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German word of the day: Der Kaiserschmarrn

We explore the delicious roots of this word, which is a popular dessert across Germany, and originated in Austria.

German word of the day: Der Kaiserschmarrn
Photo: Depositphotos

What is the festive season without delicious treats? It’s probably everyone’s favourite part of Christmas, from the Santas dipped in chocolate to the Marzipankartoffeln and the Stollen. 

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And, to add to the list of amazing sweets, there’s the Kaiserschmarrn, also known as Kaiserschmarren. Okay, technically this dessert can be eaten at any time of the year. In fact, maybe at any time of the day…because who doesn’t love shredded bites of spongey pancakes with a delicious dipping sauce?

I had been dreaming of the Kaiserschmarrn for years. Friends who had visited Austria, where the dessert originates from, would regale me with tales of the Kaiserschmarrn arriving on a plate with a serving boat or tub of fruit compote for them to smother their scrambled pancakes in.

As a devotee of the humble pancake (I think it’s a solid meal choice that should be eaten at least once a week), I was intrigued to find out that this European variation of pancakes existed.

Well, reader, my dreams came true. On a pre-Christmas trip to the Altberliner Restaurant with my Local Germany colleagues, I spotted the Kaiserschmarrn on the menu. Obviously I ordered it (our editor did too) and scoffed as much as I possibly could. It was one of my favourite food moments of the year.

Kaiserschmarrn with Apfelmus (apple sauce) from the Altberliner Restaurant in Berlin. Photo: Rachel Loxton

What's so special about the Kaiserschmarrn?

So let’s dissect the Kaiserschmarrn in a bit more detail: It comes from the word Schmarrn, a dish that's popular in Bavaria and Swabia in Germany, and Austria.

What’s special about the Schmarrn is that after the ingredients have been cooked together, it is cut into small bits and mixed up.

The Kaiserschmarrn is the most famous examples of this dish. It translates roughly to “the emperor’s mess”. There are endless tales about the origin of the recipe but most people agree that it’s connected to Emperor Franz Josef I, who was ruler of Austria from 1848 to 1916.

Some stories say the dish was originally cooked by a farmer’s wife who was visited by the Kaiser while he sheltered from bad weather during a trip to the Alps.

Another says it was invented by the Kaiser’s cook whose pancakes went awry and he styled it out in the most magnificent fashion by scrambling them up and serving a new creation.

I’ve no idea what to believe but I think the Kaiser must have liked these mushed up pancakes anyway. Who wouldn't?

How's it made?

There are plenty of recipes online and in cookbooks. Perhaps you even have a mouthwatering old family recipe, especially if you come from southern Germany or Austria, that's been handed down through the ages. 

The main component of this delicious treat is a batter mix made using flour, eggs, sugar, salt and milk and then baked in butter. Sometimes raisins are added.

The pancake can be baked either in an oven or fried. It is split into pieces with two forks and usually sprinkled with powdered sugar and grilled to caramelize it.  It's mostly served with Zwetschkenröster (roasted plums) or Apfelmus (apple sauce), and sometimes other fruit compotes.

We can probably all agree that this pudding is no friend to our waistlines but if it’s good enough for a Kaiser then it's good enough for us. 

You could say…

Mir schmeckt Ihr Kaiserschmarrn sehr. Kann ich das Rezept haben?

I really like this Kaiserschmarrn, can I have the recipe?

Ich hätte gerne den Kaiserschmarrn.

I'd like to order the Kaiserschmarrn. 

Let’s also not forget that Schmarrn is used in a colloquial way down in old Bavaria, and refers to silly talk. When someone is talking nonsense, and what they're saying is pointless chatter or gossip, it's Schmarrn. Someone who talks a lot of Schmarrn could be labeled as a Schmarrnbeppi.

Examples:

Erzähl mich doch keinen solchen Schmarrn.

Don't give me any of that rubbish.

Er hat so lang geredet, kommt aber nur Schmarrn aus seinem Mund.

He spoke for so long, but it was just rubbish coming out of his mouth.

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Do you have a favourite word you'd like to see us cover? If so, please email our editor Rachel Stern with your suggestion.

This article was produced independently with support from Lingoda.

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GERMAN WORD OF THE DAY

German phrase of the day: Auf dein Nacken

Get to know this colloquial phrase and use it with your German friends.

German phrase of the day: Auf dein Nacken

Why do I need to know auf dein Nacken?

This is the kind of phrase you’ll never find in a German textbook, but you might hear it in the wild so it’s good to learn it for informal situations. 

What does it mean?

The phrase auf dein Nacken! literally translates to on your neck and means something like ‘this is on you’ or ‘Your treat’ or ‘you pay’. You can also use it on yourself with mein/meinen Nacken which then means: ‘this is on me’, ‘my treat’ or ‘I got this’. 

You can use this expression in the context of paying for something, for example when the bill comes in a restaurant or if it’s your round at the pub you might hear this from friends. 

However, the phrase can also mean something like: ‘I’ll do it’ or ‘I’ll handle it’ so it doesn’t just have to apply to money situations. In this context, it’s more about when someone takes the lead on something. 

A group of friends clink beers in Leer, Lower Saxony.

The German expression “auf dein Nacken” is used among friends. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Lars Klemmer

For the eagle-eyed among you, you’ll notice that the grammar of this phrase isn’t technically correct. It should be: auf deinEN Nacken. 

The imperfect grammar represents the origins of the phrase, which comes from young people speaking and chatting on social media or text.

However, sometimes when people use it to apply to themselves, they use the correct grammar: Auf meinen Nacken. But it can be shortened too. Basically, don’t worry too much about grammar rules on this one and just go with the flow!

The phrase has become more mainstream after it was a runner up in the German Youth Word of the Year 2018.  

READ ALSO: What are the meanings behind Germany’s youth words of the year?

Keep in mind that this expression is for use with your good friends, not with your German boss (unless you’re on very friendly terms).

Use it like this: 

– Hey, hast du Bock auf Binge-Watching Netflix mit Sushi?

Auf dein Nacken oder wie?

– Hey, are you up for binge-watching Netflix with sushi?”

– Your treat or what?

If you want to use the expression yourself, you can easily integrate it into an informal conversation over text. For instance, if you are taking on a bill or a task, write: Auf meinen Nacken and everyone will know that you are performing the action, paying for something or taking the lead.

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