Coffee and Cake in Kaiserslautern
“Regular coffee and a slice of cheesecake, please. Danke.”
My waiter gives me a puzzled look, but nods and heads back behind the counter.
The look wasn’t for speaking English in Germany. They’ve come to expect that in this U.S. military-dominated town in the southern part of the country. In fact, they usually prefer it to my butchered pronunciation and slow speech pattern as I grasp for words in German.
The strange look was for ordering cake at 9 am.
Kaffee und Kuchen—coffee and cake—has been a tradition in Germany for more than a century. It is typically a weekly get-together with family or friends, and traditionally takes place from 3 pm to 5 pm.
But for this American expat, German cake is just too good to limit to a two-hour period once a week. It’s become my favorite breakfast out and every delicious bite is beyond worth the strange looks.
My waiter, who has since introduced himself as Moe, brings over my cake and coffee. Before leaving it on the table, he asks if I am sure I know what I am in for because German cheesecake is not like American cheesecake.
What he doesn’t know is just how well-versed in German cheesecakes I am. He seems to be under the mistaken impression that having cake for breakfast is a one-off, a special occasion treat. As my growing thighs can attest, that is not the case.
But I allow him the chance to explain, just in case I learn something new.
Moe tells me that when he went to New York he couldn’t finish the cheesecake he tried. It was far too sweet. German cheesecake is better because it is a little more bitter, he says.
“Like our people,” he jokes.
“More bitter than New York? Are you sure you went to the right place?” I tease back before taking a heaping bite of the perfectly airy dessert.
A lady at the next table leans over to me.
“He’s right, you know. German cheesecake is better,” she says with a smile before whispering the secret behind the cake.
She tells me that it’s because they use quark—a fresh cheese made from sour milk—instead of cream cheese and because it’s almost always a recipe that’s been passed down for generations.
Something about ordering cake at 9 am lets people know that you are the kind of person that is open to conversation with strangers in the morning. Needless to say, I’m a fan of the Kaffee und Kuchen tradition, no matter what time of day I make it happen.
It rolls my favorite things into one: delectable desserts, coffee, and the chance to strike up conversation. It gives me an excuse to slow down, appreciate my life, make new friends, catch up with old ones, and stuff my face with a sugary creation.
I can’t think of a better way to start my day.