Dessert partners in crime Robyn and I headed to Demel this past weekend in hopes of satisfying our sweet curiosity. In business since 1786, the New York City satellite of this Viennese pastry shop opened just last week inside the Plaza Hotel. And though our economy may be going to shambles, the clientele here doesn't seem to bat an eye at $8 for a slice of cake. One gentleman wolfed down his Punschtorte, covered in whimsical meringue, and then ordered three other slices to go. Two tables down, an older European couple—complete with polished accents and jewelry—lingered over $4 coffee and two slices of half finished cake. As we pondered the menu, the husband whispered over, "Everything is delicious, but sweet."
Located adjacent to the escalators in the lower level shopping arcade, the pastry shop is surely a sight for the eyes. With dark shiny wood, large mirrors and couches lined in shades of gold, think of Demel as a slightly refined version of La Maison du Chocolat. One end of the shop bears shelves of chocolates and confections, packaged to go. The other end, a gorgeous lineup of cakes behind polished glass.
We ate our way through the classic chocolate Sachertorte and the Dobostorte, and while we found both to be high quality, $8 is still steep. The Sachertorte is a remarkably plain and simple cake, calling for little more than chocolate, butter, eggs, and flour. Demel tops the cake with a layer of apricot jam and a cooked chocolate icing slightly reminiscent of ganache, though on the grittier end.
The Dobostorte was the favorite of the duo—a twelve-layer affair alternating eggy sponge cake with light milk chocolate cream. Finished with a crackly caramelized top hat, it was classic, though far from extraordinary.
Upon receiving the check, the waitress handed us two dainty bites of Wiener Apfelstrudel and the Fragilité, both of which we enjoyed more than the cakes. The Fragilité paired crisp mille feuille with a rich and nutty praline cream, while the apple strudel won us over with minced apples and walnuts, and the slightest hand of cinnamon.
If I return, it will be to sample the more exciting creations like the Schaumrolle: a cream meringue stuffed puff pastry roll, in addition to the mille feuille and vanilla cream tart by the name of Vanillecremeschnitte. Should the bites of Wiener Apfelstrudel and Fragilité offer any indication, the non-traditional cake creations should be your priority.
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