Saturday, December 17, 2011

Heirloom Week: Sachertorte

This coming week will feature Christmas desserts that have been especially popular over the years -- classics that have come to represent the holidays for their fans. Today: Sachertorte.

One of the things I brought home after a college summer spent in Austria and Germany was a recipe for Sachertorte. This dense, chocolately "cake" uses breadcrumbs, and has a layer of apricot jam between its layers. Then another layer of chocolate is brushed all over the cake. The whole thing is served with a puff of whipped cream ("schlag," unsweetened, if you're doing it the Austrian way) to cut all the richness.
According to Wikipedia, "In 1832, Prince Wenzel von Metternich charged his personal chef with creating a special dessert for several important guests. The head chef having taken ill, let the task fell to his sixteen-year-old apprentice, Franz Sacher, then in his second year of training with Metternich's kitchen. The Prince is reported to have declared, "Let there be no shame on me tonight!" While the torte created by Sacher on this occasion is said to have delighted Metternich's guests, the dessert received no immediate further attention."
    Sacher finished training as a chef, and eventually opened a specialty deli in Vienna. It was his oldest son Eduard, however, who made this cake famous, when he served it at the Demel Bakery, and later at the Hotel Sacher, which he founded in 1876. Since then, the Sachertorte has remained one of Austria's most famous foods.
    Don't let all this fancy rigamarole fool you -- the Sachertorte is actually quite simple to make. It's easiest if you do it in steps -- bake the layers in the morning, then assemble and frost the cake in the afternoon. (Or do it successive days.)  The Brick version has two changes: we substitute raspberry jam for apricot, and the finished cake has a rimmed edge of chopped nuts, preferably filberts.
    There's no better dessert with a cup of coffee or tea. It's the kind of dish meant for a long leisurely talk after supper, with your daughter gleefully spearing the last nutty bits off your plate, and everyone laughing about what the dog did that morning.

photo courtesy of Wikipedia; read more about it here.


1 6-oz pkg chocolate chips (or equivalent fine chocolate bar - the darker, the better)
1/2 cup butter
8 eggs (separate into yolks and whites)
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
3/4 cup flour

Melt chocolate chips and butter in the microwave (approx. 1 1/2 min.) In the meantime, get out your commercial mixer and start beating the egg WHITES until they're stiff. (Make a peak when you stop the mixer and lift the blade up.)

By hand, mix the egg yolks and sugar in a separate bowl #2, add the melted chocolate mixture, then gently fold in the vanilla, breadcrumbs and flour.

Add the stiffened egg whites (gently) to bowl #2, then pour mixture into one greased tube pan, springform pan, or two 9" layer cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 min. (9" pans) to 60 min. (tube or springform) -- cake will be done when firm to the touch, and an inserted toothpick comes out dry. Let cool, then gently release from the pan.


1/2 cup apricot jam (the traditional -- strawberry or any red berry works, too)

1 6-oz. pkg chocolate chips (or equivalent bar)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon coffee
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons milk or sour cream

Set the jam aside. Microwave everything else until melted (about 1 1/2 min.)

If your cake was baked in a tube or springform pan, slice it in half horizontally. (This is easier to do if it's cool.) Spread jam between layers and-resandwich.

Spread the melted chocolate mixture on top of the cake, taking care to frost around the sides, as well. Keep the top as glossy as possible. (Easiest way to do this is to take a knife dipped in hot water and smooth the top after the chocolate has been iced.)

The traditional finishing was to write 'Sacher' on top in chocolate icing -- but I generally spread chopped nuts on top or the sides. (Filberts are the traditional choice, but who cares.)

Makes 12 slices of incredibly decadent cake. Serve with strong coffee or espresso mit schlag.

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