I have decided to take you on a brief trip down memory lane to Austria after this text exchange with my two sisters last week:
N – I must admit, I really do miss not having taken a real vacation this year…
Ah, well, maybe next year.
L – We keep looking at the Viking cruise emails and wishing. Luckily the vouchers from our canceled trip just have to be used to book (not sail) by March 2022. Hopefully by then…
A – Gate 1 has canceled all tours through March 2021.
L – I know Viking has canceled all cruises for this year.
A – Canada has extended its border closed until at least September 21.
N – I would really like 2 take a driving holiday…but, I just do not think it is safe until we have a viable, safe vaccine.
As you can see, we all enjoy traveling even if we can’t right now. Later the same day I lay on our sofa instead of rocking in my hammock in the back yard. Outside an August thunderstorm was crashing and pouring rain. I was trying hard to appreciate my life. No doubt it has been wonderful. Despite the Pandemic, it’s still not too shabby with daily walks on the beach, fishing on the Intracoastal, kayaking through the marshes, the occasional motorcycle ride down the A1A. I have had time to read, bake to my heart’s content, and dream up projects around the house for my husband.
I looked around the room and admired a chest of drawers my husband had refinished that we now used to store linens. Marie Kondo had already helped me organize, so I had a pretty good memory of the many textiles that I had collected in a lifetime of travels. My eyes next landed on the open island in our kitchen. It was full of ceramics and wooden bowls and plates also with worldwide origins. Most were from trips and living abroad before the days of digital photography. Textiles and ceramics are my favorite souvenirs, so I didn’t need instant access photos to help me recollect the locales.
Although Marie Kondo helped with the chest, I wanted a means to organize these souvenirs that would let me take us all safely to a few places beyond our homes. My own memory works alphabetically. How tragic if I were illiterate. However, with just the first letter that big filing cabinet in my brain opens up. “Let’s start at the very beginning, it’s the very best place to start.” (Those lyrics were set in Austria, in case you wondered.) Since I have been to Austria a couple of times and my favorite cake plate purchased there was staring at me from its island home, A for Austria it is–At least for tea and cake.
I guess I gave away the year of my first trip to Austria. I didn’t stay for the Olympics but spent Christmas Eve in Innsbruck while traveling during my junior year abroad spent in Spain. Austria was the first place I experienced Tea Rooms. Did you know they serve hot tea in glasses? I didn’t before then. Mostly I remember the snow, the cold, down duvets; and breakfasts with sliced cheese, cold ham, and hot boiled eggs.
My second trip was to ski with my sister and friends when I was 5 months pregnant with son number one. I had been a ski instructor all through high school and college so didn’t think there would be a risk. I flew in from Dubai to meet up with the others from Scotland and the US. By that age, I had learned how to shop. I purchased the pretty cake plate and napkins, some designer shoes (which I, sadly, no longer possess), and the wooden steak plates just like the ones I had admired that belonged to a friend in Dubai. The Hofbackstube Schonbrunn baking cloth was a gift from my sister with instructions on how to make Apfelstrudel. The recipe I have in mind to share is a much simpler one that serves 4 perfectly–or 2 today and 2 tomorrow as is the case with us.
This recipe for Viennese Coffee Cake comes from a now out-of-print cookbook that was given to me as a college graduation present called Sweets and Puddings. Every recipe that I have ever made from it has been yummy. I missed this one for years as it didn’t come with a mouthwatering photograph. I have tweaked the recipe to make it American user friendly. The best part? It is a coffee cake that actually contains coffee! I will end my first trip with you down memory lane with this luscious sweet treat. Think Tiramisu but Austrian, you will not be disappointed.
Viennese Coffee Cake–A is for Austria
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Using a little of the butter, grease a parchment-lined 7-inch cake tin, then dust with a little flour.
In a bowl, beat the butter with a wooden spoon until it is soft. Add 1/2 cups sugar and beat until the mixture is creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, with 1 tablespoon of flour. Beat to mix and then fold in the remaining flour and the crushed walnuts.
Turn the batter into the prepared cake tin.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Remove the cake from the tin and place on a rack to cool for 45 minutes.
Mix the coffee and brandy. Put the cake back in the cake tin, use the skewer to poke holes all through the cake, and slowly pour the coffee and brandy over it. When all the liquid has been absorbed, (about 5 minutes) turn out on to a serving plate.
Whip the cream with the remaining 2 teaspoons of the sugar and the vanilla essence. Using a spatula, spread the cream in whirls over the cake to cover it completely. Decorate with walnut halves.