There is so much hype around our Sacher Torte. Though I honestly think other Austrian desserts deserve at least the same attention, I can’t deny I like this cake. Therefore, here is my total guide to the Sacher Cake.
The original cake derives its special hype from three sources: First, its ingredients and method of preparation. Second, its controversial history. Third, its cult brand.
The Sacher Cake is quite simply a chocolate cake with a thin layer of apricot jam in the middle and another on top. It is coated with a thin layer of chocolate icing. To avoid mix ups, the Original Sacher cake is decorated with the official Sacher chocolate seal. The ingredients are simple. The way to achieve the perfect mix of chocolate, flour, butter, sugar and eggs, and especially the glassy chocolate icing is not.
The original recipe of the cake has been kept a secret since almost 200 years. At present, it is locked away in the safe of the Hotel Sacher Vienna.
However, there are various top patisseries in Vienna, such as Demel and Aida, which prepare delicious Sacher cakes.
Creation And Battle Of The Sacher Torte
in 1832, years after the Congress of Vienna, Prince Metternich commissioned his chef to create a new dessert. As the chef was ill, his apprentice Franz Sacher took over and created the cake that still carries his name. At that time, chocolate cakes had been known for 100 years in Vienna, and chocolate cake recipes were already included in a few Austrian cook books.
Franz’ specially created recipe was a success. Four years later the Sacher Torte was deemed suitable for the Imperial Court and landed on the Emperor’s and Empress’ plates. They loved it.
His son Eduard later perfected the recipe at his work place at Patisserie Demel, which supplied its cakes and desserts to the Imperial Court and also sold them to the broader public. In 1876, Eduard Sacher founded the Hotel Sacher and started selling the Sacher Torte there. Its success spread quickly, in Austria and overseas. In 1934, the Hotel Sacher went bankrupt and Eduard Sacher’s son Eduard (junior) started working for Demel like his father. He transferred the single ownership of an Eduard Sacher Torte to Demel.
In 1938, when Adolf Hitler annexed Austria to the Third Reich, the battle for the original Sacher cake started between Patisserie Demel and Hotel Sacher. It was sparked by the Hotel Sacher’s registration of the brand Original Sacher Torte and the street sale of the cake.
At the centre of almost 20 years of dispute was the rightful use of the brand, the question whether the original cake had a layer of apricot jam in the middle, and whether it was made with butter or margarine (I am not joking).
According to the jurisdiction of the High Court, only the Hotel Sacher is allowed to use the name Original Sacher Torte and the characteristic chocolate seal. Its cake has two layers of apricot jam. Patisserie Demel can use the name ‘Eduard Sacher Torte’. (It now sells it as Demel’s Sacher Torte). The Demel Sacher cake has one layer of apricot jam underneath the icing, and a triangular shaped seal (see photo).
How To Prepare
There are dozens of recipes to prepare Sacher cakes. The Sacher Cook Book, publicised by Alexandra Gürtler (the Gürtler family has been running Hotel Sacher for decades) assures that its simplified recipe gets pretty close to the original one.
The ingredients are suitable for a cake spring form with a diameter of 22 to 24 cm.
140 gr (5 oz) butter (room temperature)
110 gr (4 oz) icing sugar
core of 1/2 vanilla pod
130 gr (4.5 oz) milk or dark chocolate
110 gr (4 oz) granulated sugar
140 gr (5 oz) plain flour
200 gr (7 oz)apricot jam
butter and flour for the cake form
whipped cream as side dish
200 gr (7 oz) granulated sugar
125 ml (half a cup) water
150 gr (5.3 oz) chocolate
- Stir butter, icing sugar and core of vanilla pod until creamy.
- Separate egg yolks and egg whites. Gradually stir in the egg yolks and beat them until you create a thick foam.
- Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a bain marie and stir it into the dough.
- Beat the egg white and granulated sugar with a blender until stiff and shiny. Pile it onto the dough, grate the flour on top and carefully mix it underneath the dough using a cooking spoon.
- Put baking paper on the bottom of the spring form, coat the margins with butter and sprinkle it with flour.
- Fill in the dough, smoothen it and bake in the preheated oven at 170 degrees Celsius for not more than one hour.
- Leave the oven door ajar for the first 10 to 15 minutes.
- The cake is done when it resists to slight pressure with your fingers.
- Turn the cake form upside down and leave it to cool.
- After about 20 minutes, take the baking paper off, turn the cake upside down and let it cool down completely to achieve a smooth surface.
- Take the cake out of the form, and half it horizontally with a knife.
- Coat both sides of the cake with the lightly warmed up apricot jam and put the halves together.
- Coat the cake’s sides with the jam and let it dry a little.
- For the icing, boil sugar and water for about 5 to 6 min, then let the mixture cool down.
- Melt the chocolate in a bain marie and gradually stir in the sugar water solution until you get a thick liquid smooth icing.
- Pour the lip warm icing over the cake in one go and coat the cake with as few strokes as possible.
- Let the icing dry until solid.
- Serve the cake with whipped cream.
Don’t store the cake in the fridge. It needs a room temperature of about 22 degrees Celsius.
Source: Das neue Sacher Kochbuch, Alexandra Gürtler, Christoph Wagner, Pichler Verlag 2005, Vienna
You can find another lovely recipe for Faux Sacher Cake in the cookbook Tante Hertha’s Viennese Kitchen.
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