It’s easy to feel like royalty when you’re in Vienna. Nearly the whole city looks like a palace, with its elegant white buildings topped with mint green domes and sparkling golden statues. The buildings look like expensive jewelry boxes and intricate wedding cakes.
It’s almost uniformly tidy and regal, and has seemingly endless ornate places to visit, whether it’s glittering palaces, grand formal gardens, or sophisticated opera houses.
It is, in short, an incredibly fancy place – right down to the cakes.
While Viennese food isn’t the most exciting cuisine on the scene – most dishes consist of a massive slab of meat with a similarly huge side of potatoes – their desserts are truly spectacular. Each slice of cake is a little work of art bursting with sweet flavors.
To have a day out like a duchess (or duke), the best way to enjoy these tiny masterpieces is by jumping from palace to opera house, and stopping off at every enticing café along the way.
Here are some of the best cakes in Vienna – and there are many! Let them eat cake, indeed.
The Empress’s Choice
The Café Gloriette at the Schönbrunn Palace is worth a visit even if you don’t fancy a stop at a café – although I personally think you should jump at any chance to taste more cakes.
It’s on the top of a hill overlooking the palace, and has sweeping views of the extensive gardens. This section of the palace is free to enter, and the grassy hillside is full of groups of friends enjoying picnics or joggers out for a run.
The café sits right at the top, and the cakes are far nicer than your usual museum café serves. Their violet and chocolate cake was supposedly the Empress Sisi’s favorite cake, and it’s still served today.
Flower flavors can sometime taste a bit soapy, but this cake had touch of violet that blended perfectly with the thin layer of chocolate and the fluffy vanilla cake. It comes adorned with a white chocolate disc stamped with a portrait of the empress so you remember its historical connection.
Our second choice was an equally delicious poppy-seed and apricot slice. Plus, it came with the added bonus of being able to eat cakes in such a pretty setting.
Address: Schönbrunner Schlossstraße, 1130 Wien
Moving from duchesses to revolutionaries, Café Central is a lovely old-fashioned café in the city center of Vienna – and the purported favorite of none other than Trotsky himself (and also Freud).
You sit beneath huge paned windows in cozy alcoves of semi-circular seating booths. There’s a big counter with all the delicious cakes neatly laid out so you can choose which one looks the most appealing. In the middle of the café sits a grand piano, and a pianist comes to tinkle the ivories in the late afternoon as you tuck into your cakes.
We tried a raspberry and chocolate sponge with light layers of raspberry mousse, a hazelnut cake with apricot mousse, and a chocolate cake. We enjoyed them with creamy coffees topped with swirls of whipped cream.
You’ll also be able to experience one of the great Viennese traditions here – incredibly grumpy waitstaff (try not to take it too personally).
Address: Herrengasse, 14
The Vienna Classic
The most iconic of all of Vienna’s sweet treats is probably the Sachertorte, which has its own controversial history – a remarkable achievement for a cake.
Why the controversy? Well, it turns out there was a bit of a heated discussion as to who was the first baker to come up with the iconic cake. The discussion became so heated, in fact, that the bakers took it to court.
Today, the Sacher Hotel’s website has a section dedicated to the cake, which has a virtual guard dog. Literally – there’s a photo of a dog in the lower hand corner along with the quote “I am watching over the secret of the original recipe.”
So with all this fuss aside, what is a Sachertorte? It’s a chocolate cake topped with a thin layer of apricot jam and a generous layer of chocolate icing, and it’s often served with a dollop of whipped cream.
I actually found the famous cake a bit dry and bland, although the chocolate coating on the top was amazing.
As it was, I was glad to have tried the Sachertorte – excuse me, the Original Sachertorte – in the place it was invented, but it was my least favorite of the cakes I tried in Vienna.
We also tried their mango cake, which was also very nice but not exceptional.
Address: Philharmonikerstraße, 4
The Best of All
As the cliché goes, I’ve saved the best for last – and in this case, the very best place for cakes in Vienna we found was Café Demel. This café founded in the late 1700s as a pastry shop officially became a purveyor of their sweet treats to the royal family in the 1800s – that’s how wonderful their cakes, pastries, and chocolates are.
The inside is like a fancy living room, with shimmering chandeliers and delicate silvery touches on the pastel-colored walls. It feels like the upstairs section was originally designed as an apartment rather than a restaurant, and it was the perfect place to sit and enjoy tea and cakes on a rainy day.
I ordered a bright pink cake with two thin layers of vanilla cake sandwiched together with a creamy strawberry center and layers of extra flavors. We also tried a passionfruit slice and a traditional esterhazytorte (that’s the stripy one).
They were sweet without being overpowering, were full of light layers of satisfying fillings, and mixed together flavors in an incredibly tasty way.
Actually, “enjoy” may not be quite the right word for how much I liked eating these cakes. These tasted so good I might have literally licked my plate clean had I not been in public.
Address: Kohlmarkt 14
Do you have any tips on where to find the best cakes in Vienna? I’m sure there are lots of delicious places I didn’t manage to make it to!