The Cakes of Vienna Part 4 – An elemental discovery: the Kardinalschnitte at Cafe Bellaria

Today my business is with Café Bellaria, a traditional Viennese café with a great reputation. As I walk down the scenic Burgring street on this increasingly hot morning, past many museums and authoritative-looking statues, little do I know that I am about to make my biggest Viennese cake discovery so far – the Kardinalschnitte.

The Cakes of Vienna

Part 4 – Kardinalschnitte a.k.a. Cardinal slice at Cafe Bellaria

Cafe Bellaria Vienna

Cafe Bellaria – a very old-school feel

As soon as I set foot into Café Bellaria, I fall for its charms. It is the spitting image of my idea of a “proper” cafe, replete with a piano, vintage upholstery and a high domed ceiling. And yet it has a cosy and unpretentious vibe, the kind of vibe that would make one want to stay there for hours and have coffee after coffee after cake.

The place has a distinctly early-20th-century feel – it looks like the setting of one of those old-timey movies where washed-out middle-aged former divas wearing long sequined gowns sing cabaret songs with husky smoker’s voices and knowing expressions on their faces, while leaning against the piano and holding a metre-long cigarette holder. The cafe certainly looks like a place where people once used to smoke a lot. I can almost see the ghost of 20th century smoke in the air – it gives the whole place a slightly yellowy tinge, as if the interior were an old sepia photo of itself.

Kardinalschnitte cardinal slice and ice cafe

A glass of water looks like a shot glass when placed next to the gigantic ice cafe. Or maybe the glass is just tiny.

There isn’t an enormous selection of cake in the cake display, but the few kinds that are there look very good. My gaze locks on the Kardinalschnitten, i.e. cardinal slices, which look absolutely captivating. I take a seat in one of the booths next to the window and as soon as the waitress comes to my table, I order a cardinal slice and ice cafe.

Did you know?

Bellaria was the starting point of the first horse-drawn tram in Vienna. This was way back in 1817. Afterwards the tram was steam-driven, and finally became the electric tram of today, colloquially called the “Elektrische”.

As I wait for my Kardinalschnitte, I leaf through the inevitable café brochure on my table. No surprises there anymore – my brochure innocence has long been replaced with experience. Well, at least since yesterday.

By the way, the table is just the right height. I might go so far to say that it’s the perfect writing table. I can imagine a procession of 20th century intellectuals sitting at this very table and feverishly scribbling academic tracts on notepads or napkins. Then I realise that I am doing the same – I’ve been writing since the moment I sat down and have already filled in 10 pages of my notebook. Scary.

But it’s now time to put the pen down because my Kardinalschnitte is here and so is the ice cafe, which almost dwarfs the ‘schnitte with its alarmingly huge cream content. Unwilling to be discouraged, I try a bit of the cardinal slice. My senses are immediately blown away by its exquisitness. The cake is very light, almost transcendentally so. It is so airy it is almost elemental. The two white layers are made almost entirely of egg whites and the yellow highlights contain the yolks. The coffee-infused filling provides the flavour. I find all this ingenious and slightly exhilarating.

I used to avoid the Kardinalschnitte, thinking it was an old ladies’ coffee cake, but was anyone ever so mistaken? This is definitely my kind of cake and Cafe Bellaria is definitely my kind of place, a place I could spend a lot of time in. And that is exactly what I intend to do today. Outside there is an epic heat wave in progress, so I think I’ll stick around a bit longer and perhaps have another cake.

Kardinalschnitte cardinal slice Vienna

Definitely worthy of a close-up

What new cake discovery awaits around the corner? Will it appear in the form of a refreshing apricot slice, a walnut cake, or perhaps one of the traditional Viennese tortes? Find out in the next installment of the Cakes of Vienna.

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About Sonja Kudei

Sonja Kudei is a writer and web developer based in London.

3 Responses to “The Cakes of Vienna Part 4 – An elemental discovery: the Kardinalschnitte at Cafe Bellaria”

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  2. I just finished a kardinalschnitte from Merkur and I was delicious too… how do I get to see the other cakes in the Vienna cake series? I found a great recipe for this cake….at http://katieatthekitchendoor.com/2010/03/08/adventures-in-austrian-pastry/
    It is best to buy the cakes in Vienna and not to bother with baking, but when you are back home in NA there is not the same kind of cake anywhere…..