dish of Austria.

...Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria became an unshakeable symbol of his era. The mutton-chop whiskered monarch managed a whopping sixty-eight years on the Habsburg throne, becoming a much-loved figure throughout the Empire. He liked well-polished shoes, boiled beef and he never missed a chance to chase a fox or shoot a stag. On the minus side, the Emperor wasn't so keen on telephones, elevators or flushing lavatories - newfangled gimmicks that weren't to be trusted. Dutiful and hard-working, he got up well before the crack of dawn, and carried out his manifold duties with dignified aplomb... source

Francis Joseph I

Franz Joseph I, (often abbreviated Franz Joseph or Franz Josef, in German and Francis Joseph in English) was born in Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria on August 18, 1830. He became Emperor of Austria on December 2, 1848. By most accounts, Francis Joseph was a family man with simple tastes. His political thinking was as uncomplicated and simple as his private life. At the same time he was devoted to duty, to honor, and to the welfare of his people. By the end of his reign, in November of 1921, he was revered in Austria much the same as Queen Victoria was within her Empire. The diversity in Austrian Cuisine is often attributed to it's historic past steeped in European history. It's fusion originates from all the countries of the former monarchy.

...For over 600 years, until World War I, the Austrian Empire had extended its national borders into modern Switzerland, France, Germany, Italy, former Czechoslovakia, Hungary, former Yugoslavia, Poland, and old geographical areas that were once called Bohemia and Moravia...

Franz Joseph I was an Austrian Emperor who liked to dine alone. "His frugal meal often consisted of a little broth, a small piece of boiled beef with very few vegetables, a flour-pudding, and two fingers of wine with much mineral water." (source: Francis Joseph and His Court (1917) pg. 210) At Schönbrunn Palace meals were prepared quite the contrary. The vast court kitchens and bakeries were kept busy preparing for balls and state banquets. Below is an excerpt from The Royal Cookbook published by Parents' Magazine Press in 1971.

At the heart of the formal routine of the ball was the buffet set up in the Redoutensaal, one of the largest reception rooms of the palace. Here the dancers quenched their thirst with champagne, mocha, roman punch, ice cream, and almond milk. The young officers crowded around the tables, offering their caps to be filled with petit fours from the Schönbrunn bakeries. After a short supper of five courses the imperial family left the ball at midnight; then began the famous Zuckerschlacht, the so called sugar battle, as the guests eagerly snatched up the contents of tray after tray of sugar sculptures. Here the art of the chef transformed itself into that of the sculptor and painter. Gorgeous bonbon imitations of classical statues, effigies, and miniature portraits of the emperor and his family were prized as souvenirs of the court ball.

Imperial Food & Recipes

So what does one serve in honor of such royalty? Well, I suppose we should begin with the most famous delicacy of the imperial table; Tafelspitz. The "The Emperor's Dish" of boiled beef dinner is also mentioned in the Royal Cookbook.

Taken from the hindquarters of the beef, close to the thigh bone, this cut was considered by Viennese gourmets to be the tastiest part of the animal. The meat was quickly served in a pan similar to a dutch oven and then braised slowly until very tender-the trick of knowing just when the roast was done was one of the secrets of the great Viennese chefs--while the juices were reduced and thickened and flavored with a touch of paprika, cognac, and orange juice. The Tafelspitz rode to the table on an elegantly decorated mound of potatoes and was served with baked celery, puree of young peas in potato jackets, or spears of baked squash.
Another guarded recipe reputedly created on April 28, 1873 in honor of Emperor Franz Joseph I, is the memorable Imperial Torte. This legendary chocolate, almond and marzipan creation is a signature specialty of the Hotel Imperial in Vienna. It too has an image and a story. I was reading an article published in the New York Times on December 2, 1906 which gives a somewhat intimate glance into the daily routine of Emperor Franz Joseph I. (link below) Up at 5:30, he first sips on coffee and dines on unbuttered toast then off he goes for a brisk walk in the palace gardens. While he is reading his morning paper, which is clippings of condensed news prepared by the imperial secretary, another light breakfast is served promptly at 8 AM. This breakfast most often consisted of a Kaisersemmel roll, or croissant, butter and apricot jelly. The article also illustrates the first introduction of actress Katharina Schratt to the emperor. There's a legend which involves Frau von Schratt and a famous Austrian coffee cake but, we'll get to that later.
Kaiserschmarren or Emperor's Pancakes have a story all their own. Of course, it too includes Emperor Fancis Joseph I as a wandering character. Legend has it that Kaiserschmarren also has many myths.
It is said, Emperor Franz Josef I once remarked Frau von Schratt; (Katharina Schratt) made the finest Gugelhupf in Vienna. The emperor and the actress remained friends throughout his lifetime. I found the information below on a discussion board but forgot to save the link. I do remember the author said the information came from one of two books. Rick Rodgers’ Kaffeehaus (which I have added to my wish list:) or
To Set before the King: Katharina Schratt's Festive Recipes compiled from the Iowa Szathmary Culinary Arts collection.
Gugelhupf acquires its revered status in Austrian history as one of the favourite dish of Emperor Franz Joseph. During the summer, when his court was ensconced in Bad Ischl, it was his habit to end his morning walk at the villa of his great friend, the actress Katharina Schratt, where she always had homemade, freshly baked Gugelhupf waiting for him. In case there was an unforeseen accident in her kitchen, she always had a backup order from Zauner, the town’s premier bakery.
In the Royal Cookbook there is a recipe for Kaiser Gugelhupt (Raisin Cake) which I am including below. There is also a recipe site, which I found that I thought you may like for traditional Austrian recipes. The webmasters have translated German recipes from Austria into English.
Kaiser Gugelhupt
1 pkg. dry yeast
1/4 c. lukewarm water
sifted flour (in directions)
2 eggs
1 c. milk
1/3 c. butter
1-1/2 c. confectioners' sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 c. raisins
1/3 c. ground almonds
In a mixing bowl soften yeast in lukewarm water and stir in 1/2 cup flour. Sift 1-1/2 cups flour over the sponge, cover with a towel, and put in a warm place until sponge rises through the flour, about 2 hours. Break in the eggs, add milk, and beat thoroughly until smooth. In a small bowl cream butter until light and fluffy and add the sugar and salt. Mix a little of the batter into the butter mixture until smooth and then combine the two. Toss the raisins and nuts with 1 tablespoon flour and add to the batter. Turn the batter into a 6-cup Gugelhupf mold or angel food cake pan. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes. Unmold on a cake rack and dust with confectioners' sugar.
*The gugelhopf mold is know also as a turban-head pan. Here's the link at Chef Talk that I thought I lost with more info.
The next recipe for Wiener Eiskaffe (coffee parfait) includes 2 egg yolks. If you want a recipe that doesn't include eggs, I did find one here. There's also one at epicurious which is made with Iced Coffee and Vanilla Ice Cream.
Wiener Eiskafee
Coffee Parfait
1/2 c. fresh coffee beans
1 c. medium cream
1 inch vanilla bean
2 egg yolks
1 c. confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 pint whipping cream
Roast coffee beans in a preheated 375 degree oven for 15 minutes. Heat the cream, coffee beans, and vanilla bean to the boiling point. Let stand 20 minutes or more. Strain and discard the beans. Beat the yolks until lemon color; slowly add the sugar and beat until very thick and almost white. Stir in the coffee-cream mixture. Refrigerate for 1 hour or more. Whip the cream and fold into coffee mixture. Serve in tall glasses. Top with plain whipped cream if desired. Makes 6 servings.

1. Franz Joseph I @ wiki
2. Francis Joseph and His Court (1917 pg. 210, google books)
3. New York Time (interesting article celebrating the 58th anniversary of his reign)
4. Cooking in Vienna
5. The Viennese Cuisine
6. Kaiserschmarren Recipe
7. Viennese Topfenstrudel with Vanilla Sauce
8. Pancake Day (previous post)


  1. What a lovely and fascinating post! Had to let you know, as I pack up in motel (lots of laundry in my future)before going home! Am bringing home some great cookbooks, etc...

  2. Louise, the Gugelhupf recipe sounds great, I am bookmarking this. Also, I love the new looks of Months of Edible Celebrations!

  3. Hi Lidian,
    Thank you so much for the kind words. I'm "revving" up to a new look and a bit less content.

    I hope you're going to be sharing some of those new found goodies on your blog.

    I'm sure you have lots of ads to share for laundry day(s)

  4. Hi Manuela,
    I was hoping you would get to see the Gugelhupt recipe. I was actually going to email you about it.

    Thanks so much for the compliment about the "new" look. My blog is almost one year old (I can't believe it:) so it's getting a makeover. Try to stop back on the 23rd for the "unveiling."

  5. "my cookbooks know no boundaries" - Isn't it just fascinating that it's possible to somehow connect a cookbook to just about everything? Although I think your blog is just perfect the way it is, can't wait to see your "new look".

  6. Hi there, dear Louise :D

    Wow, your blog is very interesting - you have certainly put another dimension to writing about various cuisines, cookbooks, etc. I will be sure to visit here more.

    I like to try out different recipes for my family and I will bake the Royal Austrian Raisin Cake as I love raisins. LOL!


    choesf :D

  7. Hi Kathy,
    LOL You have no idea what a compliment that is Kathy, one of my goals with this blog is to do just that! If anyone can appreciate such a statement it is certainly YOU!!!
    As for the "new look," I'm postponing that until the first of October which will be my one year blogaversary!

  8. Hey Happy,
    Thanks for dropping by and for the kind words. I hope you will be sharing that Gugelhupf with us. Just a tiny piece anyway. Oh okay, a picture will do:) See ya soon...

  9. Louise, your story recited above is quite accurate!
    As you are aware of http://www.imperialtorte.com/ with whom I have been in contact with to secure larger cakes than they produce... to assemble same to form an eventual wedding cake

    However, they are steadfast and refuse.

    As such, wonder whether you have any recipe for this cake-torte, which will have produced locally.

    Much appreciated

    whoyouknow AT gmail DOT com

  10. Hi Lawrence,
    Thanks for visiting my blog and your kind words. Unfortunately, I do not have a recipe for the emperor's imperial torte . I did take a quick glance in a book (Dover publication) by Gretel Beer, titled Austrian Cooking and Baking. On page 198, she gives two accounts associated with the cake. First, she says the cake was invented by Franz Sacher. The second myth eraser is about the cake's legendary secrecy. According to the author, the cake recipe hasn't been a secret since it was published in full, with permission from Mr. Edward Sacher Jnr., in a book titled Die Wiener Konditorei by Hans Skrach. A few of the ingredients from the original recipe includes, 18 egg whites and 14 egg yolks. She does not include the recipe but substitutes with her family recipe for Sachertorte. There are plenty of those recipes available online. Hope this helps,

  11. OK another favorite subject. The Hapsburgs and royalty. I love Vienna and all these types of dishes.CS gets madwhen I say I prefer Austrian cusine to German.

  12. Mmm. I love Austrian desserts, though funnily enough, the best Sachertorte I've ever had was in Italy.


Through this wide opened gate,
none came too early,
none returned too late.

Thanks for dropping in...Louise