Bagels & Birthday Cake

My suitcases are usually filled to the brim when coming home from transatlantic trips to New York City.  There are baking ingredients galore, fun paper accessories from Anthropologie and often times, bagels.  I can’t exactly recreate the Sunday breakfast of my childhood, bagels and lox, without the bagels.  New York bagels, that is.  But my freezer had been empty of bagels for months.  Yom Kippur was approaching too, and after this Jewish holiday ends, bagels take the spotlight.  It was clearly time to visit Zürich’s very own bagel factory.

What’s more, my baby’s first birthday fell on Yom Kippur this year.  At first I was disappointed, as this is the holiest day of the year on the Jewish calendar.  There wouldn’t be any playing, celebrating – or eating – during the day.  But then I realized, it was perfect.  When the sun went down, we would break fast with bagels and birthday cake !  And so, I grabbed the phone and called Argau native, Martin Ackermann, Zürich’s original Bagel Boy.  And off to Oerlikon I went to meet the Bagelboys, Martin and his partner Rado.

Bagel Boys, Oerlikon, SwitzerlandBagel Boys, Oerlikon, SwitzerlandBagel Boys, Oerlikon, SwitzerlandBagel Boys, Oerlikon, Switzerland

Even though Martin (above on the left) spent time in New York City’s well-known bagelry, Ess-A-Bagel on 1st Avenue, his first bagel was actually in… Paris.  While there to learn French for his culinary studies in 2002, he found an American shop called Bagels & Brownies in the Latin Quarter with a real New York ambience.  It was loud and fast-paced and the orders were coming out left and right – “sesame with a schmear !”, “toasted poppy with veggie cream cheese !”, etc.  And he just loved those circular breads with a hole in them, called bagels.  When his girlfriend at the time attended the Culinary Institute of America, he bought the school’s bible (Baking & Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft) and read it cover to cover.  With a full stop at the page on bagels, of course.  And the rest… is history.

Bagel Boys, Oerlikon, SwitzerlandBagel Boys, Oerlikon, SwitzerlandBagel Boys, Oerlikon, SwitzerlandBagel Boys, Oerlikon, Switzerland

From a tiny spot in the back of a Thai restaurant (in 2007), to a take-out stand in Zürich’s bustling Niederdorf (, Martin and Rado now bake 400 bagels a day in a space 7 times the size in Oerlikon.  Their Swiss Bagel Bakery is the go-to name for catered events, business lunches and bagel delivery around town – in the coolest of cars (below, bottom right).

Of course, my first question to them was… do you boil them ?  While they don’t actually boil the bagels first (what many say gives New York bagels their signature crust), they are sprayed with water (before baking at 240 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes), which Martin says creates a similar effect with steam.  And I’ll admit, they have an appearance and a chew reminiscent of my favorites at the Bagel Hut on Long Island.  And not only do they have the full variety – plain, sesame, poppy, whole wheat, everything…, but they have mini bagels too !  Very exciting as that’s my #1 pick.  Martin’s favorite ?  Well, while neither Martin nor Rado actually eat bagels much anymore (shame), Martin’s pick is “a poppy seed bagel with lots of plain cream cheese and cucumber.”

What’s yours ?

Bagel Boys, Oerlikon, SwitzerlandBagel Boys, Oerlikon, SwitzerlandBagel Boys, Oerlikon, SwitzerlandBagel Boys, Oerlikon, Switzerland

Now, back to that birthday party !  I learned two things. One: a baby’s first birthday cake is officially called a “smash cake” for quite obvious reasons.  And two: baking without sugar, butter or eggs can be delicious !  For my little girl, it was a banana cake with apples and cinnamon and a touch of nutmeg. It was so good, I even made another one for us adults.  Also on the table were all of the Yom Kippur essentials: cold-smoked fish, kippered salmon, herring, cream cheese, crudités and last but not least, New York style bagels.

Bagels & Birthday Cake !Bagels & Birthday Cake !Bagels & Birthday Cake !Bagels & Birthday Cake !

We may have just started a new family tradition… bagels and birthday cake !

Schaffhauserstrasse 448 *
8050 Zürich
+41 44 310 20 80

* This is not a bagel shop, but you can pick up pre-orders. You can also find their bagels at the Viadukt market, at the British Cheese Centre. Just ask Michael to make you a toasted bagel with Cheddar or Stilton !


Baby’s first cake !
(recipe adapted from Our Havenhill)

5 very ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup applesauce (no sugar)
1 1/2 cups organic whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
a few grates of nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius (400 degrees Fahrenheit).
In a large bowl, mix the banana and apple purees.
In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Add the flour mixture to the bananas and mix just until incorporated.
Spray a large round cake pan with non-stick cooking spray and spread the batter into the bottom.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the cake pulls in from the sides and a toothpick comes out dry.
Optional: cut out small rounds to serve to babies !

13 Responses to “Bagels & Birthday Cake”

  1. alaydslife says:

    I love bagels

    Not every one can make them as good as they should be made though
    We used to have great bagels in Montreal as well as smoked meat.
    and bagels in Miami are super too. I haven’t tried the New York ones.

    Travelling today sucks You can hardly bring anything with you.
    Best to stay light.

  2. kelleyn rothaermel says:

    Finally a peak at the baby even if it is just the back of the head and proof that you did have a baby. Starting to wonder if I had dreamed you were pregnant.

  3. Caroline says:

    I actually don’t care much for bagels (if there is bread, I will definitely always pick that over a bagel) but your pictures are so great (as usual!) that these look amazingly delicious even to me 🙂
    Happy birthday to your little girl! She has the cutest little arms 🙂

  4. Rosa says:

    A lovely place and the bagels look good.



  5. Katrin says:

    Happy happy to baby and youse guys. Thanks for the recipe, it’s right up my alley – honest! But where the heck do you find non-stick pan spray in Zurich?

  6. Pille @ Nami-Nami says:

    A very happy birthday to your little one, Kerry! Our No 3 is 11 months already – time flies 🙂

  7. Kerrin says:

    aladyslife, i have never tried bagels from Miami, but there is certainly a well-known bagel feud, New York vs. Montreal ! I agree, always best to stay light when traveling. But… there are always exceptions 😉

    kelleyn, hahaha ! Not dreaming. Even though, the past year has been an absolute dream for us !! 🙂

    Caroline, thank you so much !! And those arms are deliciously sweet too 🙂

    Katrin, merci ! Well of course it’s right up your alley, there’s no sugar ! haha. As for non-stick pan spray, you can find it at the Coop in the baking aisle. Or I’ve even seen Pam at Orell Füssli, the English bookstore (upstairs with the British food products). Let me know how the cake comes out… Hope you and Senta enjoy !

    Pille, thank you ! Number three ?! Wow. Soon a birthday cake then, what will you bake ??

  8. KugelDad says:

    KugelMom and I definitely plan to participate in your new annual tradition (if we’re invited, of course). Kelleyn, may I confirm that baby is sooooo real, and extremely delicious. And Caroline, those baby arms are cute, but OMG, when they’re wrapped around you in a hug, I melt faster than the butter in one of Kerrin’s recipes 🙂

  9. Yeye says:

    Who would have thought that we could find such lovely bagels in Zurich! Zurich is definitely evolving to a more trendy place. Thanks Kerrin (as always)!

  10. Bagelboys says:

    Kerrin, thank you very much for this absolutely amazing article about us!!! It’s really well done and the pictures are great! We owe you a lot of bagels for that:-)

    To all bagel-fans: You all get some free bagels with your bagel order!!! Just mention Kerrin’s article. Go here: or call us on 044 310 20 80.

    Take care, Bagelboys Zürich <3

  11. Alexandra says:

    Thanks. I was not aware that there was a bagel bakery in Zurich!! I will need to try them.

  12. Shari - Simply Shari's Gluten Free says:

    Beautiful creations! – just amazing. Only if i could get those in that high-quality in gluten-free.

  13. valentina says:

    Smash Cake – love it! I checked Heaven Hill website and just love the picture of the little hands working the cake. I do like the idea of using the apple pure as sweetening. I might try with pear pure – I have an excess of pear right now. plain ones with cream cheese and smoked salmon or toasted cinnamon with a wee bit of salted butter.

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