A Little Book of Viennese Pastries

Austrian Apple Strudel (Apfelstrudel)
Christmas Butter Cookies (Weihnachtsgeback)

viennese pastry  

Is it any wonder that from a city as elegant and beautiful as Vienna should come such a wonderful array of cakes and pastries? This city of literally thousands of pastry shops and coffee houses has a long and illustrious tradition of baking. For the Viennese, eating cakes and pastries is one of life's richest—and oldest—pleasures.

It began over five hundred years ago, when Emperor Frederick V of Austria ordered bread rolls to be stamped with his likeness. It seems that from then on, Austrian bakers never looked back. Over capital of the vast and wealthy Austro-Hungarian Empire, more and more recipes for exquisite cakes, breads, and pastries were created; Viennese bakers fought with each other over whose were the best. Cakes which are now world-famous, such as Sachertorte and Doboztorte, were invented in Vienna; so too was Apfelstrudel and the distinctively shaped Gugelhupf, not to mention an incredible number of chocolate gateaux, nut cakes, and fresh fruit tarts.

The coffee house of Vienna are still filled today with customers lingering over a coffee and enjoying a pastry—and maybe indulging themselves with an extra helping of Schlagobers, the famous whipped cream so beloved by the Viennese. In this charming little cookbook, you will find many of the famous Viennese specialties, plus some lesser-known but no less delicious recipes of the kind made at home. Guten Appetit!


Christmas Butter Cookies

Christmas Butter Cookies


It is traditional for Austrian families to make special cookies for Christmas, and many families have their own recipe which is passed down from generation to generation. and for those who have no time to make them at home, the bakery shops all over Austria are full of different kinds. This cookie recipe is very quick and easy to do, ideal for those who are in a rush at Christmas but want to carry on an old tradition.

  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp vanilla sugar
  • 1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tbsp water, to glaze
  • a few tbsp chopped nuts, to garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix the butter, confectioners' sugar, and egg yolk together with your hands. Add the flour and vanilla sugar and knead to a firm dough. Chill for about 2 hours. Roll out the dough on a floured surface until about 1/4-inch thick. Cut out about 40 Christmas shapes such as stars, bells, Santa Claus, angels, holly heaves, etc., either freehand or with the appropriate cookie cutters. Place the cookies on baking sheets lined with non-stick baking parchment, brush with the egg glaze and sprinkle with nuts. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly colored. Leave to cool on racks before serving.

Note: Make vanilla sugar by keeping a vanilla bean pod in a jar of superfine sugar. Use as needed.


Apple Strudel

strudel Apfelstrudel

Viennese Apfelstrudel is famous all over the world, but few people realize that the Viennese borrowed the idea for paper-thin leaves of pastry from the Hungarians, who in turn took it from the Turks.


  • 12 sheets of frozen filo pastry, thawed
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 3/4 cup ground almonds
  • confectioners' sugar, to finish


  • 2 lb tart apples
  • finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/3 cup superfine sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. To make the filling: Peel, core, and thinly slice the apples and immediately toss them with the other filling ingredients. Dredge a tea towel with flour and place one sheet of filo on it with the long side facing you. Brush the filo with melted butter. Place another sheet of filo on top of the first and brush with more melted butter. Continue in this way until there are twelve sheets of filo on top of each other with butter in between. Sprinkle the top sheet of buttered filo with the ground almonds, then evenly cover with the filling, leaving a wide border all around the edges. Fold in these edges to seal in the filling, then brush them with melted butter. Using the tea towel to help you, roll up the filo away from you. Carefully lift the roll, seam side down, onto a butter baking sheet and tuck in the ends so the filling does not ooze out during baking. Brush all over with melted butter and bake for 30 minutes or until crisp and golden. Serve warm, dusted with confectioners' sugar.

Serves 8-10


Introduction and Recipes from:
A Little Book of Viennese Pastries
by Jeni Wright
Illustrated by Aislinn Adams
Chronicle Books
Released 1995
ISBN: 0-8118-1175-1
Reprinted with permission


More Austrian Recipes

This page originally published as a FoodDay article in 1997.

Copyright © 2007, Forkmedia LLC. All rights reserved.

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This page modified February 2007

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