Linz's reign as European Capital of Culture may be over, but this Austrian city is always capital of cake... the renowned Linzer Torte
It didn’t seem too hard a challenge. “Let’s find the best Linzer Torte in Linz,” suggested my wife. After all, we had been scoffing this famous Austrian tart-cum-cake for years, its raspberry jam held captive between a crunchy, criss-cross lattice on top and a sweet, nutty base.
On the River Danube, Austria’s third largest city is known for its vibrant cultural scene, from composer Anton Bruckner to the Ars Electronica summer festival. This year, visitors are flocking to Linz to see what the capital of Upper Austria is offering as European Capital of Culture 2009. The must-sees range from ancient to modern, starting with the views of the city and the river from the 1,750-ft summit of the Pöstlingberg hill. Half the fun is the 16-minute ride to the top aboard the 1898 Pöstlingbergbahn, the steepest tram line in Europe. Totally contemporary are the hip Lentos Art Museum and the Ars Electronica Center, the ‘Museum of the Future’. But we are in town to eat.
Legend has it that Austrians have been making and eating Linzer Torte for at least 350 years – making it perhaps the oldest identifiable cake in the world. As for recipes, some insist that 1696 is the ‘oldest’; others go for a 1653 version; still others claim that the eureka moment was in 1823, when Konrad Vogel created a confection made with shortcrust pastry, redcurrant jam and almonds.
You don’t have to speak German to understand ‘Das Haus der Original Linzer Torte’, so we started our research at the Konditorei Jindrak, a small café and bakery, where they make 80,000 cakes a year. Despite that ‘original’ claim, the Jindrak family business is only celebrating its 80th birthday this year, but aficionados come from all over. “A bit too much pastry and not enough jam,” was my considered reaction.
On Linz’s main shopping street is the Bäckerei Hofmann. Here, Heinz and Claudia Hofmann are the fifth generation of their family to turn out delicious edibles. But the line stretches even further back – in all, 13 generations of bakers have worked in what the Hofmanns assert is the ‘oldest bakery in Linz’. Standing in front of the wooden shelves, laden with 20 sorts of bread, I am in heaven. “Still not enough jam,” I murmur, as I chew on their version of Linzer Torte.
So, off we go again, this time to Konditorei Philipp Wrann, very much a specialist cake-maker, with glorious arrays of cakes, patisserie and dozens of different home-made chocolates. Although this business dates back to 1870, we discover that the Wrann family sold up in 2007 – to the Jindraks! “We seem to be back where we started,” we mutter, but this cake seems a little more delicate, more jammy. Things are looking up.
Time to move on to K&K Hofbäckerei. If anywhere looks the part, it has to be this bakery-café, with its heavy black facade, covered in carvings and gold lettering. Bakers have been working on this site since 1571; Fritz Rath’s ‘K&K’ appellation dates back to aristocratic patronage in 1903, rather like British companies that supply the royal family ‘by appointment’. Sitting over a coffee in the cosy, wood-panelled café, we munch away. I jot down ‘Good. Still want more jam.’ So we have not yet found the perfect Linzer Torte. My wife looks pleased. “We’ll just have to come back and do more research.”
Ryanair flies from London Stansted to Linz.
The Linz09 three-day visitor’s ticket gives admission to all museums, public transport, a round trip on the Pöstlingbergbahn and much more.
Where to eat
Cafe-Bar-Restaurant Lentos: part of the Lentos Art Museum, this venue has modern-chic surroundings, traditional dishes and a terrace overlooking the river. Order up venison stew with wild mushrooms, grilled lamb cutlets with rosemary or a simple, freshly-baked pizza.
Konditorei Jindrak: Herrenstraße 22-24, 0732/779258,
Bäckerei Hofmann: Landstraße 27, 0732 771620
Konditorei Philipp Wrann : Lederergasse 88, 0732 773288
K & K Hofbäckerei: Pfarrgasse 17, 0732/78 41 10