“So ein Schmarrn!” is a handy of Austrian German slang for “What a mess!” Schmarrn is also the name of dessert that’s not much more than a scrambled pancake. (Pancake is a kind of cake too, friends!) The Kaiserschmarrn got its “Kaiser” prefix because it was a favorite of Emperor Franz Josef – he of the fondness for Bundt cake.
A well made Kaiserschmarrn is dusted with powdered sugar and served warm with a side of current or apricot jam. Serving sizes are absurd and because of that, it’s often the dessert for dinner selection of choice. The trick to making a proper Kaiserschmarrn is lots of fluffy egg whites and plenty of butter in which to brown the pancake as you scramble it in the same pan in which you’ve baked it.
Kaiserschmarrn is made when you order; it’s not the kind of thing you select from a dessert case at the cafe. But it’s not hard to find, and in some of the more touristy neighborhoods in Vienna, you’ll see awnings and window signs touting Kaiserschmarrn as an offering. Don’t be fooled by that, any decent small town gasthaus will have Kaiserschmarrn on the menu. But plan ahead – either wrangle your companions in to sharing an order with you or go all in and have it for your meal. It’s going to be too much food, otherwise.
There’s a sort of cousin to the Kaiserschmarrn, the Salzburger Nockerln, which is a soufflé, also dusted with powdered sugar and served war, with jam. This is a more classic oven baked dessert-as-dinner alternative and this one is said to have been created by Salome Alt, the mistress of Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich Raitenau. Being an Archbishop did not prevent you from eating dessert or having a mistress with whom you had 15 children.
Salzburg’s Mirabell Palace was built for Salome Alt and the formal gardens here are very pretty, especially in the springtime when the flowers are in full bloom. There are several nice cafes right near the palace, including a Konditorei Furst, where you can get an amazing Mozartkugel, but if you want a classic room, cross the river and go to the Café Tomaselli in the Alter Markt (Old Market). The Tomaselli has been a café and bakery since 1705 and while yes, it’s pricy and in the tourist heart of Salzburg, it’s still populated by locals who come to read the newspaper and eat breakfast. It’s lovely in the summer when you can sit outside under the ornate balcony, but it’s also nice in winter, when you can cozy up inside with a warm dessert, a big cup of coffee, and whatever you’re reading.
Pro tip? Don’t wear black, the powdered sugar gets everywhere. So ein schmarren!
Top image: Kaiserschmarren by Kobako via Wikimedia (Creative Commons)