February 12, 2014

Sacher Torte

Today's post is about a chocolate cake that has caused controversy and legal battles, and it has even been dubbed the most famous chocolate cake of the world.  My version of this cake has been described as "boyfriend replacement material."  People, this is quite a cake.  Meet the Sacher Torte, pronounced "ZA-kur tort."  

In 1832, pastry chef Franz Sacher created the Sacher Torte for Prince Clemens Lothar Wensel Metternich of Austria.  The Prince was a foodie and wanted to try a new cake.  The head chef was sick, and the back up chefs were overwhelmed and had no idea what to bake.  Franz Sacher was a 16 year old apprentice, and he created the famous cake with the ingredients that were available in the kitchen.  (Perhaps that it explains why the cake has apricot jam!)  Chef Sacher became famous and successful from this cake and his other recipes, and he opened up many cafes and restaurants.

Franz's son, Eduard Sacher, had perfected his father's recipe for the Sacher Torte while working at the Demel Patisserie.  In 1876, Eduard Sacher opened the Hotel Sacher, and the Sacher Torte was served at the hotel.  Eduard's wife helped turn Hotel Sacher into a fine hotel visited by aristocrats and diplomats.  In the early 1900s, a legal battle ensued between the Hotel Sacher and the Demel Patisserie over the use of the name "The Original Sacher Torte."  After Eduard's widow died and the Hotel Sacher went bankrupt, Eduard Sacher's son (also named Eduard) went back to the Demel Patisserie and gave it the sole distribution right for the Eduard Sacher Torte.

By 1938, the new owners of the Hotel Sacher began selling Sacher Tortes under the trademarked name "The Original Sacher Torte." Hotel Sacher, asserting it had the rights to the name "Original Sacher Torte, sued the Demel Patisserie.   

The Sacher Hotel and the Demel Patisserie spent the next several years embroiled in a lawsuit.  The issues of the case were the rightful use of the Sacher Torte name, whether the cake had a layer of apricot jam in the middle, and whether it was made with butter or margarine.  No joke.  This was a real lawsuit.  Witnesses testified about the dessert's characteristics, such as the layer of jam, the use of margarine and butter, how it was sliced, and the change of the name.  I'm not a litigation attorney, but this would be my kind of case to litigate.  The thought of cross-examining a witness about jam makes me laugh.  I wonder if a jury had to sample cake?  Pastries have rights! ;)

In 1963, Austria's High Court made a ruling.  Hotel Sacher received the rights to the name "The Original Sacher Torte," and the Demel Patisserie receive the rights to decorate its tortes with a seal that reads "Eduard Sacher Torte."  The Demel Patisserie now calls its tortes the "Demel Sachertorte."

Naturally, the Original Sacher Torte and the Demel Sachertorte recipes are closely guarded secrets.  From what I've learned about the Original Sacher Torte, the true secret is the special types of chocolate that are used to make this torte.  The chocolates are made in Germany, Austria, and France and are produced exclusively for the torte.  Nowadays, 800 Sacher Tortes are made daily, and during the holidays, sometimes 5,000 Sacher Tortes are made daily and shipped around the world.
The Sacher Torte is two layers of chocolate cake separated by a thin layer of jam on top, and it is coated by a chocolate ganache on the top and sides.  Traditionally, it is served with unsweetened whipped cream since it is more dry.  Now, of course, there are disputes with regards to what type of cake makes a Sacher Torte.  Some feel that a true Sacher Torte should be made with a sponge cake.  There's also a camp that believe it should be a dry meringue.  Others prefer a denser, more moist cake, and I fall into this group.

My spin on the Sacher Torte is rich, velvety, and full of chocolate flavor.  The ganache adds even more fudge to this cake.  Tortes are made mainly from nut flour, which produces a dense texture.   This cake uses mainly almond flour, but there is a small amount of all-purpose flour.  So, it's almost low-carb!  Since this was my own twist on a Sacher Torte, I used my homemade peach jam in lieu of apricot jam.

The torte was simple to make because the food processor does some of the heavy lifting.  You melt butter and chocolate, and while that cools, you beat eggs and sugar in the food processor.  The eggs are then folded into the chocolate, and then almond flour and all-purpose flour are folded in.  The cake bakes for about 20 minutes.  Assembly is a "piece of cake" (ha ha, couldn't resist):  jam goes between the layers, and the cake is frosted with a ganache.   

Give this dessert a try, and you'll understand the fight to eat this magical cake!  Happy Valentine's Day!

Sacher Torte
Yields 1 8-inch (or 9-inch) cake

230 grams bittersweet chocolate, chopped or in chip form (at least 60% cacao)
170 grams salted butter
Pinch of coffee or espresso, optional
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
100 grams almond flour
30 grams all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, at room temperature
8 oz. jam, your choice (I used apricot)
3/4 cup granulated sugar

For the ganache:
170 grams bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream plus 1 tablespoon

Preheat oven to 325ºF.  Grease and flour two 8-inch or 9-inch round cake pans, and line them with parchment paper rounds.  In a medium bowl, mix the almond flour and all-purpose flours.  Set aside.

In a large bowl over a pot of simmering water, melt chocolate and butter.  Stir until incorporated, and mix in the vanilla and coffee/espresso. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes.

Add the eggs to the food processor, and blend for 3 minutes until the eggs are lighter in color and double in size.  Add the sugar through the top of the food processor and blend until mixed through.  Pour the egg mixture into the chocolate, and gently fold with a whisk.  By using a whisk, the egg whites will not deflate.  Gently fold half of the flour mixture in, and then add the remaining flour.

Pour equally into the two prepared pans.  Bake at 325ºF for 15-25 minutes on the middle rack.  The cake should be firm, and a toothpick inserted into the middle should have moist crumbs.  Allow the cakes to cool completely in pans for 30 minutes.  Run a pairing knife around the sides of the cakes to loosen.  Place one layer of cake onto a cardboard round cut just a little larger than the diameter of the cake.  Spread the jam over one layer of the cake, and gently place the second layer on top.

To make the ganache, in a bowl over a post of simmering water, melt the chocolate and heavy cream.  Once melted and mixed, you can pour the glaze onto the center of the cake.  Use an offset spatula to spread the glaze evenly over the top of the cake, and let it flow down the sides.  Continue to spread along the sides of the cake to coat evenly.

Refrigerate cake, keeping it on the rack, until the glaze is set for at least an hour.  Carefully transfer cake to a large platter and serve.

Source: Adapted from America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Illustrated


  1. One of my all time favorites...but I did not know that history; very interesting, Happy Valentine's Day to you too Claire!

  2. What a lovely Valentine's Day treat for someone you love, or for yourself. I would love a fork and a bowl of whipped cream. I'd be a happy, happy girl.

  3. I LOVE Salzburg and the first thing I wanted was a piece of this. On the day we were there it might have been an off day because I wasn't all that impressed. I would eat every bit of yours. Lordy it looks good.

  4. Aww a perfect V-Day dessert! I hope you had a fantastic romantic day full of indulgence like this :D

    Choc Chip Uru

  5. You've got to love a sinful dessert with a sordid history. Thanks for the history and this looks INcredible.

  6. Claire...what a beautiful torte! I've had the pleasure of eating some of Demel's chocolates, but never their torte. I didn't know there was such controversial history surrounding it! Your cake looks beautifully fudgey and that ganache looks so amazing! Nice twist on using your peach preserves! : )

  7. Interesting legal background on this cake- sort of sounds like the legal wrangle surrounding the use of the name 'Champagne.' I see that this recipe doesn't have any baking powder, which gives it the dense texture. NICE!!


Free Blog Template by June Lily