Sacher-Torte is a classic Austrian chocolate cake made famous at the Hotel Sacher in Vienna. It's a chocolate cake layered with apricot preserves in the centre and a blanket of delicious dark chocolate all over the cake. It's rich and balanced with the fruit and this home made version is moist and delicious. If you love Sacher Torte I urge you to try this version. Some say that it is better than the original (and this is a pushy recipe Dear Reader!).
In 1832, a talented sixteen-year-old chef named Franz Sacher, employed by Austrian State Chancellor Prince Klemens Wenzel von Metternich crafted the original version of the iconic dessert known as Sacher-Torte. It became famous at the Hotel Sacher where the smallest whole cake sells for 48,50 €. It is also sold at Sacher shops including one at Vienna airport. They are so popular that they ship over a quarter a million of these cakes around the world every year. I tried to stay as close to the original Sacher-Torte recipe as possible which they have shared an approximation of online. In 1934 Sacher Hotel sued Demel pastry shop for trademark infringement for selling a Eduard Sacher-Torte and since then Hotel Sacher are the only ones that can exclusively claim to sell the original or "das original".
Sacher Torte is made with eggs that are separated so the whites are whipped and then combined with a batter featuring melted chocolate. Sometimes almonds are used in place of part of the flour. Apricot preserves or jam are used to sandwich the baked chocolate cake and then there's a layer of chocolate glaze. Sacher Torte is always served with a spiral of unsweetened whipped cream so that you can add it to your forkful to help moisten it.
I have to be honest, the first time I tried Sacher Torte I was a touch underwhelmed as it was a bit dry (not surprising as I'm told that they consider the cake to have a shelf life of 2 weeks). But our Austrian tour guide anticipated this and also ordered us a Sacher Punsch cake, a tiny round cake also covered in chocolate. The difference was the rum punsch soaked into the cake to moisten it. There was a chocolate "seal" on top and this cake was more moist and luscious. It's this Sacher Punsch that inspired my version of Sacher Torte. My version also eschews the syrup chocolate glaze in favour of a delicious chocolate and butter glaze that is much simpler. The original Sacher Torte reportedly uses three types of chocolate from Germany and Belgium in their chocolate and sugar syrup icing.
Tips for Making Sacher-Torte
1 - Use a good quality couverture chocolate, especially on the outside of the cake. I used Callebaut 811 dark chocolate.
2 - Always separate eggs carefully so that there is no yolk in the whites or the whites won't whip up as needed.
3 - Make sure to not whip the whites and sugar until stiff, you want soft peaks. Stiff peaks are more likely to collapse once baked.
4 - Try to use a good quality apricot jam. Some jams use a lot of pectin so that they are thick and need to be warmed. I used an apricot jam by Aril Estate.
5 - For the rum punsch I like to use apricot nectar to keep in the same flavour family but don't feel like you need to make a special purchase. Orange juice also works or water. You can also omit the rum if you want, just replace the quantity with juice.
6 - Please make sure to use the tin size specified. This cake will not dome (rise in the centre) at this batter and tin size and temperature.
7 - Bake the cake at 140C/284F fan forced so that it doesn't dome or dry out.
8 - Make sure that the butter is soft for the chocolate glaze as it will combine better with the chocolate and ensure that there are no solid pieces of butter in the chocolate glaze before pouring it. I should have stirred mine better to be honest!
9- This cake actually improves with age (although I don't recommend leaving it for 2 weeks like they suggest). While it was nice the day that I baked it, it was even better after a couple of days as the syrups and jam absorbed into the cake to make it really moist.
10 - Can I freeze this cake? YES! Wrap it well and freeze it for up to a month and then defrost it at room temperature in the morning to eat in the evening. It's a great cake to take to a celebration as it doesn't require refrigeration.
These past 2 weeks two of my closest friends were having their birthdays. I was inspired to make this cake for one of them. Valentina has a holiday house near a fruit estate and she knows how much I love their apricot jam so she gave me a couple of jars and then I thought that I might use it in her Sacher Torte birthday cake. On the weekend I brought it to the Cyprus Community Club where she was celebrating her birthday . The band made an announcement looking for Valentina. Heads swung around and Valentina put her hand up. Then the band then sang an entire devoted to her called "Valentina" and then we had cake and sang Happy Birthday to her. She opened her presents excitedly and ended off the night Greek dancing.
A week later Monica was having her birthday. It was at an Ethiopian restaurant and I asked her if she would like a cake. "Noooo," she said. "You're afraid we will sing Happy Birthday aren't you?" I said. She laughed and said that was exactly why she didn't want a cake. "I'd rather die," she proclaimed sincerely but dramatically. Her birthday was also full of delicious food but there was no dancing, present opening or cake, just the way she wanted it!
So tell me Dear Reader, do you like having Happy Birthday sung to you? Have you ever tried Sacher-Torte and if so, what did you think of it?
An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott
Preparation time: 40 minutes plus 1 hour resting
Cooking time: 60 minutes
- 200g/7ozs dark couverture chocolate, melted
- 1/2 teaspoon coffee powder (fine, not the freeze dried stuff)
- 180g/6ozs soft butter
- 110g/3.9ozs brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
- 6 eggs, room temperature, separated
- 110g/3.9ozs caster or superfine sugar
- 100g/3.5ozs cake flour*
- 40g/1.4ozs almond flour/ground almonds
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
For Rum Punsch
- 75g/2.7ozs apricot nectar or orange juice (or water)
- 75g/2.7ozs caster or superfine sugar
- 1.5 tablespoons rum
- 150g/5ozs apricot jam
For Chocolate Glaze
- 250g/8.8ozs dark couverture chocolate
- 113g/1stick butter, softened
Cake flour can be bought at the supermarket. You can also make it at home. To make 1 cup/150g/5.2ozs of cake flour replace 2 tablespoons of plain all purpose flour with cornflour/fine cornstarch and whisk well. I usually mix up a big batch of this and keep it in a container ready for baking cakes as it produces a softer texture.
Step 1 - Line a 20cm/8inch springform tin on the base and sides. Preheat oven to 140C/284F fan forced and arrange rack to be in the centre of the oven. Melt the chocolate in a microwave or in a double boiler until smooth and liquid and stir in the coffee powder. Whisk the egg whites on high speed until foamy. Slowly pour in the caster sugar and whip until you get soft, not stiff peaks. Scoop out and set aside.
Whisking the butter and brown sugar until pale
Step 2 -Whisk the butter and brown sugar together for 4 minutes or until pale. Add the vanilla bean paste and egg yolks one at a time until combined. Then add the chocolate - it should have a soft, chocolate frosting texture. Sift in the flour, ground almonds and cocoa powder and use a folding motion to combine. Then add a quarter of the egg white mixture to the chocolate batter and fold in. Add the egg whites in another 2-3 lots and keep folding gently to combine. It should be a light and fluffy mixture. Bake for 50 minutes in the centre of the oven or until the centre springs back when gently pressed. Cool in the tin and cover. I like to make this the day before so that it has time to firm up. It shouldn't be domed so you shouldn't have to trim in.
Step 3 -Heat the apricot nectar and sugar and stir to melt the sugar. Stir in the rum.
Brushing with syrup
Step 4 -Cut the cake in half horizontally and gently flip it upside down so that the flat bottom is on top. Brush generously with the rum mixture. If you jam has a lot of pectin in it warm it briefly in the microwave. Spread with apricot jam. Brush the cut side of the other cake half and then place it brushed side down. Then brush the top of the cake with more rum mixture (by this point you should have used all of the rum punsch). Spread the top and sides with apricot jam and allow to set for 1 hour.
Step 5 - Melt the chocolate until liquid and add the butter. Stir the butter into the chocolate and ensure that the mixture is smooth and there are no lumps of butter. Place the cake on a square of parchment just a bit larger than the cake. Place this on a cake rack and then place the cake rack over a cling film lined tray - the cling film will catch all of the chocolate drips. Have an angled spatula ready. Pour the melted chocolate (reserving one tablespoon of chocolate) and butter over the cake top and then take the angled spatula and coax some chocolate over the edge. It should blanket the cake quite nicely down the sides too. Allow to set at room temperature. I also add a tablespoon of the melted chocolate into a small piping bag and write Sacher on top.