The 2011 Cincinnati Schneck-Off

The 2011 Cincinnati Schneck-Off
the winning schneck

Schnecken, in German, means “snails” and this swirled confection is a holiday treat for many Cincinnatians.  Virginia Bakery’s schnecken has been the gold standard (now owned by Busken), but others have entered the ring.  Which Schnecken is the Best…en?  I took several schnecken from around the city to my office, where a panel of my hungry coworkers sampled the goods.  Here’s what they thought.

Virgil’s  Matt Buschle has a passion for baking, and it shows in the schnecken.  This one seemed like homemade to me, but could have used a few more raisins and cinnamon.  The panelists said:

  • “Sex in my mouth”  (uh, wow.)
  • “Could be a bit more moist.”
  • “I expected it to be dry, but it wasn’t.  Flavors were more subtle than I expected.”
  • “I would like a little more cinnamon.”
  • “Heavy-ish”
Queen City Cookies is famous for their beautiful cookies, but they’re trying to bring schnecken back.  Owner Peggy Shannon hadn’t had schnecken before she started making it, but it fit her theme of “buttery bliss”.  They do two versions: an apricot version and a traditional version.  I love the moistness of this schnecken, and it’s really, really buttery and has the right amount of spices.  The panel thought:
  • “Winner.”
  • “A bit too gooey”
  • “Rich, gooey– a close second.”
  • “FAN-FREKEN-TASTIC. I am weeping as I lick my fingers.”
  • “Love the apple addition, though it offends ever so slightly my purist sensibility”
Virginia Bakery (Busken) is probably the most visible schnecken in town, with their classic red and white Virginia Bakery packaging.  I wrote about them last year, and I’m not convinced the recipe is 100% Virginia’s– I’m sure it’s been modified for mass baking which makes it taste a bit off.  It is, however, buttery.  The panelists weigh in:
  • “Rough and hard”
  • “Buttery”
  • “Buttery deliciousness”
  • “‘Fruity’ balances the sugar”
  • “BUTTER!”
Servatii is the first non-Grandma-made schnecken I tried, many years ago.  It’s very moist and very processed tasting (to me), but I have a tiny soft spot for it.  I just don’t find myself buying it often because it’s too sweet and not quite buttery enough– it’s more of a coffee cake.  From the panelists:
  • “Lightest, flaky pastry, not so sweet”
  • “Dry, although glaze is nice”
  • “Flaky, wonderful”
  • “Looks good, but is not as good”
  • “Tastes like a great piece of bread w/ icing”
  • “Lemony”
  • “Angel food cake-like”
Graeter’s is a schnecken I hadn’t tried before this experiment.  It and Virginia Bakery’s are nearly indistinguishable visually, but the flavor is a lot different– a lot less butter flavor in Graeter’s, in my opinion.  The panelists were mixed on this one:
  • “Thick, creamy, buttery”
  • “Sweet and moist”
  • “Moist, not too raisin-y”
  • “Soft, sweet”
  • “Stronger cinnamon flavor”
  • “Sweet but not much other flavor.”
  • “Dry-ish interior, mild”

Here’s how they stacked up:

5. Servatii

4. Graeter’s

3. Virgil’s

2. Virginia Bakery

1. Queen City Cookies

#1 and #2 were pretty close as both of them are very buttery and rich, but not dry, dense, or too light.  However, someone listed *each one* of these in their top two, so you’re bound to found a schnecken that tickles your fancy in this list.  Is there a schnecken I missed? Post about it here and we’ll include it in next year’s schneck-off.