Episode 2, GBBO 2016, technical challenge

Viennese Whirls

Viennese whirls are not actually Viennese, or even Austrian for that matter. They were probably invented by the Mr. Kipling brand of cakes and pastries that are sold in supermarkets all over the United Kingdom. And just like Betty Crocker, Uncle Ben and many other iconic brands that we in America grew up with, Mr. Kipling isn’t a real person. So Viennese whirls seem to have sprung from the imagination of the imaginary Mr. Kipling, which makes them even more…mythical.

They were most likely inspired by a real-life pastry, however, although more German than Austrian — Spritzgebäck. These rich, crumbly cookies are extruded from a cookie press, which is why the Christmas cookies I make with my vintage Mirro cookie press every Christmas are called spritz cookies !

Viennese whirls are very similar to Spritzgebäck, as well as spritz cookies, in that they are delicate and buttery. But rather than pushed through a press, they are piped into spiral shapes and, after baking, are sandwiched together with creamy buttercream and tangy raspberry jam.

Mary Berry’s recipe for Viennese whirls differs from my mother’s spritz cookie recipe in that it does not use eggs but does call for cornstarch in addition to flour, butter and powdered sugar. The addition of cornstarch makes the Viennese whirls very “short” — meaning crumbly and with a tender crumb. That’s what gives them that melt-in-your-mouth goodness!

This is not a difficult bake, especially if you’re not pressed for time like the bakers were in the Great White Tent. The most difficult part was the piping, as the dough starts out quite stiff, but the more you work it with the piping bag in your hands, the warmer it gets and the easier it is to pipe. Fortunately, you can always scrape the dough off the baking sheet and put it back in the piping bag if you’re not happy with the shape.

I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to pipe from the center of the circle outwards or from the outside in, but I checked out several videos online, and it really doesn’t seem to matter. You can even make them in a straight line, like fingers, or in a swirly zigzag pattern. Have fun with it!

They certainly are pretty, and while I thought they would be too sweet, the sharp raspberry jam offsets the sweetness of the buttercream nicely, and the rich, buttery cookies play their part as a perfect foil for the two fillings.  

You will find Mary Berry’s original recipe here, but I have adapted it for American bakers below.

Mary Berry’s Viennese Whirls

Credit: BBC.co.uk

For the jam:

  • 2 c. raspberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 c. + 2 T. sugar
  • 1 t. powdered pectin (I use Sure-Jell)

    For the cookies:

    • 1 c. + 1½ T. unsalted butter, very soft
    • ½ c. powdered sugar
    • 1¾ c. all-purpose flour
    • 2 T. cornstarch

    For the buttercream:

    • 7 T. unsalted butter, softened
    • 2 c. powdered sugar, plus extra for dusting
    • ½ t. vanilla extract


    1. To make the jam, put the raspberries in a small, deep-sided saucepan and crush them with a potato masher. (If using frozen berries, heat them up enough to thaw them before trying to mash them.) Add the sugar and pectin to the pan and bring to a boil over low heat. Once the sugar is dissolved, increase the heat and keep the mixture at a rolling boil without stirring for 4 minutes. It should reach a temperature of 220-225°F. Remove from the heat and carefully pour jam into a shallow pan. Leave to cool, then chill in the fridge until set.
    2. To make the cookies, first line three baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a 2-inch cookie cutter as a guide, draw 8 to 12 circles on each sheet of paper, spaced well apart. Turn the paper over so the pencil marks are underneath.
    3. Place the butter and powdered sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until mixture is pale and fluffy. Sift in the flour and cornstarch and beat well until thoroughly mixed.
    4. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Transfer the cookie dough to a piping bag fitted with a medium star nozzle, and pipe 24 spirals inside the circles on the parchment paper. Place the baking sheets with the cookies in the fridge for 15 minutes before baking.
    5. Transfer the baking sheets with the cookies to the center of the oven and bake for 10-13 minutes or until they are a pale golden-brown. Remove from oven and leave cookies on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack to cool completely.
    6. To make the buttercream, place the butter in a clean mixing bowl and sift the powdered sugar on top of it. Add the vanilla extract and beat with a wooden spoon or electric mixer until the mixture is very light and smooth. Spoon buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle.
    7. When the cookies are completely cool, spoon a little jam onto the flat side of one cookie and place it, jam-side up, on a cooling rack. Pipe a spiral of buttercream over the jam and place another cookie, flat-side down, on top. Repeat with the remaining cookies. Dust with additional powdered sugar before serving. These cookies will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

    Up next: Chocolate Bread

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