Holiday Treats: Virginia Bakery’s Schnecken

Virginia Bakery SchneckenSchnecken is a Cincinnati tradition, though it’s not as known as the three-way or French pot ice cream. The most famous, from the Virginia Bakery (which closed several years back) has been kept alive by Busken, and is only available during the winter holidays. Servatii also does a version (Busken and Servatii being the less-famous sweets rivalry in town) that is available year-round. As I was driving home from yoga yesterday, I passed the Busken location in Hyde Park, which was advertising schnecken– so I had to stop in and grab a loaf, of course negating all of the yoga I just did.  Sigh.

Virginia Bakery SchneckenSchnecken, for the uninitiated, translates to “snails” in German, and refers to the spiral shape of the individual sweet rolls that are packed into a loaf pan. There’s a lot of sugar, butter, and a few raisins, which turn what might be average sweet rolls into something sticky, buttery and rich. Some versions use raisins, others have frosting. They’re all delicious (that is, f you like butter and sugar; if you don’t, I’m very sorry.).

I remember when Virginia Bakery closed on Ludlow Avenue, later to be replaced by Servatii’s. The number one thing folks asked was: what will happen to the schnecken? This was the sort of sweet that folks lined up for, and even after the bakery closed, for a couple of years they’d reopen just to sell schnecken.

I’m not sure that Busken hasn’t tinkered with the recipe.  It’s not quite as sticky, buttery-rich as the Virginia Bakery recipe I remember from childhood.  This isn’t to say it isn’t good– it is– but it’s not quite the same.  I’ll grab a Servatii schnecken this weekend for a semi-scientific comparison.

I also picked up a rum cake while I was at Busken– disappointing.  I imagine that one might expect a rum cake to be soaked in rum, but no dice.  Instead, it just tasted like plain, fluffy yellow cake with some vague sugary stickiness.  Honestly, this is something I’ve found true with most of their cakes– disappointing. I guess I’ll have to make my own.  If you’re popping in to the 24-hour Hyde Park location, stick with the cookies, donuts and schnecken.

They’re $9.99 at the store, and $11.99 or $12.99 depending on which part of the Busken website you click on.  They are available for mail order.

Busken Bakery on Urbanspoon

  • http://californiatraveler.blogspot.com/ Suz

    I had a boss who bought Virginia Bakery schnecken as gifts at Christmas. I’d never heard of them until I worked for her. It was okay, but I think I’d prefer something more cinnamon-y. As for the bakeries, I definitely think the products from Servatii’s are better tasting than Busken. However, my favorite donut is from Graeter’s, which also has some tasty baked goods that are better than Busken’s.

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  • http://cincinnaticocktails.com Craig Hochscheid

    I always liked schnecken, but I have to say that I’m more of a Stollen man myself. And Servatii’s make a world class stollen that’s redolent with marzipan goodness by the way. I suspect that a difference between Virginia Bakery & Busken’s schnecken is due to the fact that Busken is making their pastries on a much larger scale at their central baking plant, and not in a small bakery kitchen like Virginia Bakery. Something always seems to get lost in translation when it’s made on a large scale. And that’s not a knock on Busken, they make great pastries and breads, sell them at reasonable prices, and make them freshly available at numerous locations including Bigg’s and Krogers.

    • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com julie

      I’ll have to try Stollen. My grandmother made a stollen-like tea ring that I have the recipe for and really need to make, but I have a feeling that won’t happen until after the new year.

    • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com julie

      Er, Servatii’s stollen. I’ve had stollen before but wasn’t terribly impressed.

  • Craig Hochscheid

    Sorry about the duplicate post, don’t know how that happened. Can we get a clean up in aisle 5?

  • dc

    You can find the real deal at Frieda’s in Madeira: chewy, crispy, sticky & caramelicious “snails”. Hand made by Armin Hack, a 4th generation master baker from Germany. I am not schnecken around.

  • Wildflower

    Missing from this thread is Graeter’s Schnecken. Ooey, gooey and super raisiny!

  • cinti p

    I UNDERSTAND THAT, COME AUTUMN, GRAETER’S GIVES IT A SHOT.  ALSO, SHADEAU BAKERY TAKES A STAB AT IT.  HAVE YOU TESTED THOSE?  HOW DO THEY COMPARE WITH BUSKEN’S FOR VB-STYLE AUTHENTICITY?

    • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com julie

      I’ve had Shadeau’s– it’s okay. I’ll need to try Graeter’s.

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  • ZenDaddy

    The BEST schnecken–NO QUESTION!!–is at Frieda’s bakery, in Madeira, on Miami Avenue. The baker is a Master Pastry Chef from Germany, and his schnecken is unbelievable!! Remember Virginia Bakery? His is at least as good–maybe better.

  • justabill

    They have great Schnecken at Shadeau Breads in Over-the-Rhine.