While in Vienna, I made a special trip to the Hotel Sacher just to try this classic dessert, a dry chocolate torte with apricot glaze encrusted in chocolate, accompanied by a dollop of whipped cream. It was first developed in 1832 by Franz Sacher for Prince Metternich and later perfected by his son, Eduard Sacher, who worked at Demel bakery. Wikipedia has an amusing history of the legal battles that Hotel Sacher and Demel fought over who got to call their cake “The Original Sachertorte,” who got to add a second layer of apricot glaze, and more.
Epicurious has a recipe that closely approximates Hotel Sacher’s sachertorte. The torte isn’t quite as dry – which in my opinion is a good thing. It is a bit of a hassle to make (ideally you’ll have both a stand mixer and a handheld mixer, plus a candy thermometer), but I think it’s worth it!
Yield: One 2-layer 9″ circular cake
4.5 oz high-quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used Ghiradelli, but Epicurious suggests Valrhona)
9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature1 cup confectioners’ sugar
6 eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour, spooned lightly into measuring cup
1 1/4 cups apricot preserves (make sure you don’t get jam or jelly; Epicurious suggests D’Arbo)
2 tablespoons golden rum or water (brandy works too if you don’t have rum; Epicurious suggests Stroh rum)
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
6 oz high-quality bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Make the cake (can make up to 2 days in advance and store in airtight container at room temperature):
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter a 9″ springform pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment or wax paper. Lightly dust the sides with flour.
- Melt chocolate in the microwave on medium power. Let stand until cool, stirring often.
- In a large bowl (ideally with a stand mixer), beat the butter on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute.
- Beat in the confectioners’ sugar on low speed.
- Beat on medium-high speed for about 2 minutes until light in color and texture.
- Beat in egg yolks, one at a time.
- Beat in chocolate and vanilla.
- In a separate large bowl (ideally with a handheld mixer), beat egg whites and granulated sugar on high speed just until they form soft, shiny peaks. Do not overbeat egg whites.
- Stir about 1/4 of the egg white mixture into the chocolate mixture to lighten it.
- Fold remaining egg white mixture into chocolate mixture, leaving a few streaks of whites.
- Sift 1/2 of the flour over the chocolate mixture, and fold in with a rubber spatula. Repeat with remaining flour.
- Spread batter evenly in prepared springform pan.
- Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The cake will puff up rather dramatically in the center.
- Cool cake on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove the sides of the pan, and invert the cake onto the rack. Remove the paper and re-invert on another rack to turn right side up. (Or, if you don’t have that many wire racks, carefully invert the cake into the palm of one hand, peel off the paper with your other hand, and put the cake back on the rack.)
- Cool completely.
Make the apricot glaze (can make ahead of time and store in fridge):
- Combine apricot preserves and rum/water in a small saucepan.
- Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often.
- Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often. It will be done when you lift the spoon and the last drops clinging to it are very sticky.
- Strain mixture through a wire sieve into a small bowl, pressing hard on the solids.
- Use glaze while warm, otherwise the preserves will begin to solidify. You can microwave it briefly if that happens.
- With a long serrated knife, cut off the domed top of the cake to make it level. If there are large holes from air bubbles, pull off bits of the cake you just cut off and use some apricot glaze to “glue” them into the holes.
- Cut the cake horizontally into two layers.
- Put one layer on an 8-inch cardboard round (or, if you’re lazy, a large plate).
- If you have a brush, brush the top of the layer with the apricot glaze. If you don’t have a brush, spoon the glaze on the layer and smooth it out with the bottom of the spoon.
- Put the second layer on top and brush or spoon glaze over it.
- Brush or spoon remaining glaze over the sides of the cake.
- Transfer the cake to a wire rack placed over a baking sheet lined with waxed paper or aluminum foil.
- Let cake cool until glaze is set.
Make the chocolate glaze (MUST be made fresh):
- Combine sugar, water, and chocolate in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan (a 2-quart saucepan at largest, otherwise the mixture will reduce too quickly and burn).
- Bring mixture to a boil over high heat.
- Attach a candy thermometer to the saucepan.
- Reduce the heat to medium and cook uncovered for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the mixture reaches 234°F. (I didn’t have a candy thermometer, so I just cooked it for 5 minutes. In the end, my glaze stayed kind of gloopy and never set properly, but it tasted fine anyway.)
- Use warm!
Glaze the cake:
- Pour WARM chocolate glaze on top of the cake.
- With a metal spoon or spatula, smooth the glaze over the top so it runs down the sides and completely coats the cake.
- Cool until glaze is barely set.
- Transfer cake to serving plate.
- Refrigerate for at least 1 hour until glaze is completely set. (Since I didn’t get the temperature right, mine never set properly and stayed gooey.)
- Remove the cake from the refrigerator about 1 hour before serving.
Make whipped cream (can make 1 day in advance):
- Combine cream, sugar, and vanilla in a well-chilled bowl.
- Beat until the cream forms soft peaks.
- Dip a knife into hot water and cut cake into slices.
- Place a dollop of whipped cream by each slice.