It doesn’t get any more Austrian than this recipe! Kaiserschmarrn, or “Emperor’s Mess,” is an egg-rich pancake that is torn into bite-sized pieces and then generously dusted with powdered sugar. It is usually served with a fruit sauce like applesauce or this homemade plum sauce, Zwetschkenröster.
My recipe for Emperor’s Mess is an easy one: all the ingredients are whisked together in one bowl, skipping separating the eggs and beating the egg whites and it also doesn’t need to finish baking in the oven. Buttermilk does its magic here, making the pancakes fluffy and adding a slight tang. This is one time when being lazy pays off!
Austrian Zwetschken, or “prune plums” are used for making the plum sauce and happily they are in season right now. However you can use any fresh, ripe plums for the sauce. Making the sauce is as easy as cutting up fruit and letting it simmer. We adore homemade plum sauce! It is cinnamon-y and tart and is the perfect accompaniment to Emperor’s Mess.
A little cultural and historical background: it is said that Emperor’s Mess gets its name from the Austrian Emperor Franz Josef I, who loved this creation from the royal chef. Schmarrn means “mess” or “silliness” or, loosely translated, “mistake.” Emperor’s Mess can be a dessert but I’ve mostly seen it served after a vegetable soup as the main course for lunch or supper. An Austrian probably wouldn’t eat it for breakfast but that doesn’t mean you can’t.
- 1 ¾ pounds (800 g) ripe prune plums
- Juice of ½ of a lemon
- 3 tablespoons (50 ml) water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar
- 1 ¾ cup (250 g) flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 7 eggs
- 2 cups (500 ml) buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons (30 g) butter, melted
- Butter, for frying
- Powdered sugar, for dusting
- For the plum sauce, wash and pit the plums and cut them into quarters. In a medium saucepan, stir together the plums and the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and simmer to desired consistency, about another 10 minutes, until plums are soft but not breaking down. Remove and discard cinnamon stick. Serve plum sauce warm or at room temperature.
- For the Emperor's Mess, in a large mixing bowl, whisk flour, salt, granulated sugar, vanilla, eggs, buttermilk and melted butter until batter is smooth. Heat two frying pans over medium-high heat, melt some butter in the pans and pour in a thick layer of batter. Reduce heat to medium-low. When underside is browned, turn pancake. (You may want to cut the pancake into quarters and turn each quarter. It will be quite messy and drippy). When browned on both sides, tear or cut the pancake into bite-sized pieces. Stir the pancake pieces in the pan until cooked through. Serve hot with the plum sauce and dust generously with powdered sugar.
Plum Sauce recipe adapted from Süße Klassiker by Dietmar Fercher.
**UPDATE** For the Plum Sauce, start with half the amount of sugar called for in the recipe and add more later if needed, depending on the ripeness of the plums.