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Kaiserschmarrn: What are the origins of the delicious dessert?

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Kaiserschmarrn: What are the origins of the delicious dessert?
Kaiserschmarrn served in the Zugspitze region. Photo: DPA
10:27 CET+01:00
We explore the culinary and linguistic roots of the unique sweet dish, which is popular across Germany and originated in Austria.

What is the festive season without delicious treats? It's probably everyone's favourite part of Christmas, from the Santas dipped in chocolate to the Marzipankartoffeln and the Stollen. 

And, to add to the list of amazing sweets, there's the Kaiserschmarrn, also known as Kaiserschmarren. Okay, technically this dessert can be eaten at any time of the year. In fact, maybe at any time of the day...because who doesn't love shredded bites of spongey pancakes with a delicious dipping sauce?

I had been dreaming of the Kaiserschmarrn for years. Friends who had visited Austria, where the dessert originates from, would regale me with tales of the Kaiserschmarrn arriving on a plate with a serving boat or tub of fruit compote for them to smother their scrambled pancakes in.

As a devotee of the humble pancake (I think it's a solid meal choice that should be eaten at least once a week), I was intrigued to find out that this European variation of pancakes existed.

Well, reader, my dreams came true. On a pre-Christmas trip to the Altberliner Restaurant in Berlin with my Local Germany colleagues, I spotted the Kaiserschmarrn on the menu. Obviously I ordered it (our editor did too) and scoffed as much as I possibly could. It was one of my favourite food moments of the year.

Kaiserschmarrn with Apfelmus (apple sauce) from the Altberliner Restaurant in Berlin. Photo: Rachel Loxton

What's so special about the Kaiserschmarrn?

So let's dissect the Kaiserschmarrn in a bit more detail: It comes from the word Schmarrn, a dish that's popular in Bavaria and Swabia in Germany, and Austria.

What's special about the Schmarrn is that after the ingredients have been cooked together, it is cut into small bits and mixed up.

The Kaiserschmarrn is the most famous examples of this dish. It translates roughly to “the emperor's mess”. There are endless tales about the origin of the recipe but most people agree that it's connected to Emperor Franz Josef I, who was ruler of Austria from 1848 to 1916.

Some stories say the dish was originally cooked by a farmer's wife who was visited by the Kaiser while he sheltered from bad weather during a trip to the Alps.

Another says it was invented by the Kaiser's cook whose pancakes went awry and he styled it out in the most magnificent fashion by scrambling them up and serving a new creation.

I've no idea what to believe but I think the Kaiser must have liked these mushed up pancakes anyway. Who wouldn't?

How's it made?

There are plenty of recipes online and in cookbooks. Perhaps you even have a mouthwatering old family recipe, especially if you come from southern Germany or Austria, that's been handed down through the ages. 

The main component of this delicious treat is a batter mix made using flour, eggs, sugar, salt and milk and then baked in butter. Sometimes raisins are added.

The pancake can be baked either in an oven or fried. It is split into pieces with two forks and usually sprinkled with powdered sugar and grilled to caramelize it.  It's mostly served with Zwetschkenröster (roasted plums) or Apfelmus (apple sauce), and sometimes other fruit compotes.

We can probably all agree that this pudding is no friend to our waistlines but if it's good enough for a Kaiser then it's good enough for us. 

You could say...

Mir schmeckt Ihr Kaiserschmarrn sehr. Kann ich das Rezept haben?

I really like this Kaiserschmarrn, can I have the recipe?

Ich hätte gerne den Kaiserschmarrn.

I'd like to order the Kaiserschmarrn. 

Let's also not forget that Schmarrn is used in a colloquial way down in old Bavaria, and refers to silly talk. When someone is talking nonsense, and what they're saying is pointless chatter or gossip, it's Schmarrn. Someone who talks a lot of Schmarrn could be labeled as a Schmarrnbeppi.

Examples:

Erzähl mich doch keinen solchen Schmarrn.

Don't give me any of that rubbish.

Er hat so lang geredet, kommt aber nur Schmarrn aus seinem Mund.

He spoke for so long, but it was just rubbish coming out of his mouth.

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