This post is for my dear friend Jane. Who recently reminded me of the joys of sacher torte, a rich and decadent chocolate cake invented in Vienna in 1832 by a young apprentice chef Franz Sacher for Prince Metternich. Jane was fortunate enough to eat her cake whilst on a recent ski holiday to Austria. Lucky girl! How I wish I’d been there.
I well remember my first taste of Sacher Torte many, many moons ago. Air-freighted all the way from Vienna in honour of a house mate’s significant birthday. It caused quite a frisson of excitement, arriving nestled in a little embossed wooden crate. How chic and sophisticated. At least to our Antipodean eyes.
Fast forward to this week. Welcome Autumn. Given the stifling heat and humidity of a long, hot summer it’s been a while since I’ve baked anything with chocolate. Ever practical, I’ve blamed the weather. Too melty and liable to disintegrate into an unholy mess. With a very gradual cooling of temperatures, however, our household has suddenly developed more than a little hankering for rich, deep, dark chocolate cake. The perfect excuse to finally bake a sacher torte. In mini portion controlled form to save those of us who are resolutely sticking to a 5-2 fast day regime and don’t need the unnecessary temptation of a unfinished cake sitting on the kitchen bench to railroad our best intentions.
And so it was I pulled out my mini spring form tins to bake a rather rustic, need I say it, Antipodean interpretation of the classic Viennese Sacher Torte. As ever, always fiddling with a concept at the edges, I eschewed the traditional apricot topping for plum, using a jar of my mother’s home-made jam. A very worthy and delicious pairing for the fudgy chocolate cake. Wanting to use every last bit of it’s gorgeous flavour, I chose not to sieve my jam, hence it’s thick, rather bumpy appearance. Drenched with a final flourish of rich chocolate glaze, those little tortes were incredibly moist and fruity. And very, very moreish.
Of course purists with a craving for The Original Sacher Torte could always order a cake on-line. From the Hotel Sacher no less. They’re still making them over 175 years later, almost entirely by hand from Franz Sacher’s closely guarded recipe, and for those of us living far, far away shipping them world-wide. Out of curiosity I checked. Of course, dear Jane, next time I visit I’ll make my Not Quite Sacher Torte version for you. They’re really not quite as complicated to make as they might sound, and most definitely worth the effort.
Not Quite Sacher Torte
Adapted from a recipe by Taste
Makes 6 small 10 cm round tortes
200g dark chocolate
150g unsalted butter, cubed
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, separated into yolks and whites
2 large egg whites, extra
a generous pinch of salt
1 cup caster sugar, divided
1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 cup almond meal
2 tablespoons sifted cocoa powder, for dusting tins
For The Glazing
1 1/2 cups of your favourite jam, traditionally apricot jam is used for an authentic sacher torte but I used plum
220g dark chocolate, chopped or broken into pieces
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup water
PREHEAT oven to 180 C. Grease and base line six 10cm round spring-form cake tins with baking paper. Dust greased inner sides of tins with cocoa powder.
BREAK chocolate into pieces and gently melt with butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (don’t let the bowl touch the water). Remove from heat, stir through vanilla extract and set aside to cool slightly.
MEANWHILE beat egg yolks with 1/4 cup sugar until very thick and pale.Best to do this with an electric mixer. Gradually add the cooled chocolate mixture, beating well until combined.
IN A SEPARATE bowl, whisk all 6 egg whites to soft peaks. Gradually add remaining 3/4 cup sugar, one tablespoon at a time, whisking until stiff and glossy.
FOLD one-third of the meringue into the chocolate mixture to loosen, then gradually fold in remaining meringue.
SIFT flour and almond meal over the chocolate meringue mixture. Gently fold through until just combined.
SPOON batter into the prepared tins. When filled tap the tins gently on the kitchen bench to evenly distribute the batter.
BAKE for 25 – 30 minutes or until well risen at the top. A toothpick or skewer inserted into the centre of each cake should come out clean. Don’t worry if the tops of the cakes crack a little, as these will become the bottom of the tortes when inverted from their tins.
COOL cakes slightly in their tins before carefully inverting onto a wire rack. Peel off the baking paper and leave the cakes to cool completely.
To Glaze The Cakes
MELT jam in a saucepan over medium heat. For a smooth finish pass jam through a sieve to remove any chunks of fruit. Set aside to cool slightly.
PLACE a large sheet of tin foil or baking paper under the wire rack holding the cakes.
Carefully brush jam evenly over top and sides of each inverted cake, allowing any excess to drip through the rack. Transfer rack and jam glazed cakes to a large tray and chill for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator or until glaze is set.
MEANWHILE bring sugar and water to the boil in a saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add chocolate, remove from the heat and stir until smooth. Transfer to a glass jug and set aside to cool and thicken slightly until glaze is of a coating consistency.
REMOVE rack of jam covered tortes from the refrigerator. Place rack over a large sheet of tin foil or baking paper to catch any drips as you continue to glaze the cakes.
POUR chocolate glaze onto the centre of each cake. Using a palette knife spread glaze gently and evenly over the top and down the sides of the cakes. Return cakes to the refrigerator to chill for an hour or so until glaze is set.