For the first time in my 50-plus years, I was making a cake from scratch, and not just any cake. Along with six other ladies, I was learning to make Gugelfhupf, a type of chocolate marbled bundt cake that’s popular in Vienna, Austria. Oma Renata was our “granny” for the day, tasked with teaching a bunch of American tourists on a hosted press trip to Austria how to create desserts with an Austrian flair.
She’s part of Vollpension, a social enterprise that employs roughly 80 people, most older than 60, who live alone or are affected by poverty. It was one of the most unique experiences I had in Vienna and it was one of the most unique cooking classes I’ve ever expe. Welcome to Vollpension — the unique cooking class in Vienna where you can bake authentic Austrian desserts!
A Sweet Organization
Vollpension creates meeting and learning areas among the old and young through “cooking with Oma” classes and its generational cafés. Vollpension’s handful of coffee shops are manned by grannies and grandpas who also create the home-cooked pastries sold there. Called “Our Generation Café,” the coffee shops act like a granny’s public living room, complete with grannies and grandpas to talk to, ask advice from, or just hug.
In turn, these omas and opas are earning a wage, escaping isolation, and teaching a skill.
“Ten years ago in 2012, we actually had two observations. The first observation is that in the bigger cities, the generations don’t meet. There is no connection between young people and older people, and they have nothing in common,” said David Haller, “Social grannyniser” and co-founder.
“The second observation is you get a lot of cakes in all the coffee houses, but where do you get the best cake? Exactly! From your grandparents’ house.”
In 2012, co-founders Mike Lanner and Moriz Piffl created the foundation for “Vollpension” (German for “full pension,” which refers to both the one that Austrians get from the government upon retirement and to the kind of hotel stay that includes meals, or full board).
For several years, Vollpension was a café that operated as a pop-up and as a mobile kitchen until June 2015 when the first permanent location in Vienna’s Fourth District opened.
In October 2019, the second Vollpension opened at MUK (Music and Arts Private University of Vienna).
Where To Experience
Vollpension sells authentic Austrian cakes and pastries at a kiosk in the First District.
A mobile kitchen that provides granny-baked buchteln (a type of pull-apart sweet yeast roll stuffed with jam, chocolate, and other goodies) to events.
Cooking With Granny
Another type of magic, however, happens at The Vollpension Studio, where the baking-with-a-real-Viennese-granny experience happens. After Vollpension went online with its “Master” baking classes in its own in-house studio and did so-called master classes, the idea of learning to bake from a real granny or grandpa was so popular that Vollpension began BakAdemy.
BakAdemy is a curated experience in which you can take online courses or learn directly from a Viennese granny in person. At the baking course, visitors work step-by-step with a grandma or grandpa to create such Austrian desserts as traditional buchtel, gugelfhupf, eggnog cake, and others. Visitors each receive an apron and the right preparations but also get to spend time with their “grandma” and fellow students.
My class was led by “Oma Renata,” an elegant pale-eyed woman who softly and patiently taught us non-baking Americans how to create a gugelfhupf, a type of marble cake dotted with almonds and rich with chocolate swirls. In the three hours we spent with Oma Renata, she showed us the correct way to make our own meringue, how to fold dusty cocoa powder into the batter without collapsing the meringue, added a bit of rum to our cakes when we did mess up and just stepped in to help when my own carelessness threatened to ruin my cake.
Soon, the studio was filled with the warm scent of almond cakes baking, and we all sat around a cozy “living room” area to chat about Renata’s life as our desserts rose to golden brown perfection in the ovens.
At the end, we all loaded our surprisingly perfect-looking gugelfhupfs up into pink boxes with the Vollpension logo on it to take home with us. The experience was among my favorites while in Vienna.
Even better, you don’t even have to clean up after yourself! All you have to do is follow grandma’s instructions and take your masterpiece home safely packed in a cake safe.
“Everything we do is to provide jobs for elderly people. It helps with isolation and helps with bringing the generations together,” Haller said. “The last 10 years we had I think a million guests in our coffee houses, but a billion people got in contact with the vision of what we’re doing.”
How To Book A Class
Book An Online Class
Vollpension has online videos available, and each course lasts several hours. In these online courses, you will be able to learn more than 10 recipes as well as picking up some little baking hacks that the Omas and Opas have learned in their lives. All the recipes are based on the family recipes of each of the teachers, and the online classes are great for beginners and master bakers alike.
To book, visit Vollpension BackAcademy website and find the tab for “Video Courses.” Once you’ve purchased your choice of OMAsterclass, you can find the videos in your user account at any time. You’ll have to create and log into your customer account and choose “Orders” on the left. All your purchases will be there, but if you click on the OMAsterclass, you will be taken straight to the relevant page with all the videos.
Book A Live Baking Class
The live baking course with grandma is an all-round package. In addition to a lot of fun and grandma love, you also receive a recipe of the baked pastry as a certificate, the finished pastry to take home, a selfie with a grandma, and a little surprise at the end. Classes usually run two and a half to three and a half hours and no baking experience is required. To book this unique cooking class with a Viennese granny where you can bake authentic Austrian desserts, visit the Vollpension BackAcademy website. Choose “Baking Courses in Studio.”
To book a private course or an exclusive group activity with friends, fill out the contact form at the bottom of the page to ask about availability and dates. Someone will then get in touch with you immediately.
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