It was the spring of 2012, a bunch of lovely warm and sunny April days, and I was finally visiting the capital of Austria with my parents. Together we had crossed Austria at least thirty times before, while travelling from Italy to Poland by car, but had never stopped to explore Vienna. Then cheap airlines happened and we kind of stopped travelling to Poland by car, so the occasion never arose until we decided to drive again in 2012. I said I’d go only if we finally made a proper stopover in Vienna.
Vienna was beautiful, as I expected it to be. But what I’m most happy about those three days there was that I had managed to check three important things on my list:
- meet up with a friend from my Oslo days
- see The Kiss by Gustav Klimt
- taste the real Sachertorte at Hotel Sacher
The recipe of the original Sachertorte is a secret that only the people at Hotel Sacher in Vienna know. But cakes can be replicated, right? So my mom had a Sachertorte recipe in her recipe book, and I had tasted it before those jolly spring days in Vienna. And then I went to Vienna and the cake at Hotel Sacher tasted somewhat different. I can still remember my mother and myself savouring the delicious chocolate cake that day and trying to figure out what it was, what was that nutty flavour that made the original cake taste more special than hers. Wait, nutty? Isn’t it almonds we taste?
We didn’t steal the original recipe from the pastry chefs at Hotel Sacher that day (I would be rich now, or in jail probably), but we did change our recipe and added almond meal to it. Trying to replicate the texture and flavour of the cake I tasted in Vienna had become my challenge ever since. After the change, Sachertorte according to my mom’s recipe book became one step closer to the Viennese original.
- 150 g butter (softened)
- 150 g dark chocolate
- 200 g sugar
- 6 medium eggs
- 100 g almond meal
- 50 g flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 150 g apricot jam
Melt the dark chocolate in a pot over simmering water and let it cool to room temperature. Separate yolks from egg whites and beat the whites until firm, then add about 1/4 of the sugar and keep mixing until dissolved. Set the fluffy meringue aside. In another bowl combine the almond meal, flour and baking powder, stir and set aside. In a third container combine the butter and rest of the sugar and mix at medium speed until creamy. Always mixing, incorporate the yolks, one at a time, followed by the melted chocolate. Set the mixer aside. With a rubber spatula fold in half of the egg whites. Next, incorporate the flour mixture. Lastly, fold in the rest of the egg whites. I divided my batter among two 20-cm cake pans and baked them in the preheated oven at 175°C for 30 minutes.
When the cakes have cooled down, cut out a thin layer of the top of both cakes if it has dried out a bit too much in the oven as you want the inside of your cake to be super soft and moist, with no crunchy bits. Sift the apricot jam in order to remove any fruit pieces and spread the jelly over the top of one of the two sponges. Stack the other sponge on top of the first and spread the top and sides of the whole cake with more apricot jelly all over. Let the cake sit like this for about one hour.
Dark chocolate ganache
- 250 g dark chocolate
- 400 ml heavy cream 40% fat
Warm up the heavy cream and remove from the heat just before it reaches boiling temperature. Add the chocolate in pieces and stir until melted. Set aside and let cool – the ganache will also thicken. It should be runny enough to pour in a continuous stream, but thick enough to coat the cake without running away. I find that when it’s lukewarm it works perfectly – at room temperature is usually slightly too thick to spread nicely on the cake.
Set the cake over a rack and pour the ganache in one continuous stream over the cake, starting from the centre and moving outwards as it expands. Make sure to let the ganache drizzle down the sides to coat the whole cake evenly. Save a small quantity of the ganache and put it in the fridge for about 15 minutes; it will be used for the last finishing touch: the lettering “Sacher” all over the cake top – the most notable decorative element of the Sachertorte. The ganache should be firm enough not to drizzle out of the piping bag, so chill it accordingly. When it has reached the desired firmness, pipe the name of the inventor of this extraordinary cake on your own creation.
I used two different types of chocolate in this cake, mainly because that’s what I had available in the house. It turned out to be a lucky occurrence. In the cake batter I put a 55% dark chocolate, while in the ganache I have used a more bitter chocolate with 72% cocoa. The ganache in fact tasted quite bitter alone, but once combined with the rest of the cake this bitterness counterbalanced the sweetness of the apricot jam. I don’t know when I’ll get to visit Vienna again, but in the meantime I’ll have this cake to remind me how beautiful the spring in the Austrian capital is.