If you were tasked with finding the best cake in the city, you’d probably just find the best version of a birthday cake and call it a day. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. Perfectly fine dessert, the birthday cake. A real crowd pleaser.
But Cincinnati’s best cake isn’t a birthday cake. It isn’t a cake at all, actually. It’s a torte, and it’s made in the kitchen of Servatii Pastry Shop.
Now, some of you will realize I’m getting off on a bit of a technicality. ‘Torte’ might mean ‘cake’ in German, but in truth the sponge-frosting combo we conjure when we think of a cake shares little in common with the traditional torte.
Tortes, after all, have layers of buttercream, mousse, meringue, jams, ground nuts, or fruit. They might have layers of sponge too—sometimes soaked in liqueur—but they’re just as likely to feature a crumb, or nothing flour-based at all. In short, they’re rich, they’re creamy, and they’re absolutely delicious. As to wether they’re ‘cakes,’ well, I’ll leave that to the patisserie police.
Cakes or not, tortes come to us from Vienna by way of Central Europe in the mid-19th century. Over the next 100 years those same Viennese and Bavarian bakers migrated to America, and they brought their tortes along for the ride.
Count (that is, number) Willhelm Gottenbusch among them. Legend that he is, he created Servatii Pastry Shop in Cincinnati in 1963. It was the first bakery to introduce European tortes to Cincinnati. And though it thrived as a full-service bakery, Gottenbusch's concentration was on European Tortes from the time he opened his doors. His patisserie heirs have been turning out tortes and myriad other sweet treats ever since.
Servatii’s tortes are as high quality as you’ll find in Cincinnati. The chocolate they use in their ganaches and shavings is freshly made, as are their buttercreams, their meringues, and everything else that goes in their springform torte pans.
But that doesn’t stop Servatii’s European-trained pastry chef Don Rose from putting his own twist on things. Yes, the classics are here, the Vienna torte and the Sacher torte in particular. But Rose has innovated a few recipes as well:
Tiramisu: A decorative ring of chocolate-striped spongecake surrounding two layers of rum-soaked chocolate cake filled with a mascarpone- and rum-flavored whipped cream and choc chips. Topped with white chocolate curls and dusted with cocoa.
“Seasonal” Peach Brandy Mousse: Three layers of white cake filled infused with peach and brandy puree, Bavarian Cream, and topped with a marzipan peach.
Opera Cream: Rich opera cream filling between three layers of chocolate chip chocolate cake. Covered with white chocolate truffle and garnished with chocolate shavings and a chocolate “note.”
There’s more where that came from too, including tortes featuring raspberry, cherry, and chocolate.
And if you’re still not convinced of tortes themselves, Servatii has you covered with an array of cheesecakes, flans, and mini deluxe desserts. They’re stocked with award-winning European-trained pastry chefs, and there’s no better place to go whether you’re celebrating a birthday or just bowing down to your sweet tooth.
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Servatii Pastry Shop has 12 locations throughout Greater Cincinnati.