High and Low at the Cafe Demel

Just days ahead of passover, my mind returns to pastry-filled Vienna, where I sampled the famous sachertorte at the Demel pastry shop. Read about the history of the dessert and its name in this turgid wikipedia entry.

The Demel, on a busy slightly touristy shopping street near the Stephansdom cathedral, is a crowded, gilded coffee and cake shoppe, with a glass walled kitchen. While I ate the Demels Sachertorte, I watched a young apprentice repeatedly apply frosting florets to a wooden practice cake, check her work, and wipe them off to start again.

This photo doesn't do much justice to the cake, as my cameraphone lacks the "food porn closeup" setting I've been seeking in a full-size digital camera. Personally, I could have dispensed with the layer of apricot jam entirely, but it was hardly noticable under the ganache-like icing. The cake was a bit dry - that's why the Viennese pile on the cream - but satisfyingly chocolately. The espresso, as with most of the coffee I had in Vienna, was perfectly composed.

Back to the glass-walled kitchen for a moment. See that, in the center towards the bottom of the photo? Near the seam in the glass? Yes, that. Yes, it's a bust of Bill Clinton. Executed in some sort of candy. I think he's saying that he feels my marzipain. And who's that other candy bust? Kofi Annan? Thabo Mbeki?

At any rate, I bought a small Demel Sachertorte in a wooden box and brought it back. I served it at book club. Slightly dry for the travelling, it was a nice finish to the meal. And the box was the perfect size for sending the leftover Wensleydale cheese back with one of my guests.

So for those about to start a week of potato starch, nut flower and [most dreaded of all] cocoanut-based desserts, get your fluffy leavened goodies whilst you can and hope that nobody's sculpting your likeness in almond paste to sit unnervingly next to the macaroons.

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