Kaiserschmarrn is a traditional torn-up pancake from Austria. Thick, fluffy, comforting chunks are dusted with sugar and served with fruit compote. Perfect for dessert, brunch or whenever.
So, if I was still in the UK I would have no doubt seen a fair bit in the run up to today to remind me that it was Shrove Tuesday, or pancake day as we would typically call it. However here in the US, in the Northeast at least, you don’t hear a thing about it; I only saw by accident.
True, if I was in the Louisiana area I would be talking about Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday, which is kind of the same thing – the last day before the fasting of Lent when you eat a lot of rich foods – though the celebration is a bit different.
The pancake races I grew up with seem very quaint in comparison to some of the mardi gras festivities. Still, either way it seemed a good excuse for a pancake and this Kaiserschmarrn takes me back to my childhood.
A family love of Austria
My parents kind of adopted Austria as their summer home when I was a child. For a number of years we went there every year for two or three weeks on vacation/holiday and then every other year as the addiction wore off a little. We went to one area in particular but also visited some new ones each time, exploring different small towns but particularly taking in lots of different hikes.
Compared to Scotland, Austria was a dream come true for a kid being dragged out hiking – the weather was considerably better and there were huts you stopped off in for lunch rather than huddling with a soggy sandwich behind a hill.
Sausages and goulash were the most common dishes but another that I always loved and would occasionally have as my lunch, if I didn’t share with my parents for dessert, was Kaiserschmarrn.
What is Kaiserschmarrn?
Kaiserschmarrn, or ’emperor’s mess/trifle’ is basically a thick but fluffy chopped-up pancake, usually served with a fruit compote and dusted with confectioner’s/icing sugar. It gets it’s airiness by separating the eggs and whisking the whites and folding them in to the main batter, much like a souffle. Some versions add rum-soaked raisins in the mixture too.
How to make kaiserschmarrn
- Separate the eggs into two separate bowls.
- Add milk, flour, vanilla and lemon zest to the egg yolks and beat until mixed.
- Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks.
- Fold the whites into the yolk batter.
- Warm some butter in a small skillet and add the batter.
- Once it firms slightly, flip over and cook other side.
- Shred the pancake with two forks and sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.
I can still see myself having it one time on a beautiful balcony restaurant somewhere, and it’s simple, tasty, comforting warmth brings a ray of sunshine to your mouth. OK, maybe a slight exaggeration but it’s really good so I’d highly recommend trying this any excuse you get, not just Shrove Tuesday.
What to serve with Kaiserschmarrn
Here I’ve made a simple raspberry-cranberry compote to go with it. I always remember Kaiserschmarrn served with a preiselbeern (lingonberry) sauce but they are not exactly common here so this is the closest I could do. Redcurrants, as you can see in the photos, made into a simple sauce would be another great option though also not always that easy to find.
The sweet-tart berry flavor goes really well so this mix fits perfectly. It’s very quick to make and low in sugar so you can ladle it on. You could also use a bought compote/jam or fresh fruit, though I do recommend the raspberry-cranberry compote here.
This one to two-person serving of Kaiserschmarrn fits perfectly in a small skillet/frying pan but you can easily scale up for more people and a larger pan. However many you are serving, enjoy this easy, tasty dish. It makes a great brunch or dessert. It’s worth finding any excuse.
These traditional Austrian pancakes are light and fluffy, perfect for breakfast or dessert.
- 2 tbsp cranberries 15g fresh or frozen
- 1/2 cup raspberries 75g fresh or frozen
- 1/4 cup orange juice 60ml
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 2 eggs separated
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour 80g plain flour
- 1/2 cup milk 120ml
- 1/4 tsp vanilla essence
- 1/4 tsp lemon zest approx
- 1 pinch salt
- 1/2 tbsp butter 5g
- 1/2 tbsp confectioner's sugar icing sugar, for dusting
First make the compote - put the cranberries, raspberries, orange juice and sugar in a small pan and heat over a medium heat. Heat for around 10-15 minutes until the cranberries pop and break up and the mixture thickens slightly. Cool slightly, but it is good serves warm.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks, flour, milk, vanilla, lemon zest and salt in a bowl.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites to a soft peak then gently fold them in to the flour-milk mixture.
Heat the butter over a medium heat in a small skillet and swirl so the base has a thin coating. Add the pancake mixture and allow to cook approx 5 minutes until gently brown on the underside.
Use one or two spatulas to flip over the pancake. Don't worry if it doesn't work perfectly (it rarely does - I got a nice splash on my shirt doing it), you are going to be breaking it up soon anyway.
As it's cooking on the other side, use two forks to break up the pancake into chunks. Allow it to cook on the other side around 5 more minutes, until gently brown and cooked through.
Dust with confectioner's/icing sugar and serve with the compote while still warm.
Try these other German/Austrian comfort foods:
Photos updated, previous photos include:
And although I always had this in summer, when I first made it we had huge piles of snow so I thought I’d take a photo of it on our snow-mountain outside. The sun doesn’t give any sense of the freezing temperature. It was a quick snap before I brought everything in and devoured it!