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How to Eat Cake in Switzerland

One thing about Switzerland that certainly plays in its favour is the tasty food - most famously Swiss cheese and Swiss chocolate. Personally, I also think in Switzerland you can find some of world's best breads and pastries. Think about the braided Sunday bread called Zopf and the large variety of Christmas cookies for example. And those are just the tip of the culinary iceberg so to speak.

However, today I want to talk about cakes and especially a famous Swiss cake which just happens to be one of my favourites as well. I'll also touch on the unwritten rules you have to follow in order to politely eat cake in Switzerland. Something that is indeed very typical behaviour of Swiss persons.

Swiss Carrot Cake - Michaela Schöllhorn  /

The Origins of a Swiss Carrot Cake

The cake I will talk about is named after the region of Switzerland I grew up in, the canton of Aargau  and is called the Argovian Carrot Cake (in Swiss German: 'Aargauer Rüeblitorte'). I am not sure why the cake originated in this area and maybe the original carrot cake is not even from there but was adapted and made popular here. Some people claim it was a great fit because carrots were (and still are) planted and harvested in great amounts in that region. 

Whatever its origins, the carrot cake is now an extremely popular cake all over Switzerland as can be seen in the fact that little decorative (but also edible and quite tasty) marzipan carrots that are almost mandatory for decorating a carrot cake can be bought in every super market of the country. It is basically the Swiss standard marzipan figurine.

How to Make a Swiss Carrot Cake

Obviously I am not gonna talk about carrot cake without giving you a a chance to actually taste one yourself. I cannot send a piece through the web (yet), so I'll share this recipe for the classic Argovian Carrot Cake

Ingredients needed:
5 eggs
1 1/4 cup of sugar
1 1/4 cup of grated carrots
1 1/2 cup of ground almonds
3/4 cup of flour
1 lemon
1 table spoon baking powder
2 cups of confectioners sugar
2 table spoons of lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease and flour 9x13 inch pan.
2. Separate egg whites from the egg yolks and mix the yolks with the sugar. Stir until foamy.
3. Add the carrots and almonds and the juice of 1 lemon.
4. Mix flour and baking powder and add to the mixture.
5. Add a pinch of salt to the egg whites and beat them until they are stiff.
6. Pour mixture into the pan and bake 50 minutes.
After the cake has cooled down:
Mix the confectioners sugar with lemon juice and spread the icing on top of the cake. Decorate with marzipan carrots if available.

How to Eat Cake in Switzerland

Now that you know how to bake a Swiss carrot cake, lets talk about how to eat cake in Switzerland. Remember that the rule you are about to learn applies to the eating of all kinds of cakes - lemon, chocolate or vanilla - and even to all other types of desserts!

Imagine a birthday party. The host made this really amazing chocolate cake and everyone enjoys a piece of it. (Un)Fortunately, after everyone had their share, a single piece of this delicious cake is left over. This can turn into a tricky situation. In other cultures people would simply cut the remaining piece into several smaller pieces in order to share with everyone or have a small contest to decide who should get the treat. The Swiss decide who gets the cake according to the following procedure: Whoever wishes to eat the last piece must politely ask EVERYONE at the table if they would like to have the last piece. Only if everyone declines, he or she may actually put it on their plate and eat it.

Whoever desires the last piece of cake
must first offer it to everyone else!

Obviously, everyone who is being asked knows that the person who is asking really wants to piece and is simply going through the routine of offering it to everyone else out of politeness. Thus, their polite refusal is almost guaranteed. In the many times I have observed (and participated) in this behaviour, I have very rarely seen anyone accept the last piece of cake if it was offered to them. Amongst good friends and family you sometimes accept it to spite the other person but only because the rules of formal social behaviour seem to apply less in close relationships.

For the full Swiss experience I recommend you bake a carrot cake, invite some friends over for a coffee and practice this polite offering and refusal for the last piece of cake. You will then be ready to try it with your Swiss friends!

wrw  /



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