Saturday, 31 March 2012

Sachertorte (THE traditional Viennese Chocolate Cake)



There’s a country on this globe where in the beginning of the 20th century, a war has broken out; only a legal war, alright, but with fights and battles that lasted until the early 60s. The reason for this fierce war was – a cake. I’m talking about my home-country Austria, and the cake in question is the famous Sachertorte. 'Tis one of the trademarks of Austrian culture that any Austrian will quote along with Mozart, the Lipizzan horses, Saint Stephen’s Cathedral and the Strauss-waltzes…

This cake was invented in 1832 by a sixteen-year-old apprentice to the Prince von Metternich’s cook in Vienna, Franz Sacher. His son Eduard carried on his father’s culinary legacy, working at first with the Royal and Imperial Pastry Chef at the Demel bakery (which still exists today), then going on to establish the Hotel Sacher in 1876 (the hotel and its restaurant and bakery still exist, too). The Sachertorten-War waging between the Demel bakery and the Hotel Sacher was finally settled in 1963 by an agreement that only the Hotel Sacher would henceforth have the right to dub its products “Original Sacher Torte” whereas the Demel bakery won the name “Eduard-Sacher-Torte”.

Given this prestigious history full of battles and struggles, I was a bit anxious to prepare a Sachertorte myself. Moreover, my mother is one of the best bakers of the Sachertorte ever so I knew I was facing a real Flabbergast-your-Mom-challenge. Now let’s look at how I proceeded, shall we?

What you need: 
  • 140 g of butter 
  • 140 g of dark chocolate 
  • 200 g of sugar (+ 60 g of sugar for the stiff egg whites) 
  • A pinch of salt 
  • 7 eggs 
  • 140 g of flour 
  • Apricot jam 
For the icing: 
  • 300 g of sugar 
  • 250 g of dark chocolate 
  • 1/8 l of water 
How to proceed: 
  • Make sure you take the butter out of the fridge in time; it has to be soft and mellow. 
  • Mix the egg whites with 60 g of sugar until stiff. 
  • Delicately melt the 140 g of chocolate with a little bit of water. 
  • Mix the butter, the melted chocolate, the sugar and a pinch of salt. 
  • By and by, mix in the egg yolks. 
  • Delicately blend in the stiff egg whites. 
  • Finally, add the flour. 
  • Fill into a round cake dish and bake for 60-65 minutes at 170°C. 
  • Unmold the cake and let it cool off. 
  • Once the cake has cooled, cut it in two halves horizontally. 
  • Coat the lower half with a thin layer of apricot jam. 
  • Put the cake together again. 
  • I added a thin layer of jam on top of the cake, too (this is NOT in the original recipe but hell, one’s allowed to improvise, no?). 
  • Prepare the icing: Heat the water with the sugar and the chocolate. 
  • Cook and stir for 10 minutes. 
  • Take off the heat and let cool down a bit; the icing should be thick. 
  • Cover the top and the sides of your cake with that chocolate icing (my kitchen was a mess but know what? There was no shortage of eager fingers rubbing off that chocolate icing from the surfaces!). 
  • When the icing has hardened, the cake is ready to be eaten. 
You can serve a slice of this cake with some whipped cream (almost a legal obligation in Austria) and a nice, strong cup of coffee. Not only is the Sachertorte a real treat but you can keep it for two weeks (in a dry and cool place of course) without the cake losing any of its extraordinary flavour, not too sweet, not too dry, not too chocolatty. My mom, to whom I showed my result on Skype, was simply flabbergasted!

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