Created by Franz Sacher in 1832, the Sachertorte is not only the most famous cake in Vienna, but also arguably the world. As the legend goes, when the head chef fell ill, his 16-year-old apprentice was tasked with making the chocolate cake—coated in tart apricot jam and chocolate icing—for a statesman’s dinner party. The rest is history.
While you can only find the Original Sacher-Torte at Hotel Sacher, I’ve adapted the following recipe to give you a taste at home. Traditionally served with unsweetened whipped cream, the cake is intended to be rather dry—which allows it to be boxed and sold as a souvenir. However, for a moister version, you can brush the layers with a bit of rum simple syrup before assembling (even Hotel Sacher has a version with alcohol, called the Sacher Punschtorte). Also, the Sachertorte is especially nice with fresh, homemade jam, so I’ve included my apricot jam recipe below.
The following cake recipe is adapted from Das Neue Sacher Kochbuch, Hotel Sacher’s new cookbook, posted online by the Vienna Tourist Board.
Yield: One 9-inch round cake
10 tablespoons butter (at room temperature)
¾ cup confectioners’ sugar
½ vanilla bean, sliced in half lengthwise and seeds scraped
6 egg yolks
6 egg whites
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1¼ cups all-purpose flour, sifted
7 ounces (a little over ¾ cup) apricot jam (use store-bought, or follow my recipe below)
Extra butter and flour (for cake pan)
Heavy cream, whipped
½ cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate
Rum Simple Syrup (Optional)*
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup water
2 tablespoons rum
Apricot Jam (Optional)**
1½ pounds (about 8) fresh apricots
2¼ cups sugar
¼ cup water
½ lemon, juiced
Leftover vanilla bean after seeds have been scraped out (optional)
For Cake: Preheat oven to 325°F. Line bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment paper (cut into a circle to fit), and then grease the sides with butter and dust with flour.
In a stand mixer, beat softened butter, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla bean seeds until creamy. Gradually add egg yolks, one at a time, and continue beating until mixture is thick and creamy. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler and then fold into mixture.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff, and then gradually add granulated sugar and continue to beat until glossy. Fold a third of the egg whites into mixture to lighten, then fold in the rest. Fold in sifted flour.
Fill the pan with the mixture and spread evenly. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, leaving the oven door slightly ajar during the first 10 to 15 minutes and rotating the pan halfway through. The cake is done when it gives a slight resistance when pressed lightly with your finger.
While still in pan, turn cake upside down, place it on a rack, and let it cool for 20 minutes. Take pan off cake and peel off paper. Put cake back in pan, right side up, and allow it to fully cool.
Remove cake from pan and slice it in half horizontally with a sharp knife (trim the top and bottom of cake, if desired). If using, brush equal amounts of rum simple syrup on each cake layer. Spread about a third of the jam on bottom layer, place second layer on top, and then spread rest of jam over top and sides of cake.
For Icing: Boil water and sugar for about 5 minutes. Allow to cool slightly. Melt chocolate in a double boiler, and while stirring, gradually add the sugar syrup until mixture becomes a thick glaze. Remove from heat. The icing is the right consistency when it coats the back of a wooden spoon and is about ⅛ inch thick—if icing is too thick, add a little simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar, heated to a boil). Quickly pour warm icing over cake and smooth with a spatula. Allow to cool and harden. Slice cake and serve with whipped cream.
*For Rum Simple Syrup: In a small saucepan, dissolve sugar in water and bring to a boil. Let simmer for about 5 minutes and then add rum. Makes about ¾ cup.
**For Apricot Jam: Slice apricots in half and remove pits. Place in medium saucepan and add sugar, water, lemon juice, and leftover vanilla bean (if using). Boil for about 4 minutes, stirring continuously until thickened. Skim any foam and carefully take out vanilla bean (if using). Put a small plate in the freezer; when chilled, add a little jam to plate and put back in freezer for a few minutes. Jam is ready when it wrinkles and piles up when pushed with your finger. If done, take off heat and allow to cool; if not, continue cooking until it reaches the correct consistency. Push through a food mill or fine mesh sieve, if desired. Makes about 1¾ cups. Use about half the jam for cake and reserve the rest for another use.
SmarterTravel’s Executive Editor Anne Banas is also a pastry chef. If you have any questions about this recipe, please leave a comment for her below.
(Photo: Anne Banas)
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