Demel Vienna. Obviously, cake culture cuts a big piece out of Vienna. At least for the first time traveller. Should you go for the most legendary institution to have your cake and eat it? While more of a tourist than a local favourite, the almost 230-year-old confectionery is a post-Imperial attraction. But then we Viennese wouldn’t want it any other way either…or would we?
The Cake Shop
Demel Vienna. Enter Demel’s shop area and you discover what must be the edible part of the Imperial Treasury. Between polished dark wood, shiny glass, delicate stucco, and beautiful ceramics the most refined cakes and confectionery present themselves.
As a matter of fact, this area is for instant satisfaction over-the-counter. Choose between Demel’s own cake, Esterhazy cakes, Walnut cake and a dozen other varieties. Demel’s candied violets pile up in the back area of the shop – Empress Sissi was a huge fan of them. The other legendary delicacy are Demel’s chocolaty Katzenzungen (cats’ tongues). If you have a few minutes, take a seat at the small – and always crowded – bar area for a quick coffee and tart.
Demel Vienna. During all my decades in Vienna I never had to queue at a local café let alone a patisserie. At Demel I did. Since the ground floor covered the smoking area I decided to go up. The first floor was made up of three elegant historic patisserie rooms, filled with marble coffee tables, chairs and red upholstered sofas in the window boxes.
After 20 minutes, it was my turn to get a table. I felt like experimenting and ordered the Anna Demel coffee, a very girlie concoction of coffee with orange liqeur topped with whipped cream and some sweet candy. The Demel cake, a close variety and former fierce rival to Sacher Torte, was a simple chocolate cake (for more sophisticated cakes turn to Esterhazy and Dobos Torten).
Demel felt as Viennese as our museums: everything had an Imperial touch or was simply iconic – from the sign ‘K.u.K. Hofzuckerbäcker‘ (Imperial and Royal Supplier to the Court) and the cake vitirines down to its waitresses, called Demelinerinnen because of their monastic black attire.
Funnily enough, I was even addressed in the third person, something my late grandmother would have been used to. But Demel was far from that urban vibe that we call real life….I was the only Viennese among a mix of international guests! Demel Vienna simply nurtures a desire for tradition in general, and an Imperial experience specifically. Because tourists are the main fans, most locals have their cake and eat it elsewhere.
The Bakery And Shop Window
The most exciting feature of Demel Vienna was its showroom bakery and workshop in the back: On your way to the café upstairs you could watch skilled young confectioners at work through a glass wall: Shaping and decorating cakes, tarts and chocolate creations from Easter bunnies to Christmas angels.
People expect strict tradition from Demel, down to the very recipes. Chief patissier Dietmar Muthentaler put it this way: “If I dared to innovate the recipes, people would chase me across Kohlmarkt with a wet cloth.” (source: Die Presse, 14/12/2014)
Even if you decide not to use the café or buy anything, it’s worth peeping into that laboratory of Viennese artisan patisserie. If café, shop and bakery won’t stop you, Demel’s extraordinary shop window likely will. Chief decorator Herr Nitsche creates breathtakingly beautiful sceneries conjuring the seasons or cultural highlights. Best window shopping experience in Vienna.
Where to Find Demel Vienna
Making reservations: To manage your expectations about booking a table at Demel: For years, one of my partner guides has tried in vain to get a positive response from Demel about making a reservation. In 2019, I was finally lucky enough to secure an email reservation for two trip planning clients – only for them find out that nobody knew about it when they arrived. Subsequently, a request for clarification remained unanswered.