Kaiserschmarren - Emperor's Mes

Myths of the Emperor’s Mess (Kaiserschmarrn)

Emperor’s Mess is a slightly caramelized, warm, shredded pancake served with fruit puree, ice-cream or jam. It’s a popular dessert in Austria, but also well known and much sought-after treat in southern parts of Germany like Bavaria or Baden-Württemberg.

It’s proven that Emperor’s Mess was named after the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I (1820-1916) who enjoyed this delicacy himself. However, there are many myths about the origin of this recipe. I’ll tell you three of these myths without a guarantee of truth.

Myth 1

Actually, the Emperor’s Mess was prepared by the court’s chef for Empress Elisabeth of Austria, also famously known as “Sisi”. As you can see in the picture below, she was a terribly figure-conscious person and always concerned about her body shape. Being proud of her 20 inches waist (the so-called “wasp waist” became her hallmark), she was not thrilled by this rich dish. Legend has it that her husband Emperor Franz Joseph I then said: “Give me that mess and let me see what ‘Schmarrn’ (Mess) our chef has cooked.”

Sissi - Empress Elisabeth of Austria
Statue of Sisi (Empress Elisabeth of Austria)

Myth 2

Whenever possible Emperor Franz Joseph I indulged his passion hunting and one of his favorite places was his summer residence in Bad Ischl, Upper Austria (see picture below). According to legend, one day he was surprised by bad weather while he was on the prowl and had to hunker down in a farm nearby. Not having much food to offer and surprised by the honored guest, the farmer’s wife prepared a simple meal from eggs, milk, flour, sugar, and some fruits. The Emperor was very impressed and should have asked her what she served him. “Oh, it’s just a ‘Schmarrn’ (Mess)” she said, and the Emperor responded, “Yes, that’s a real ‘Kaiserschmarrn’ (Emperor’s Mess)”.

Imperial summer residence
Summer residence of Emperor Franz Joseph I in Bad Ischl, Austria. He was using this residence for his legendary hunts.

Myth 3

Emperor Franz Joseph I was in love with desserts, especially with ‘Palatschinken’ (the Austrian version of crepes). It is said that one day the chef failed with the preparation of the Emperor’s favorite dessert and the Palatschinken was too thick and broken. The poor chef was so embarrassed about his failure, that he stashed the mess under a cloche and left the kitchen. But for all that, the monarch’s butler thought the dish is ready for serving and brought it to his majesty. After removing the cloche the Emperor asked “What kind of a  ‘Schmarrn’ (Mess) is that?” and the butler answered, “It is an Emperor’s Mess, your Majesty!“.

Emperor Franz Joseph
Statue of the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I (1820-1916)


2 thoughts on “Myths of the Emperor’s Mess (Kaiserschmarrn)”

  1. I found this page through a search for Austrian Emperor’s chef or kitchen staff. I recently learned that my great-grandmother was an apprentice in this kitchen. Do you have any resources I could look into for more details?

    She lived with her husband in London, they both came to USA in 1894 where Sarah Augpafel or Hoftel or Angpafel, and ran a bakery and food catering business in New York City until her death in 1929. I doubt she had a storefront, probably prepared food in her home kitchen.

    Is there any source you can help me locate? Be well.

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