Austria in 6 (or More) Cakes: The Pistachio Problem
For reasons that are hard to track down, the Mozart Kugel – Austria’s famous Mozart Ball chocolate – is filled with pistachio marzipan. Theory: Mozart made several journeys to Italy as a young man and while there, he became fond of pistachios which were commonly used in Italian desserts.
The pistachio has been in trade since biblical times; it was a highly valued crop. So it’s also possible that pistachio is more random choice that relies on the nut’s identity as a luxury item – we’ll use pistachio because it’s fancy! Mozart is fancy! So, Mozart equals pistachio!
Maybe. Maybe not.
It’s not just about chocolates, it’s also about cake. There are two front runners in the Mozart-something cakes race, the Mozarttorte and the Mozartbombe. Both include that recognizable pistachio green marzipan.
The Mozarttorte at Café Aida doesn’t go overboard with the pistachio marzipan, it’s used as a layering element between two slabs of rich chocolate cake, and the whole thing is wrapped in a mocha ganache-like icing.
Aida is a chain but an old one: It’s been in business since 1913. They have 30 locations in Vienna, easily spotted by their pink neon signs. It’s tempting to dismiss them for their prevalence, but that does an injustice to their baking. Aida’s coffee isn’t the best in Austria, but their cake is quality, franchise or no.
At the Café Schwarzenberg, the specialty is the Mozartbombe. The Mozartbombe is on a chocolate base, similar to that of a Sachertorte, and it’s got chocolate cake between layers of pistachio whipped cream. The cake is dome shaped and covered in bright green marzipan. It’s gorgeous until you get your fork into it and then, it’s a delicious mess.
The Café Schwarzenberg opened in 1861 and there’s just one. The room has lofty ceilings and dark wood furniture and a pastry case right by the front door that features not just the Mozartbombe, but a variety of other fancy cakes too. The cafe is popular with tourists, but that doesn’t seem to keep the locals away. As a result, there’s a real international vibe, what with all the different languages floating around.
Mozart himself you can find three blocks away – the Vienna Opera House is just up the road – and while it is possible to hear his work, he remains silent on the issue of pistachios.
Top image: Mozart torte at Cafe Aida by Pam Mandel
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