The October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Korena of Korena in the Kitchen. She took us to Austria and introduced us to the wonders of the Sachertorte.
This challenge took me back to my own visit to the Sacher Hotel in Vienna when I was a mere 25 years old (seems SO long ago) and the memory of digging into that expensive piece of torte in such exquisitely refined surroundings has always stayed with me. I also remember being horribly drunk whilst riding the ferris wheel in Prater Park that night, but that’s another story!
To say I was a little intimidated by this challenge is an under-statement. But, I bit the bullet and dove in. And, let me say, the cake itself was a breeze and was absolutely beautiful. Being a European style cake, it has a slightly drier texture than we’re used to, but it was by no means dry. You eat it with a large dollop of freshly whipped cream which provides that extra moisture. And, in terms of taste, the cake is not overly sweet, but is covered in an apricot jam and rum glaze that gives a surprising hit of rich, tangy sweetness and complements the chocolate beautifully.
No… where I, and indeed many of the Daring Bakers, had issues was with the chocolate glaze. You’ve got to be very quick in pouring it to ensure the surface and side of the cake is covered before it sets, which is super quick. Any attempts at working the glaze to cover up any uncovered areas ends up in a hot mess. It’s tricky stuff and many of us failed.
I also have to be honest with you (and I cross my fingers and hope Franz Sacher, the creator of the cake doesn’t turn in his grave), but I didn’t actually like the glaze. It is intensely sweet, being made up mostly of sugar, and has a fudgy taste and texture. Like some of the other Daring Bakers I scraped the glaze off the cake and made my own chocolate icing, borrowing it from the Baumkuchen (Tree Cake) recipe I made months ago. It’s a simple chocolate and coconut oil glaze that is dark and slightly bitter and, I think, a perfect foil for the cake. I’m leaving the original glaze ingredients and instructions in this recipe, however, as it is authentic and part of the Daring Kitchen challenge. However, if you want to try the dark chocolate icing I used, you can find that recipe here.
You’ll see that I also didn’t write the word ‘Sacher’ on the torte as was directed in the recipe. I killed two birds with one stone and made this cake for my father’s birthday and as I was sure he wouldn’t want to receive a cake with ‘Sacher’ written on it… (I could hear him say, ‘Who’s Sacher?’), I went ahead and decorated it in my own way. I applied sliced almonds to the side while the icing was still wet and sifted some dark cocoa over a crocheted doily on the surface (yes, I washed it afterwards). So I slightly went off-road with this challenge, but all for a good cause.
It’s a long post (I’m sorry!) and a long recipe, but I promise you that it’s worth the effort. One of my brothers immediately booked this cake for his upcoming birthday, so that was a nice compliment and I’m looking forward to making it again, without the sense of trepidation. Enjoy!
April 2016: It’s now a year and a half later, and I’ve revisited this recipe, adapting it using a half gluten-free flour/half white spelt flour blend. The cake tasted sensational (even better I think than the last time), though the crumb was denser and moister (more like a flourless chocolate cake). When I make it again using alternative flour, I think I might use a teaspoon of baking powder (many recipes do use baking powder) and, more importantly, will fold in the flour FIRST before folding in the egg-white. It occurred to me when I followed this recipe (provided by The Daring Kitchen) that it didn’t make sense to fold in the flour AFTER folding in the egg-white, as it would naturally deflate the mixture and it is the egg-white which provides the volume. I did some research on this and discovered many chefs, including Delia Smith and Mary Berry all fold in the egg-white at the end. So I’ll follow suit next time I make it and report back here as to the results.
- ¾ cup (180 gm) (4½ oz) (125 gm) good quality bittersweet chocolate (I used 62% cocoa), chopped
- 9 tablespoons (135 ml) (4½ oz) (125 gm) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
- 1 cup (240 ml) (4½ oz) (125 gm) confectioners’ sugar (icing sugar or powdered sugar)
- 6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
- ½ cup (120 ml) (7 oz) (100 gm) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (120 ml) (4½ oz) (125 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour
- Pinch fine grain salt
- 1¼ cup (300 ml) (14 oz) (400 gm) apricot jam or preserves
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) rum (or other liquor) or water
- 1 cup (240 ml) (7 oz) (200 g) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (120 ml) water
- (4 oz) (115 gm) good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- ¼ cup (60 ml) (1.8 oz) (50 gm) chopped good quality chocolate
- ½ – 1 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 1 cup (240 ml) heavy whipping cream, cold (I like adding 2-3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar to sweeten it a little)
- Preparation: Preheat oven to moderately hot 375˚F/350°F fan/190˚C/gas mark 5 with a rack in the centre of the oven. Butter and flower the sides of a 9-inch (23 cm) springform pan, then line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper.
- For the cake: Place the bittersweet chocolate in a heat-proof bowl and heat over a small saucepan of barely simmering water (make sure that the bowl is not touching the simmering water) or in the microwave until just melted. Set aside to cool completely, stirring often.
- Place the butter in a large mixing bowl and beat with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer or electric mixer on medium speed until very light and creamy. Add the confectioners’ sugar on low speed, then increase to medium speed and beat again until light and creamy.
- Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl.
- Add the cooled chocolate and vanilla and beat until well-mixed and very light and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl.
- In a scrupulously clean bowl using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites with about one tablespoon of the granulated sugar on high speed until foamy. Gradually add in the rest of the granulated sugar and continue beating the whites until they form soft, shiny peaks – they should hold their shape but flop over on themselves.
- Vigorously stir about 1/3 of the whipped egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then gently fold the remaining egg whites into the chocolate mixture with a spatula until just a few wisps of egg white remain. Do this carefully so as not to deflate the egg whites.
- Stir together the flour and salt and sift half of it over the chocolate mixture. Fold in with a spatula until almost incorporated. Sift over the remaining flour and fold to combine completely. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared springform pan.
- Bake in the preheated moderately hot 375˚F/350°F fan/190˚C/gas mark 5 oven for 35-45 minutes (mine took exactly 40 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. The cake will develop a crust on top which will crack and dome as it bakes but will flatten out as it cools. This crust can be removed by using a sharp knife if you want, though I quite like the crunchy texture.
- Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge to loosen it from the pan and remove the sides. Carefully invert the cake onto a rack and remove the bottom of the pan and parchment paper, then turn the cake right-side up onto a rack and allow to cool completely.
- For the Apricot Glaze: Boil the jam and rum/water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture thickens and drips slowly from the spoon, about 2-3 minutes. Strain through a wire mesh sieve, pressing firmly on the solids. You should have about 1 cup of glaze. Use warm.
- Assembly: Turn the cake upside-down so that the perfectly flat bottom of the cake is now the top. Cut the cake horizontally into 2 even layers.
- Place 1 cake layer on the 8½-inch (22 cm) cardboard cake round and spread it generously with about half of the apricot glaze (you can pour it on and level it with an off-set spatula, or brush it on in layers). Allow it to soak in.
- Place the second cake layer on top and spread the top and sides with the remaining apricot glaze. Work quickly before the glaze has a chance to set and use a metal offset spatula to smooth the top.
- Place the cake on a rack set over a plate or baking sheet lined with waxed paper and allow the apricot glaze to set.
- For the Chocolate Glaze: Place the sugar and water in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
- Attach a candy thermometer and cook, stirring, until the mixture reaches 234˚F/112°C, about 5 minutes.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the chocolate. It might thicken up quite a bit. If it does, return it to low heat and add a few drops of water if necessary to thin it out to a runny, pourable consistency. The glaze should be smooth and shiny.
- Off the heat, stir the glaze for 30-60 seconds to cool it slightly, then immediately pour it over the top of the cake, first around the edge (allowing the glaze to spill down the sides) and then in the middle. Spread the excess glaze over any bare spots using a metal offset spatula. Before the glaze has a chance to set, move the cake to a serving platter. Note: Any excess glaze can be stored in a container in the fridge and added to a mug of hot milk to make hot chocolate.
- For the Writing Chocolate: Heat the chocolate until just melted, then stir in enough vegetable oil to get a pipeable consistency. If necessary, let the chocolate mixture cool slightly to thicken so that it is not too runny.
- Place the chocolate in a disposable piping bag or small Ziplock bag and snip off the tip to make a small hole. It might pay to do a practice run on waxed paper before writing on the cake.
- With the writing chocolate, pipe the word ‘Sacher’ in the middle of the cake and add any decorative flourishes you wish. Chill the cake until the glaze is completely set, at least 1 hour.
- To serve: Let the cake come to room temperature for about 1 hour before serving. Whip the cream to soft peaks (this is best done in a cold bowl with cold beaters). If desired, sweeten it with icing sugar to taste.
- Cut the Sachertorte into wedges with a large sharp knife dipped in hot water and wipe off the blade between cuts. Serve each wedge of cake with a large dollop of whipped cream.
Storage & Freezing Instructions/Tips
1. The cake can be stored up to 2 days in an airtight container at room temperature. Some people recommend making this cake at least 1 day ahead as its flavour improves over time.
2. Recommended watching: Epicurious has a great series of videos of a pastry chef making this Sachertorte recipe from start to finish, with some very useful tips on technique.
3. Note: You don’t need baking powder in this recipe – the volume of the cake comes from the whipped egg whites.
4. For process photos, visit The Daring Kitchen.
Food Photography Info: Canon 550D (EOS Rebel T2i); Canon 50mm 1.8 lens / Natural lighting