Getting Your Just Desserts: Danish Pastry

First off, Danish pastry is a bit of a misnomer, but the Danes are modest and peaceful so they won’t argue about it. The Danish word for it – wienerbrød – translates into Viennese bread aka bread from Vienna, Austria. The story goes that Viennese bakers were there possibly because of a strike, and voila, the world-famous Danish pastry was born.


How Could Anyone Resist

When I visited Vienna years ago, expecting to find the original Danish pastry, their lauded specialty was a multi-layered yellow cake with chocolate icing called a Sacher torte. Both are excellent so don’t let the ‘who did what’ confusion stop you.

In Denmark bakeries are called “bager” and can be found on nearly every shopping street. Many have a small pretzel looking sign outside. They tend to open early and close late afternoon with limited if any, seating. My favorite is a flaky wonder made with marzipan or crushed almonds.  My husband often goes traditional with the Spandauer pastry recognizable with a big yellow “eye”.

Danish bakeries also sell bread and rolls. Another popular seller is called a rundstykke or round piece. This is just what it’s called, a round roll, served with an ample smear of butter in the middle.

The bakery I’d suggest you visit is called Lagkagehuset which means the Layer Cake House. The bakery was established by two Danish guys, Ole and Steen, about ten years ago, and it’s now spread all over Denmark. The Layer Cake House doesn’t sell so many layer cakes but lots of pastries and also delicious sandwiches, perfect for a picnic if the weather is good. The bakery has many Copenhagen locales – in the central train station across from Tivoli, on Strøjet (the walking street), and three in Copenhagen’s airport. A great treat to take on the plane. Website link but not in English:


Partial Selection at CPH Airport

My favorite treat from Lagkagehuset is an odd rye bread ball with dark chocolate rolled in nuts. The rye bread is dark, so in the U.S. it’s probably more like pumpernickel. The balls aren’t overly sweet or sugary, and I’ve never seen anything like it. I buy three for the discount, and they are so yummy they don’t travel far.


Even the Flies are Attracted to the Rye Bread Balls

Another unique bakery dates back to 1870, more of a French-style conditori, is called La Glace. This location was used as a meeting place in WWII for the Danish resistance fighters. They’d order the radio horn as a secret signal. Nowadays the bakery, an upscale tea house, has many unique layer cakes, so it’s a tough decision. This place has just one location on Skoubogade 3, a little side street off the main walking street in the Strøjet. Link to website in English:

If you are visiting during the summer and time it right, rhubarb may be in season. Restaurants often put signs on tables indicating the arrival of the celebrated grand veggie, the rhubarb. Rhubarb pies, cakes, and tarts are then highlighted. But try the more traditional dessert and order rød grød med fløde, red porridge with cream.

And try to order it in Danish! But be prepared for a smile or laugh from the waiter and even some coaching. This is one of the hardest phrases to pronounce since the ø vowel must come from deep down in your throat. How the Vikings sounded in the real Game of Thrones.

So, next time you’re visiting Denmark, enjoy some ‘Bread from Vienna’ or French pastry, including a few modern Danish twists, and don’t pass up the rød grød. That darn diet can always wait another week or two!

Karen’s first novel AQUAVIT takes place partially in Denmark. The heroine, Kat Jensen, also can’t pass up Danish pastry. More details and sample chapters here:  Amazon

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