It’s a sign of the cultural alchemy that went into creating Denmark’s delicious pastries that what American’s call a “Danish”, the Danes themselves call wienerbrød, or “Viennese bread”, with the very first brought to Denmark in the 1840s by enterprising Austrian bakers.
Neighbouring Sweden has also thrown some things into the mix, with perhaps the most popular variety, the Kanelsnegl, literally “cinnamon snail” basically just an evolution of the less tasty and certainly less fattening Swedish Kanelbulle or “cinnamon bun”.
Here’s a quick cheat sheet on the various tasty treats Denmark’s many bakeries and cafés have on on offer and how to recognise them.
The top five:
The cinnamon snail has come a long way from its soft, moist, doughy Swedish cousin, with a crispy, buttery, flaky pastry that can be almost biscuit-like. The cinnamon should be almost welded to the surface with melted sugar, and it’s normally topped off with a little dollop of icing.
The Kanelsnegl has spawned countless luxurious variations, such as the Høj Snegl, or high snail, which is a taller version, with a less biscuity pastry,, and filled with remonce, the creamy Danish cake filling made from creaming butter, sugar, and sometimes spices or marzipan together.
Bakeries will often come up with their own new variants, such as a croissant snegl, a romsnegl (with a rum-flavoured remonce) or a Brunsvigersnegl, that mixes the concept with that of the dark sugary syrup of a Brunsviger cake,
On Wednesdays, most bakers will make an onsdagssnegl, a “Wednesday snail“, which is a jumbo version with a special twist, often with a softer dough and cream in the middle.
Competing with the Kanelsnegl for the top spot in the hierarchy of Danish wienerbrød is the Spandauer, named after a famous Berlin prison which it supposedly resembles.
Flaky dough, laminated with butter like a croissant, is shaped to form a well into which custard crème or jam is poured, with sliced and lightly broken-up nuts often sprinkled on top.
This poppy-seed foldover is definitely in the top five list. It’s traditionally stuffed with remonce and is somewhat less sweet than the kanelsnegl, (although it arguably makes up for this in fat).
Sometimes in Denmark you’ll see a plain birkes, which is less sweet and don’t have the remoulade filling and which you sweeten by slathering with your own jam. You can also find a grovbirkes, which is a savoury poppyseed roll which can be eaten with cheese.
According to St Peders Bageri, Copenhagen’s oldest bakery, a tebirkes should be “crisp – and not dry – and at the same time have a centre that is moist and soggy”.
So now you know.
These plaited buns or twists are made by weaving a soft dough around a delicious cardamom remonce before baking. They are closer to a Swedish cardamom bun, and are delicious, with a buttery, earthy aroma. You can also get a cinnamon version.
A Frøsnappere or “seed snapper” is buttery puff pastry that’s been smeared in a sticky remonce and poppy seeds and then twisted around itself and baked to make a sort of crunchy, sweet wand. They are also sometimes made in savoury versions with cream cheese and sesame seeds.
The second division:
To make Kanelgifler, the cinnamon remonce is rolled into pastry in a similar way as for a cinnamon roll, but the ensuing bun is baked pastry side down.
These raspberry slices are made from a sweetened shortcrust pastry layered with raspberry jam, topped with icing and sprinkles, and then cut into bars.
A seasonal variant on Hindbærsnitter made with a tart rhubarb filling, often lent some sweetness by a smear of remonce and then sprinkled with sliced almonds.
An alternative rhubarb-based wienerbrød is the rabarbarhorn, a flaky pastry wrapped around marzipan remonce and rhubarb. You can also find a raspberry version, a hindbærhorn, shaped like a French croissant, or even an æblehorn, an apple version, for that matter.
Most bakeries will offer some sort of Æbletærte or “apple tart”, either as a wienerbrød or cut into slices.