Classic Christmas Cakes: Mince Pies, Sachertorte & Stollen

Food Chronicles

British Mince Pies, Austrian Sachertorte, and German Stollen

Christmas is here and it is time to indulge in your favorite desserts of the season. Here is a brief history of 3 classic Christmas cakes:

The History of British Mince Pies

A classic British Christmas staple which is sometimes also known as “Christmas pie.” The origins date back to the 13th century with European crusaders returned from the Holy Land (the Middle East) with meats, fruits, and spices.

Traditionally, mince pies were oval shaped to resemble the manger of the baby Jesus. The pies were filled with minced meat, such as lamb or regional meats, dried fruits, and spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.

Today, mince pies are small, circle shapes filled with minced meat, dried fruits, and spices. Some varieties exclude the meat for a sweet pie instead of the savory taste. The pies can be served hot or cold. Photo credit Jeremy Keith


The History of Austrian Sachertorte

While Sachertorte is produced year-round, Austrians enjoy this national treasure particularly with their Christmas feasts and during the whole month of December, as December 5 is National Sachertorte Day.

The chocolate cake with apricot jam was created in 1832 by Franz Sacher, an apprentice chef of the Prince of Metternich (the foreign minister and chancellor of the Austrian Empire). Franz’s eldest son perfected his father’s recipe when he was a pastry chef at Demel bakery and later in Hotel Sacher which Eduard established in 1876.

After Eduard’s passing, there was a legal issue that spanned 25 years over the branding of “The Original Sacher Torte” which was sold that both the Hotel Sacher and Demel Bakery. Finally, in 1963, both sides settled for Hotel Sacher to sell “The Original Sacher Torte” and Demel Bakery to sell the “Eduard-Sacher-Torte.”

“The Original Sacher Torte” from Cafe Sacher in Innsbruck, Austria. Cafe Sacher is a part of Hotel Sacher with locations in Vienna, Salzburg, and Innsbruck. The standout of the cake is the chocolate ganache icing around the light chocolate sponge cake with a thin layer of apricot jam in the middle


The History of German Stollen

Stollen is one of Germany’s most popular and most known Christmas treats. Also known as “Christstollen” for its Christmas-time seasonality, stollen dates back to 1474 in Dresden when the fruit bread was mentioned in an official document.

Stollen is a heavy fruit bread filled with dried fruit and covered with powdered sugar. Variations of the filling can include nuts, raisins, candied fruits like oranges, and marzipan.

Today, 150 bakeries in Dresden have earned the special, official seal to sell stollen. You can purchase it during the winter season, and it typically runs out by the end the year. Because of the density of the bread, it can keep for months and even store in the freezer. Photo credit Rebecca Siegel


Read about Italy’s Christmas cakes (Panettone, Pandoro, and Panforte) here


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