Climbing mountains is one of the most challenging but utterly rewarding sports activities. Many hikers and climbers cannot resist the temptation to refresh after a long way up to the mountain, what can be better than cooling off in a nice lounge of a mountain hut and trying incredibly tasty local food. Those blessed with the sweet tooth can find unique desserts offered by mountain huts at the high altitude or in the cafe and pastry shops at nearby parking.
Why are these desserts so unique?
The answer is quite simple because they have the flavour of the place, totally local ingredients, and years or sometimes centuries of traditions all embodied in a single piece of cake or a morsel of a mouth-watering dessert.
Between Italy & France - the Mont Blanc dessert
In the Aosta region, the homeland for Mont Blanc mountain, the ultimate taste-me-now is the delicious dessert made of chestnuts and whipped cream, it is a small anthill of sweetness. Chestnuts used to be called the bread of the poor, but this bread saved thousands of poor Italian peasants in the times of need to evolve into some haute-couture cuisine in the 20th century. Mont Blanc or Montebianco is a typical Piedmontese spoon dessert. Being cooked in milk with sugar and vanilla, chestnuts take on a soft and creamy consistency and an intoxicating sweet scent. Once chestnuts are cooled and reduced to puree, they should go through a potato masher or a mill or a ricer to get that ‘worm-like’ texture usually laid out in the form of a mountain. Next comes generous topping with whipped cream, to simulate the top of the snowy mountain. To add to the hedonistic mood, apply some dusting of icing sugar to have some ‘snow’ as well.
The dessert is usually served in the autumn, a period when chestnuts are aplenty. In the Savoy household, the availability of sugar and chestnuts would have prompted the court pastry chefs to develop an easy-to-prepare sweet triumph.
Montebianco is widespread throughout northern Italy, particularly in the Aosta Valley. There is a high likelihood that the dessert was born on the border between France and Italy under the Savoy reign when Piedmont and France were still united. Mont Blanc itself, from whose peaks the dessert takes its inspiration, is located right on the border between Italy and France, so it is only reasonable to conclude that the recipe originated on the common territory and then spread throughout Europe.
Where to try?
The dessert can be easily found in the main pastries shops of Aosta, Courmayeur, and Chamonix. Unlike a more posh version served in cafes, mountain huts will offer a simple and tasty “crostata” cake made with a marmalade of wild berries from the forests nearby.
Between Switzerland & Italy - Matterhorn/Cervino sweets
Matterhorn peak is famous all around the world not only for the difficulty of conquering this peak, but also thanks to being a brand image of Switzerland chocolate - Toblerone. The chocolate bar has a specific form inspired by the majesty of the 4477-meter-high Matterhorn that proudly towers over its vassal lands as a perfectly regular pyramid.
On the Italian side of the mountain, the pastries bake a cake called Cervino, the form of the pyramid is endless inspiration for the chefs from all the countries. This cake has a similar flavour of “pandoro”, a traditional Christmas cake in Northern Italy. The main ingredients are milk, eggs, sugar, flour, vanilla stick, canned peachesб and candied cherries.
Where to try?
Local pastry shops in Cervinia, for example, Antico Forno Flamini serve very nice Cervino cake.
Gateau du Vully
Gateau du Vully is typical dessert from the mountain pastures of Switzerland. It takes its name from the Vully mountain located in the Canton of Friborg. The ingredients are very simple and typical of mountain regions: milk, butter, and cream. It is an ideal cake for breakfast and a snack for young and old alike.
The Vully cake has been made since the end of the 19th century. The Société de couture du Bas-Vully records of 1902 mention the Haut-Vully Ladies' Group making these cakes for sale. The Friedli bakery in Sugiez was the first to market it. For the past thirty years, it has been making ultimately savoury Vully cakes.
The best way to combine your sweets-hunt and adventure is to explore the historical path around Vully (Sugiez–Pierre Agassiz–Sugiez). This historic path takes you back in time to the dawn of French-speaking Switzerland, it offers enchanting panoramic views of the Three Lakes, the Jura and the Alps and crosses the smallest of Switzerland's great wine estates.
Where to find?
You can find both versions of cake in the best bakeries of Murten - Aebersold bakery or Mr Bernard Gaillet Boulangerie.
Let’s finish this sweet journey in Northern Italy, the Lombardy region and a place near the Lecco Mountains. Surprisingly, there are two cakes named after two important and well-known mountains, i.e. Grigna and Resegone. These cakes could be found in the historical pastry cafe in the city centre of Lecco, and numerous mountain huts bake them at an altitude of 2000 m a.s.l.
The Grigna cake
The history of this cake takes its roots in the 1900s. It is an exciting story about a pastry chef Micheli from Mandello del Lario. Michelli made a long trip to England by boat. During his visit, he prepared pastry for the court of England and won the pastry competition. He made a unique cake with the fragrances of butter, coffee, hazelnuts and almonds. Returning back home as the winner and with an English wife.
The Grigna cake is an ideal dessert or a snack between meals. It improves its taste qualities significantly the next day after its preparation. It must be stored wrapped in a closed wrapper. It goes well with the best Italian sparkling wines, both dry and sweet.
Where to find?
The Resegone cake
In the vicinity of Lecco, there is another famous and beloved mountain range of Resegone. The idea of the cake dedicated to this mountain arose in 2006 to celebrate this symbol of Lecco. Further, it was decided to use local products of the past that were ubiquitously present in the area in the 1800s. The three pastry chefs from Lecco started their collaboration and created the cake. They had a goal to put together ancient tastes, genuine flavours and their passion for the environment and the native land.
The Resegone cake is a snapshot of the territory: it has a shortcrust pastry shell which represents the coldness of the first approach distinguishing Lecco people. However, it soon gives way to tenderness and the industriousness of Lecco represented by the softness of the filling. The sweetness is taken to the next level once you devour the velvety blueberry jam in the middle of the cake, a pleasant surprise for your taste buds, just like the character of the local people.
Where to find?
This cake is baked in all pastry shops of Lecco but we recommend trying it directly on your way to the top in the mountain hut Luigi Azzoni.