I' ve always loved the idea of trying desserts and pastries from different parts of the world. I remember seeing a recipe for the famed Austrian Sacher Torte (a dense chocolate sponge cake with an apricot filling and chocolate glaze) in an old Australian Women’s Weekly cookbook when I was 16 or 17 and being completely fascinated by it. The cake is famous for a good reason. In 1832, Franz Sacher was an apprentice in the kitchens of the European diplomat Prince Wenzel von Metternich. One night, the prince was expecting some important guests and wanted to wow them with a special dessert. The head chef having been taken ill that night, the task fell to the 16-year-old Sacher who created a chocolate-apricot cake that surprised and delighted Metternich’s guests.
The rest, as they say, is history and the ‘Original Sacher Torte’ is now made by the Sacher Hotel in Vienna in 34 precise steps starting from the gentle mixing of the cake batter to the spreading of the apricot jam and then to the final chocolate glaze and the piping of the word ‘Sacher’ on the top. The hotel produces 360,000 cakes every year which are then sent all around the world. I did once try to procure a Sacher Torte through a friend who was visiting Vienna but all was in vain as the cake, once brought to Pakistan, was polished off by his children at home! Nevertheless, it’s easy to make your own Sacher Torte at home and I highly recommend that you give it a try.
The Sacher has a dense sponge so if you’re expecting something light and airy, you will be disappointed. The sponge will expand significantly during baking and then contract as it cools. This is normal so don’t worry if you have a cracked top.
Not everyone can go to Vienna to have its signature Austrian Sacher Torte. Here’s how to make your own at home
160g dark chocolate
130g butter (softened and cut into cubes)
50g icing sugar
6 eggs (separated)
100g caster sugar
130g flour (sifted)
200g apricot jam or preserves
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C. Butter a 20-cm cake tin and line the base with baking paper and butter it again. Melt the dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and set aside to cool. In a large bowl, beat the butter and the icing sugar in a stand mixer (or with a hand-held beater) for three minutes. Add the cooled, melted chocolate and beat for another three minutes. Add the egg yolks one by one and continue beating until combined. Fold in the sifted flour. Once this process is complete, set the chocolate mixture aside. Put the egg whites in a clean, grease-free bowl and using a clean mixer or beater, start whisking the egg whites until frothy. Add the caster sugar little by little and continuously beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Using a spatula, fold one-third of this meringue (egg whites) into the chocolate mixture and then fold in the rest. Be careful to fold gently so that the meringue doesn’t deflate. Bake the cake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and cool for at least two hours. At this point the sponge can be covered and refrigerated if you wish to use it the next day.
When you are ready to use the sponge, slice the top off with a serrated knife to make the surface smooth. Split the cake horizontally into two so that you have two slices. Heat the apricot jam in a small saucepan and once it boils, sieve it into a heatproof bowl. Using a pastry brush, brush one-third of the sieved jam on to one layer of the cake and cover with the other cake layer. Brush the rest of the jam on the top and sides of the cake and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. In the meantime, you can prepare the chocolate glaze.
225g corn syrup
2 tablespoons water
280g dark chocolate (in small pieces, or you can use chocolate callets)
Weigh the chocolate into a heatproof bowl and set aside. Heat the corn syrup and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, continue cooking for one minute. Pour the hot mixture over the chocolate and leave for a minute. Then use a spatula and mix gently so that the chocolate and corn syrup are combined.
Place a metal trivet over a tray and put the cake on the trivet. Pour the glaze all over the cake and then use a small offset spatula to smooth the top and the sides. The glaze will set at room temperature. If you are so inclined, you can use some of the leftover glaze to pipe the word ‘Sacher’ on top of the cake once the glaze is set. Consume the cake at room temperature.
You can store it in the fridge but be aware that the glaze will sweat once it is refrigerated.
Not to worry though, the cake will still be delicious!
The writer holds a diploma in pastry from Le Cordon Bleu.
She tweets at @marylouandrew
Published in Dawn, EOS, September 29th, 2019