Mozart chocolates are one of the most famous candies in the world. Even those who know next to nothing about gourmet chocolate recognize the name “Mozart chocolate,” if not “Mozartkugel.” Not to mention that the packaging - shining foil decorated with Amadeus Mozart’s portrait - has made the candy instantly recognizable.
But did you know that the gold foil and unique flavor combo hind an interesting (and heavily drama-laden) history? Or that there are over a dozen different types of Mozart chocolate candies on the market, and not all of them can be explicitly branded “Mozartkugel”? Or that the country where it was invented isn’t its biggest consumer (even though they consider Mozartkugel one of their representative sweets)?
In the article below, we’ll be answering the 13 most searched questions about the famous Mozart chocolate balls, including what it is, how its made, how to best enjoy them, and more!
What is a Mozartkugel?
Mozartkugel, which stands for “Mozart ball” in German, is a small, typically dome-shaped candy. Unless we’re speaking of one particular brand or handmade Mozarkugel, in which case the candy is round (and thus more representative of its name).
The outer shell of Mozartkugel is made with covered with either a thick layer of dark chocolate or a double chocolate layer, one milk and one dark. Dark chocolate is the original ingredient from the first recipe, so most current manufacturers stick to it as well. That said, many of them also offer varieties utilizing exclusively milk chocolate but brand them differently to avoid criticism of either being inauthentic or “ruining the original recipe.” For example, German Mozartkugel giant Reber sells milk chocolate candies under the name “Constanze Mozart-Kugel,” named so after the Maestro’s wife.
But what Mozartkugel is really known for is the filling. It consists of pistachio marzipan, regular almond marzipan, and soft nougat (most often hazelnut-flavored, though some variations opt for chocolate).
But here’s the kicker: there’s no hard-set rule about how each ingredient should be placed in the candy or even what the proportions should be. The original recipe combined the pistachio paste with marzipan, then wrapped the marzipan center with a thick layer of nougat, and finally, the dark chocolate shell. This combination resulted in a three-layered candy with a prominent nutty nougat flavor.
Some manufacturers follow this three-layer combination to this day. Others have opted to separate pistachio marzipan from almond marzipan. In such cases, it’s either the pistachio paste placed at the center, with nougat and marzipan surrounding it in separate layers or the nougat is placed in the center, while the pistachio paste and marzipan are layered around it, forming one two-colored layer.
What Flavor is Mozartkugel?
Mozartkugel has a very prominent nutty flavor. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering there are three different nuts used in most Mozartkugel recipes: pistachios, almonds, and hazelnuts.
The ratio between the layers usually determines the most prominent flavor of the three: if the pistachio is at the center and surrounded by the nougat, then the nougat and chocolate flavors will be the most prominent.
But if the nougat is placed at the center, and surrounded with marzipan, then the change in the marzipan-to-nougat ratio will change the flavor profile as well, and the marzipan flavor will be more pronounced, even more so if it’s separated into two parts (one almond and the other - pistachio), like in the case of Reber’s Mozart balls.
What Does “Mozartkugel” Mean in English?
Kugel is German for a “ball,” so “Mozartkugel” literally translates to “Mozart ball.” In plural form, it’s “Mozartkugeln” or “Mozart balls.”
Why Is The Candy Called “Mozart Balls”?
Apparently, it had little to do with the Maestro himself. According to the most prevalent theory, it was simply due to the prevailing trend.
Amadeus Mozart died in 1791, and while he never really faded into obscurity for a few decades after his death, his name wasn’t nearly as famous as it is today. But sometime in the middle of the 19th century, Salzburg remembered that it had been the hometown of one of the most talented musicians in history and decided to cash in on the fact, so to speak. Firstly, it was a point of pride; secondly, Salzburg-based entrepreneurs quickly noticed that goods branded with Mozart’s name sold particularly well both to the locals and to the visitors.
Thus started the trend of naming anything and everything in sight after Mozart.
Paul Fürst, the Salzburg-based confectioner who invented the Mozartkugeln (it was initially called Mozart-Bonbon, by the way), needed a loud name for his new invention to attract attention. Mozart’s name fit.
There’s another theory that Fürst was specifically working to invent something new for the 100th anniversary of Mozart’s death, and that’s how Mozartkugel was born in 1890 (Mozart himself died in 1791). Admittedly plausible, but from what I’ve seen, this theory has less support.
Where is Mozartkugel Made?
Mozartkugel was initially created in Salzburg, Austria. But nowadays, it can be made anywhere worldwide (despite Austria’s efforts to keep exclusive production rights).
Austria and Germany are two of the biggest producers, though, to Austria’s chagrin, Germany is likely more closely associated with Mozart chocolate nowadays.
As German chocolate candy goes, Mozartkugel is one of the most popular and widely consumed: Reber puts out over 180 million candies every year, which is about half a million candies every single day. For comparison’s sake, Mirabell (the biggest Austrian Mozarkugel manufacturer) makes about 57 million Mozart chocolate candies annually, which is less than a third of Reber’s output.
Interesting Trivia #1: non-Austrian Mozart candies actually cannot be branded as Mozartkugel. According to the EU Commissioner’s decision, they must hyphenate the name. So German Mozart chocolates are usually branded as “Mozart-Kugel.”
Interesting Trivia #2: Mirabell won the exclusive right to be the only industrial producer allowed to manufacture ball-shaped Mozarkugel. Other industrially made Mozarkugel must have at least one flat side.
What is the Story Behind Mozartkugel?
Salzburg-based confectioner Paul Fürst invented his Mozart-Bonbons in 1890. In the next decade, the candy garnered moderate fame in its native city but was barely known outside of it.
In 1905, Fürst took his chocolates to Paris, and that’s when the fortunes turned. Mozartkugel won a gold medal at the World Trade Fair, and suddenly everyone who knew a thing or two about chocolate knew what Mozartkugel was.
Unfortunately for Paul Fürst, the sudden fame came before he could register the patent. Nobody knows why he hadn’t filed for it in the previous 15 years, but it was likely due to the moderate local demand. Now with the demand skyrocketing, other Salzburg confectioneries quickly started copying the recipe.
Over the next century, Mozartkugel’s case found its way into a courtroom on more than one occasion. First, Fürst tried to secure its exclusive right to his invention. Then Mirabell (the top industrial dog of the time) tried to gatekeep other countries from manufacturing Mozartkugel, declaring it exclusively Austria’s right to make the candy. Finally, Fürst’s descendants fought over the right to have their Mozartkugel known as the original.
You can read more about the dramatic twists and turns of the Mozartkugel Courtroom Drama right here.
Is Mozartkugel Chocolate Vegan?
Mozartkugel chocolate candies can be vegan-friendly but are not exclusively so.
I know it’s an annoying answer, but you must remember: there are over a dozen companies manufacturing Mozartkugel and all of them have their own exclusive recipes.
Individually, the primary ingredients used in the original Mozartkugel recipe are all considered vegan (dark chocolate, pistachio marzipan, almond marzipan, and nougat).
But, firstly, the alterations made by individual companies can make it non-vegan friendly. For example, the use of milk chocolate instead of dark chocolate or using marzipan made with eggs (yes, that’s apparently a thing).
Secondly, there’s always a risk of cross-contamination if the facility is used for multiple products, some of them non-vegan. For example, if milk chocolate and dark chocolate are made in the same facility, some of the milk can go into the dark chocolate. It’s usually not a large amount, but most vegans do try to avoid contaminated products.
It’s always best to check the label for ingredients when buying Mozartkugel. If there’s dairy or eggs used (or if there’s a chance of unintentional contamination), the package will mention it.
Is Mozartkugel Chocolate Gluten-Free?
The original Mozartkugel recipe itself doesn’t contain gluten. But do remember that unless made in a completely separate facility, the chances of contamination at an industrial plant are pretty high.
Again, the best you can do is always check the ingredient list for the chocolate. But most companies do not brand Mozart chocolate as gluten-free, even if it is, in theory, and the contamination risk is likely the reason. For example, Reber mentions that some of its candies “may contain traces of wheat, egg, and soya components.”
Does Mozartkugel Contain Alcohol?
Some Mozart chocolates do, while others don’t! Annoying, right?
Again, check the labels for the ingredients list: some Mozartkugel (and associated candies) might contain brandy or liqueur, while others are entirely alcohol-free.
How is Mozartkugel Traditionally Eaten?
Mozartkugel is traditionally eaten as a dessert by itself, and it’s not paired with any other foods.
It can be (and often is) eaten as a simple snack without anything accompanying it at all, but it is most often paired with hot coffee.
A cup of strong, bitter espresso seems to be the most common choice, as it’s considered an excellent balancing pairing for the sweetness of nougat and marzipan.
Other typical drink pairings include:
- Various coffee drinks (i.e., cappuccino or Einspänner).
- Unsweetened black tea.
- Aromatic medium-bodied white wines like Gewürztraminer (a common pairing for marzipan in Germany).
How Long Does Mozartkugel Last?
As with most products, industrially packaged Mozartkugel has a distinctly longer shelf life than a handmade one. The official Fürst website (yes, the original shop is still around and still making Mozartkugeln!) says that since their chocolates are handmade without any artificial preservatives, they can be susceptible to extreme temperatures. But when properly stored, even Fürst’s handmade Mozart balls can last for about 12 weeks. And 12 weeks is the “best by” date, so they can theoretically last even longer, albeit with declining flavor and texture quality.
Industrially made Mozartkugel can last anywhere from 6 to 12 months (check the label, the timeframe differs between the different companies) as long as the vacuum packaging isn’t damaged.
Once the package is opened, the candy shelf life is roughly the same as the handmade Mozartkugel’s, though most companies prefer keeping their best-by date shorter, at about eight weeks.
How Do You Store Mozartkugel?
Mozartkugel doesn’t do well in extreme temperatures or in humidity. But otherwise, it’s pretty easy to keep. As long as the box is stored somewhere dry and cool, you don’t need to transfer the candies to a separate container or anything like that.
Can You Freeze Mozartkugel?
Yes, you can. However, do so with the understanding that defrosted Mozart candies won’t be as pleasant as ones that are right out of the box.
Both marzipan and chocolate maintain their full flavor profiles when frozen. However, the delicate marzipan texture can become drier when thawed.
Make sure to defrost the candies in the refrigerator, and then place them at room temperature for a couple of hours more to maintain the next texture qualities.
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Image sources: brand-specific images taken from official Reber, Mirabell, and Fürst websites.