Rosa’s Musings: Sachertorte, The Pride Of Vienna

By Friday, November 4, 2011 Permalink 0
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by Rosa Mayland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colors burst in wild explosions
Fiery, flaming shades of fall
All in accord with my pounding heart
Behold the autumn-weaver
In bronze and yellow dying
Colors unfold into dreams
In hordes of a thousand and one
The bleeding
Unwearing their masks to the last notes of summer
Their flutes and horns in nightly swarming
Colors burst within
Spare me those unending fires
Bestowed upon the flaming shades of fall.
Dark Tranquility, With the Flaming Shades of Fall

Each season has a significant impact on our behaviour and spirit. All four seasons impart a special mood as well as a certain rhythm to our existence. The explanation for that is very simple: no plant, animal or human being can break loose from the forceful and capricious powers of the Universe to which they are submitted and depend on. We just have to accept the fact that there is a greater plan (I’m not talking about God, but about the force behind the entirety of the cosmos) and that most of the time it completely escapes our understanding. There is no other choice for us than to cooperate with the elements in order to benefit from them. Fighting against them will get you nowhere. Save your vigor and be in harmony with them…

Most of us have experienced what it is to be tired and depressed when the sun rarely comes out from behind the clouds and the air is freezing cold, or how we perceive the energy released by the ecstatic singing of birds and the blinding strength of the light in July. Spring fills us with hope, dreams, ambition, and confers a feeling of rebirth, illumination and holiness. Summer gives us the impression that we are invincible, strong, cannot be defeated, and endows us with a sentiment of incredible lightness and youth. On the other hand, autumn makes us feel a little nostalgic, serene and pensive, and winter reminds us of the human condition, is a time of intense reflection during which we come back on the past, think of the future and are ready to start everything afresh.

In October I have the urge to reconnect with myself and be less frivolous, buoyant and I am more inclined to be subject to meditation, solemness or a light case of the blahs. This colorful, exuberant and plentiful period of the year also marks the beginning of a more peaceful and spiritual interval, but it is inevitably characterized by the commencement of Nature’s slow decline that lasts until the 21 of December (the winter solstice or the most tenebrous of nights).

October is nature’s funeral month.
Nature glories in death more than in life.
The month of departure is more beautiful than the month of coming –
October than May.
Every green thin loves to die in bright colors.
Prince Pál Antal Esterházy

Fall is somehow ambivalent and keeps blowing hot and cold. It can be luxuriant and gleeful, yet it can simultaneously be filled with gloom, turbulent, fickle, volatile and unpredictable. Nonetheless, it remains my favorite season. It fits my personality well as I am quite “schizophrenic” character-wise, preferring contrast in my life, and I believe in the dynamic system of Yin and Yang, the complimentary opposites.

I suppose it is the reason why I am attracted to the town of Vienna, even though I find any form of cheesy, sappy, glitzy and Hollywoodesque romanticism to be fake, gagworthy and highly annoying. I cannot care less about this aspect of Mozart’s home. What I particularly like about this place is the magic and unique atmosphere that surrounds this historic city, especially during the Christmas celebrations (I am more interested in paganism and in celebrating the majesty of winter than following any form of religious message). I would be so happy to visit Vienna when it is snowed under and roam through its Demel.

Anyway, I’m not going to pretend that the capital of the Republic of Austria attracts this food-obssessed girl solely because of its flamboyance; my attention is mainly captivated by its legendary, elegant and stylish Hotel Sacher coffeehouses (Kaffeehäuser), where one can indulge in exquisitely lavish Austro-Hungarian pastries and get absorbed by the singular aura of those old-fashioned cafés.

When the cake arrived, a baroque creation festooned with complex embellishments, he [Rheinhardt] was grateful that the cook had not succumbed to the culinary equivalent of modernity. The pressure of his fork forced generous applications of chocolate cream to bulge out between the layers of sponge, and when he took the first mouthful of the dobostorte, the sweetness and intensity of the flavor produced in him a feeling of deep satisfaction.
Frank Tallis, Vienna Twilight (p114)

I dream of treating myself to dark brews served on silver trays and masterful desserts presented on pristine white bone China plates. When I think of all the flaky strudels, rich torte, smooth cakes, buttery sweet breads, nutty rolls, fruity slices, melt-in-the-mouth cookies, stodgy dumplings, comforting pancakes, sturdy coffee beverages and spicy punches, my knees get weak and my head begins to spins (“You spin round, baby right round like a record, baby, right round round round,” Dead Or Alive). Now, that is my definition of paradise!

Unfortunately, being momentarily handicapped by my rather empty bank account, trips to foreign countries are proscribed. Consequently, if I want to have a taste of Vienna, I have to fire up the oven, plug the Kitchenaid, get my kitchen all floury as well as my hands dirty and bake my own Austrian “Gebäcke” (pâtisseries). Thankfully, I am not too bad of a baker, so there is nearly no limit to what I can create.

As I had been fantasizing about Sachertorte for a long while and I still owed my boyfriend a late birthday cake (I am a lamentable girlfriend, I know), I thought that this rich and palate-soothing cake would make an awesome Saturday/Sunday afternoon treat or a delightful after-dinner confection.

Sachertorte is the ultimate culinary symbol of Vienna. Its origin dates back to 1832, when Prince Klemenz Wenzel von Metternich, who was organizing a big party, ordered his personal chef to invent a new dessert for the event. He wanted to impress his guests with a “masculine” (a macho man, for sure) cake that would be the total opposite of the fluffy, light and creamy “feminine” torten which were so popular and common at the time.

The cuisinier was never able to fulfill the prince’s request as he fell ill, so the 16-year-old 2nd apprentice, Franz Sacher, was forced to take over in the master’s absence. He had the wonderful idea of pairing chocolate with apricot preserves. In his opinion, the aggressive, bitter and manly flavors of the cacao would be wonderfully tempered by the tart tang and sweetness of the jam. The recipe for the choclate cake was no novelty, but on the contrary, the shiny chocolate glaze was a true innovation.

As you can imagine, his creation was a sensation and an immediate success. Franz was fastly offered a new job at the Hungarian court of Prince Pál Antal Esterházy and then he returned to his birthplace in order to assume a high position at Dehne (now Demel), the royal bakery to the emperor, where he offered his two-inch-tall cake Sachertorte to the masses.

At the beginning of the 20th century, a legal battle over the use of the label “The Original Sacher Torte” developed between the Hotel Sacher and  Demel. After seven years of court depositions, a solution was finally found. The Hotel Sacher was awarded the right to certify its cakes with the famous name “Sacher Torte” — cut horizontally, with apricot glaze between the layers and on top of the cake as well as on the sides — whereas the bakery could only add the name “Sachertorte” (not split in two) to theirs.

Having been lucky enough to sample the original goodie (made by Hotel Sacher) a few years ago, thanks to my former neighbor, an old lady, who kindly gifted me a slice of that delicacy, I can proudly say that mine stands comparison with the original. It is flawless!

Rick Rodger’s Sachertorte is based on “Das Grosse Sacher Backbuch” and is absolutely perfect, both in taste and texture. The sponge layers are soft, yet slightly compact (in an titillating way); the chocolate topping is marvelously gooey and the aromas blend incredibly well together. A real poem and ode to ambrosia!

Related article & recipe:
Dobos Torte” by Rick Rodgers and baked by myself
Vienna’s Sweet Empire” Saveur Magazine

Recipe

Sachertorte

Recipe adapted from Rick Rodgers’ Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague

Makes 12 to 16 servings.

Click here for Metric-Imperial converter.

Ingredients for the Torte

135g good quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
9 Tbs (135g) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
120g (1 cup) powdered sugar
6 large eggs, separated & at room temperature
1 Tsp pure vanilla extract
105g (1/2 cup) castor sugar
128g (1 cup) all-purpose flour

Ingredients For Assembling & Serving The Torte

250g (1 cup) apricot glaze (recipe)
A small batch chocolate glaze (recipe)
Whipped cream, for serving (optional)

Directions For The Torte

  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 200° C (400° F).
  • Lightly butter a 18cm (7-inch) springform pan and line the bottom with baking paper. Dust the sides of the pan with flour and tap out the excess.
  • In the top part of a double boiler over very hot, but not boiling water, melt the chocolate. Remove from the heat and let stand, stirring often, until completely cool.
  • Beat the butter in the bowl of a heavy-duty standing mixer fitted with the paddle blade on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute.
  • On low speed, beat in the powdered sugar, then return the speed to medium-high and beat until fluffy, light in color and texture, about 2 minutes.
  • Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
  • Beat in the chocolate and vanilla.
  • In a large bowl, beat the egg whites and granulated sugar with a handheld electric mixer on high speed just until they form soft, shiny peaks. Do not overbeat.
  • Stir about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then fold in the remaining whites, leaving a few visible wisps of whites.
  • Sift half of the flour over the chocolate mixture, and fold in with a large rubber spatula.
  • Repeat with the remaining flour.
  • Spread the batter evenly in the pan and bake until a toothpick or the blade of a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes (the cake will done).
  • Cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes before removing the sides of the pan, and inverting the cake onto the rack. Remove the paper and reinvert on another rack to turn right side up. Cool completely.

Directions for the Assembly Of The Cake

  • Place the bottom cake layer on an 20cm (8-inch) cardboard round.
  • Brush the top of the cake layer with the warm apricot glaze.
  • Place the second cake layer on top and brush the top and sides of the cake with the remaining glaze.
  • Transfer the cake to a wire rack placed over a jelly-roll pan lined with waxed paper. Let cool until the apricot glaze is set.
  • Make the chocolate glaze just before covering the cake with it (it must be fresh and warm).
  • Pour all of the warm chocolate glaze on top of the cake. Using a metal offset spatula, gently smooth the glaze over the cake, allowing it to run down the sides, making sure that it completely coats the cake (patch any bare spots with the spatula and the icing that has dripped).
  • Cool until the glaze is barely set, then transfer the cake to a serving plate and refrigerate until the glaze is completely set, at least 1 hour.
  • Before serving, let the cake stand at room temperature for at least 1 hour.

 

)
A small batch chocolate glaze (recipe)
Whipped cream, for serving (optional)

Directions For The Torte

  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 200° C (400° F).
  • Lightly butter a 18cm (7-inch) springform pan and line the bottom with baking paper. Dust the sides of the pan with flour and tap out the excess.
  • In the top part of a double boiler over very hot, but not boiling water, melt the chocolate. Remove from the heat and let stand, stirring often, until completely cool.
  • Beat the butter in the bowl of a heavy-duty standing mixer fitted with the paddle blade on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute.
  • On low speed, beat in the powdered sugar, then return the speed to medium-high and beat until fluffy, light in color and texture, about 2 minutes.
  • Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
  • Beat in the chocolate and vanilla.
  • In a large bowl, beat the egg whites and granulated sugar with a handheld electric mixer on high speed just until they form soft, shiny peaks. Do not overbeat.
  • Stir about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then fold in the remaining whites, leaving a few visible wisps of whites.
  • Sift half of the flour over the chocolate mixture, and fold in with a large rubber spatula.
  • Repeat with the remaining flour.
  • Spread the batter evenly in the pan and bake until a toothpick or the blade of a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes (the cake will done).
  • Cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes before removing the sides of the pan, and inverting the cake onto the rack. Remove the paper and reinvert on another rack to turn right side up. Cool completely.

Directions for the Assembly Of The Cake

  • Place the bottom cake layer on an 20cm (8-inch) cardboard round.
  • Brush the top of the cake layer with the warm apricot glaze.
  • Place the second cake layer on top and brush the top and sides of the cake with the remaining glaze.
  • Transfer the cake to a wire rack placed over a jelly-roll pan lined with waxed paper. Let cool until the apricot glaze is set.
  • Make the chocolate glaze just before covering the cake with it (it must be fresh and warm).
  • Pour all of the warm chocolate glaze on top of the cake. Using a metal offset spatula, gently smooth the glaze over the cake, allowing it to run down the sides, making sure that it completely coats the cake (patch any bare spots with the spatula and the icing that has dripped).
  • Cool until the glaze is barely set, then transfer the cake to a serving plate and refrigerate until the glaze is completely set, at least 1 hour.
  • Before serving, let the cake stand at room temperature for at least 1 hour.

 

Comments:

  • Quality ingredients will really make a difference in this cake, so make sure the use only the best chocolate and apricot preserves.
  • I used 70% cocoa chocolate for both the cake and the glaze.
  • For best results, be generous with the apricot glaze. Try not to miss a spot, and let plenty sink into the cake before you pour on the chocolate.
  • Don’t expect the cake layer to look perfect; sometimes the air bubbles are large and make holes in the top of the cake. If that happens, take some cake trimmings and mash them with a little of the apricot glaze in order to make a paste, then with a metal icing spatula, “spackle” the holes with the mixture.
  • The cake can be prepared up to 2 days ahead and stored in an airtight cake container at room temperature or in the fridge.

Serving suggestions:

Slice the cake with a sharp knife dipped into hot water.

Serve with a large dollop of unsweetened whipped cream (for dipping), if desired and a cup of milk coffee.

Click here  for more pictures and the French version of this recipe.

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4 Comments
  • Barbara Cacao
    November 7, 2011

    Rosa,
    your Sachertorte looks so juicy and the glazing looks so much more shiny and ‘runny’ than with most Sachertorten! Actually, if I had to choose cakes from my home town Vienna, I would always go for Dobostorte, Imperialtorte, Eszterhazytorte or a Punschkrapfen as they have more varied ingredients and layers (maybe because I’m female?) But I may try Rick’s recipe from the Sacher Backbuch, does this differ from the original?
    Barbara

  • Rosa
    November 7, 2011

    Dear Barbara,

    Thank you for the comment and kind words.

    Well, the Sachertorte that are sold in Vienna generally have a solid chocolate glaze, but Rick’s version is somehow gooey.

    Yes, the cakes you mentioned are more complex in flavor and elaborate, yet Sachertorte, in its apparent simplicity, is far from being bland.

    I really recommend you to try this recipe as it is foolproof and Rick Rodgers creations are always exceptional. This Sachertorte is no exception.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  • David Aplin
    June 5, 2013

    Hello, I read and enjoyed your “letter from Vienna” hoping to someday visit there. I particularly enjoyed your musings about Sacher Torte as it reminded me of my own baking apprenticeship which took place many years ago. I attended a community college here in my hometown of Toronto but I was lucky enough to be taught, instructed and mentored by some very capable teachers. There were two gentlemen, one from Berlin the other from Vienna, they both had long careers in the hotel business and were top notch pastry chefs. Highly disciplined in the teutonic manner, you had to be sharp and focussed in the baking lab or they would let you have it, in front of your classmates. I recall learning how to make the famous Sacher Torte, it’s simplicity and reliance on only a few top quality ingredients. I reproduced the Sacher Torte many times after that but only at home, never in a professional setting. I recently opened my own shop after years of working in a supermarket bakeshop. Your article has inspired me to create this cake for my clientele.
    Thank you!
    Kindest regards,
    David Aplin

    • Rosa
      June 6, 2013

      Dear David,

      Thank you for your comment.

      I am deeply honored to hear that my article has inspired you. Your clientele will surely be delighted to find that wonderful speciality in their favorite bakery.

      Best regards,

      Rosa

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