December 5: National Sacher Torte Day
One glimpse of a gorgeous chocolate cake at an Italian bake shop tempted us to try the torte made famous by Franz Sacher, a 19th century baker in Vienna, Austria. The cake is distinctive with its simple decoration: Sacher is scripted over its shiny, smooth glaze.
Franz Sacher was just a 16-year-old baker’s apprentice in 1832, when the royal pastry chef fell ill. But Prince Wenzel von Metternich required a dessert to impress his guests so Sacher was left to fulfill the order.
Eduard Sacher followed in his father’s footsteps and became a royal pastry chef as well. He adapted the recipe to its current form when he trained and worked at Demel Bakery. In 1876, he established Hotel Sacher and served his torte there.
The hotel went bankrupt in 1934 so Eduard Sacher II, like his father, worked at Demel Bakery, where the torte was sold and labeled as “The Original Sacher Torte.” But four years later, the new owners of Hotel Sacher also sold the cakes from vendor carts using that label. A long legal battle ensued, but by 1963, a settlement was reached out of court. Hotel Sacher won the right to use a round stamp on its cake with “The Original Sachertorte.” But Demel Bakery also has the right to decorate its torte with a triangular seal with “Eduard-Sacher-Torte.”
Sacher Torte is rich and dense but drier than the more moist American chocolate cakes. So it is usually served with a side of plain whipped cream. The apricot jam filling also adds a unique flavor to the cake. This decadent dessert deserves its own food holiday and we celebrate National Sacher Torte Day by making a version of Sacher Torte!
(Adapted from Ultimate Cake by Barbara Maher)
For the Sacher Torte
- ½ cup (4 ounces/squares) semi-sweet chocolate (we used Baker’s brand)
- 7 tablespoons butter, unsalted
- ¾ cup powdered sugar, sifted
- 4 eggs, separated
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- ¾ cup ground almonds
- 3 tablespoons cake flour, sifted
- 1 cup apricot jam
- 2 tablespoons brandy (we used cognac)
Melt the chocolate and set aside. Cream the butter with the sugar, reserving two tablespoons of the latter, until smooth. Beat in four egg yolks. Stir in the vanilla.
Mix well with the melted chocolate. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites. Add the two tablespoons of sugar and whip again until stiff peaks form. Fold half into the chocolate mixture, alternating with ground almonds and cake flour.
Pour the batter into an 8-inch round baking pan lined with wax paper and greased with butter or cooking spray. Smooth out the batter with a spatula and rap the bottom of the pan until even. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes, testing for doneness with a toothpick. Remove from the oven. Let the cake rest in the pan for about 10 minutes before inverting it onto a wire rack. Peel off the wax paper.
Cool the cakes completely then slice in half horizontally. In a saucepan, melt the apricot jam with brandy.
If any lumps remain, press the jam through a sieve into a bowl. Cool slightly but do not allow to thicken. Spread the jam on the top layer of one of the cakes. Put the other cake on top of it. Wipe off excess jam on the sides. Let set while preparing the chocolate glaze.
For the chocolate glaze
(Adapted from Chocolate by Patricia Lousada)
- ½ cup butter, unsalted
- 3 ounces/squares unsweetened chocolate
- 3 ounces/squares semi-sweet chocolate
- 1 tablespoon corn syrup
Cut the butter into small pieces. Add to the melted chocolate squares. Mix until smooth. Stir in the corn syrup. Pour the glaze over the cake, allowing the excess chocolate to drip below the wire rack into a foil-lined pan with edges.
Smooth out the top and sides with a spatula. Cool at room temperature for about an hour. Carefully transfer the Sacher Torte to a cake board, plate or stand. Pipe extra melted chocolate or frosting (we used Wilton brand brown ready-to-use gel tube) and write freehand “Sacher” across the top of the cake. Let set, slice and serve with whipped cream (optional).
- Thanks to Lisa L. for the ground almonds from Germany and to Olga W. for the apricot jam from Poland.
- Egg whites whip higher and fluffier at room temperature than right out of the refrigerator. Do not use pasteurized egg whites from a container.
- We used a specialty cake leveler to slice into even horizontal layers and a cake lifter to transfer the cake from the wire rack to a cake plate.