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FOOD & WINE

Original Sin: Tasting Sacher-Torte in Vienna

November 18, 2013
Original Sacher-Torte at Cafe Sacher

During a recent visit to Vienna on a Viking Danube River Cruise, we couldn’t resist an indulgent detour: We stopped at Café Sacher to taste what many say is the best chocolate cake in the world, the Sacher-Torte.

Cafe Sacher

Cafe Sacher

The small café, which has its own street entrance, is located inside the five-star Sacher Hotel. The café is an elegant Viennese coffee house with small marble tables, banquettes with red velvet upholstery, and crystal chandeliers. Small paper menus are displayed on each table, suspended on a wooden holder.

Interior of the Sacher cafe - Home of the Sacher-Torte

Interior of the Sacher cafe – Home of the Sacher-Torte

Menu at Cafe Sacher

Menu at Cafe Sacher

Sacher-Torte: Not just a piece of cake

This legendary cake has been hand-made by descendants of the same family who have been using the same recipe since 1832. At the time he first created the torte, Franz Sacher was a 16-year old confectionary apprentice who prepared the dessert for guests of the court of Prince Wenzel von Metternich when the Prince’s chef suddenly fell ill.

Although bakeries and pastry chefs around the world have tried to replicate the popular dessert, the family has kept the original recipe a closely guarded secret for 180 years. Some say it is the mix of ingredients used for the chocolate icing, reportedly a blend of chocolates produced by three different manufacturers from Germany and Belgium, which separates it from the knock-offs and makes it impossible to copy.

The Sacher-torte is a rich two-layer chocolate cake with a thin apricot jam filling, covered by exquisite dark chocolate icing. Only cakes following the original family recipe can be called Original Sacher-Tortes. Traditionally, it’s served with unsweetened whipped cream. Why no sweetening? I suspect that one more spoonful of sugar might tip the consumer of the sweet confectionary over into a diabetic coma.

We had debated whether or not to splurge on the real thing when there were so many imposters in the cafés lining the streets surrounding the Opera House. But our mid-morning experience at Café Sacher did not disappoint. The chocolate was rich without being overly sweet; the whipped cream a perfect complement.

During our visit, we ordered a cup of espresso with cream and a cappuccino and shared a slice of the famous cake. Our bill, with a tip included, was €14.40 but the experience was one of the culinary highlights of our visit. In fact, we enjoyed it so much that we purchased a “Lilliput” (small) version to take home from the confectionary store in the hotel. It comes in various sizes, each one packaged in a beautiful wooden box.

Cappuccino at Cafe Sacher

Cappuccino at Cafe Sacher

Take-home Lilliput version

Take-home Lilliput version

Do-it-yourself

If you would like to attempt to make a knock-off version, the Austrian Tourism Board has made this recipe for a Sacher-Torte available to the public. First, take a peek at this YouTube video to whet your appetite.


Sacher Torte Recipe from the Austrian Tourism Board 

Ingredients:

7 egg yolks
150 g softened butter
125 g icing sugar
200 g dark chocolate
1 packet (8g) vanilla sugar
7 egg whites
125 g crystal sugar
A pinch of salt
150 g flour
Butter and flour for the mold
150 – 200 g apricot jam, for spreading
Rum, if desired
Whipped cream to garnish

For the glaze:

200 g dark chocolate coating or cooking chocolate
250 g sugar
150-170 ml water 

How to make it:

1. Melt the chocolate slowly (ideally in a bain-marie). Meanwhile, mix the butter with the icing sugar and vanilla sugar until creamed. Gradually stir in the egg yolks. Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C. Grease a cake tin with butter and sprinkle with flour. Whip up the egg whites with a pinch of salt, add the crystal sugar and beat to a stiff peak. Stir the melted chocolate into the paste with the egg yolks and fold in the whipped egg whites alternately with the flour. Fill the dough into the tin and bake for around 1 hour.

2. Remove the cake and leave to cool off (to achieve a flat surface turn the cake out on to a work surface immediately after baking and turn it again after 25 minutes).

3. If the apricot jam is too solid, heat it briefly and stir until smooth, before flavouring with a shot of rum. Cut the cake in half crosswise. Cover the base with jam, set the other half on top, and coat the upper surface and around the edges with apricot jam.

4. For the glaze, break the chocolate into small pieces. Heat up the water with the sugar for a few minutes. Pour into a bowl and leave to cool down until just warm to the taste (if the glaze is too hot it will become dull in appearance, but if too cold it will become too viscous). Add the chocolate and dissolve in the sugar solution.

5. Pour the glaze quickly, i.e. in a single action, over the cake and immediately spread it out and smooth it over the surface, using a palate knife or other broad-bladed knife. Leave the cake to dry at room temperature.

Serve with a garnish of whipped cream. If possible, do not store the Sacher Torte in the fridge, as it will “sweat”.

Baking time: approx. 1 hour

Guten Appetit!


IF YOU GO


Disclosure: Our hosted voyage on the Viking Freya brought us to Vienna but any opinions expressed in this post are our own. 


See Melissa Clark’s recipe for the classic Sacher Torte in the New York Times.

  • Reply
    Sand In My Suitcase
    November 19, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    Yumm. The original Sacher Torte. Wouldn’t mind tasting that :-). But, gulp, a bit pricey for a piece of cake and 2 coffees – though you’re paying for the “experience” too, we expect. And, like the credit card ads show, some experiences are priceless!

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      November 20, 2013 at 7:12 pm

      As it turned out, it was definitely worthwhile. It offered the feel of Old Vienna, one of the highlights of our trip!

  • Reply
    Mike
    November 20, 2013 at 3:35 am

    Oh Irene, that cafe looks absolutely gorgeous. And please, please yes PLEASE on that torte. I’m not a caffeine drinker but I might actually cheat and have that cappuccino to go with it! 🙂

  • Reply
    Eva Gold
    November 20, 2013 at 6:30 am

    Wow, you scored the original recipe? This is one of my favorite cakes and its the first thing I buy whenever I make a stop in Austria. We even had a sacher-inspired wedding cake 😉 Yum yum yum!

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      November 20, 2013 at 7:11 pm

      The recipe is from the Austrian Tourist Board—it’s the specific ingredients that are impossible to find:-(

  • Reply
    Marcia
    November 20, 2013 at 8:23 am

    This sounds divine, even to a non-chocolate lover like me. I admire them for keeping the recipe such a closely guarded secret.

  • Reply
    Marcia
    November 20, 2013 at 8:23 am

    Oh, and thanks so much for linking up this week, Irene!

  • Reply
    Suzanne Fluhr (Boomeresque)
    November 24, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    I think just reading the recipe might be good for a few clogged arteries. In any case, the necessary techniques are beyond my cooking prowess. Vienna is still on my bucket list and now I have a Vienna sub-bucket-list, if there is such a thing—a visit to the Sacher cafe. I’ll ask them to give my husband a menu without the prices.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      November 26, 2013 at 7:37 am

      Good idea!:-)
      I can’t remember if the ladies’ menu had prices.

  • Reply
    Patti
    November 24, 2013 at 11:52 pm

    What a deliciously interesting experience!

  • Reply
    noel morata
    November 25, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    Wish we went to the restaurant vs the café, still the cake and chocolate are amazing to experience, thanks for the recipe will have to try making it!

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      November 26, 2013 at 7:36 am

      Hopefully, you’ll get back to Vienna again:-)

  • Reply
    Linda ~ Journey Jottings
    November 26, 2013 at 3:43 am

    That was one of the most scrumptious blog posts I think I’ve ever read!
    I’d definitely splurge for an experience like that – One that is totally inimitable.
    (And I’ve clipped the page for the recipe!!)

  • Reply
    Donna Hull
    November 27, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    Yum! You absolutely did the right thing choosing to sample the original Sacher Torte. I don’t blame you for brining a mini version home for later.

  • Reply
    Cathy Sweeney
    November 27, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    I doubt that I’ll be trying to make this myself — I’m sure it wouldn’t turn out so well. Since we’re talking about “sin”, I’ve got a confession to make — when we were in Vienna, we did not have the sacher torte! Next time — and there will be a next time, because I absolutely loved Vienna.

  • Reply
    Suzanne (Travelbunny)
    November 28, 2013 at 11:11 am

    That looks delicious – maybe I’ll make it another day as my Christmas cake’s in the oven right now! Lovely, mouthwatering post 🙂

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