Many rumors about strange and rather not easily digestible Czech cuisine are to be found on the internet and in tourist guides. However just a few sources report that Czechs have a big sweet tooth. Many places with a “Cukrárna” sign on them proof that. In fact, the magic word “cukrárna” literary means “sugaria” and do not doubt it is really sweet inside. Czech sweet stuff is a blend of Italian and French sweet bakery with a little drop of communist dictatorship poison. Even though there are some cukrárna chains, you can still find some cukrárnas which look almost exactly like in 1980’s. So if you want to enjoy some time travel, you definitely must visit one of them.
Talking about time travel, Czech confectionery production has quite interesting history. At the beginning, this craft was a part of bakery. There were bakers who focused on sweet pastry. As early as in 1501, an independent confectioner called Mates starts his business in Malá Strana. And in the second half of 16th century, Prague has 14 confectioners. As the craft grows, it starts to be a mass-production. In the confectioner Mikuláš Zelenda’s list of inheritance a huge range of various utensils, boxes, forms and products are mentioned. This property is valued 1505 threescores of gold and many members of Czech nobility or a well known astronomer Tycho de Brahe are on the list of debtors.
In 19th century a new age of confectionery starts, as machinery is introduced. On the other hand, in 1880 only two primitive dough-processing machines are present in Prague. First magazine about food “Labužník” is published and many skilled Czech confectioners work abroad, from where they bring new experience and recipes. In 1926 first vocational school for confectioners is opened and everything looks promising. However, in 1948 the business suffers a hard stroke of fate with the start of communist regime. All shops and workshops are nationalized, recipes and processes are unified and the development of the craft is stopped. That is why they sell identical desserts in different cukrárnas. Of course there exist modern ones, very similar to French patisseries ar Italian gelateries, but the atmosphere at the places where time stopped in 1980’s is priceless.
If you fancy a modern cukrárna, Ekhartova cukrárna in Vinohrady or Letná or Hájek&Hájková all around Prague are what you want. However I would recommend to experience an authentic socialism -haunted cukrárna. Oned can be found in Dejvice, Vítězné náměstí 3. It is called Nedělní Cukrárna (Sunday patiserrie) and history lovers will be delighted. Cukrárna na Pankráci (Na Pankráci 72 is also one of this kind). I hope you will like your zákusek and enjoy your coffee in a vintage cup.
See also part one of this article.