Sacher Torte is a classic Viennese confection made with chocolate sponge cake and filled with apricot preserves. Shiny chocolate glaze with the originator’s name piped on top makes it a sumptuous dessert.
Happy New Year, friends! I hope everyone had a nice holiday, or at least got to indulge in eating your favorite baked goods. I’m not much of a resolution-maker, but there is one blog-related thing I’m focusing on in the coming months.
This year I aim to add more recipes for classic desserts to this blog. I’ve had Classic Sacher Torte on the ‘to bake’ list for a long time. And in the days after Christmas I finally sat down and did much reading and research on this Austrian confection. Earlier
this last year my best friend mentioned being intrigued by the apricot-chocolate combination that Sacher Torte is so famous for. Because we spend every New Year’s Eve together, I was inspired to make it as a special ending to our holiday feast.
Research and testing.
Digging through online articles and old cake tomes returned a common critique to the highly regarded chocolate cake. Even from practiced pastry chefs that sampled the cake at its origin (in Vienna, at Hotel Sacher). The sponge tends to be dry. My testing confirmed this. But there is a simple fix. Much like the Hungarian Dobos Torte I posted last month, it requires a little extra help from simple syrup to live up to the Sacher Torte I’ve dreamed of eating.
I’ve cobbled together my favorite components from multiple sources (cited in the recipe notes), and the result is lovely. It’s rich and luxurious, moist and tender. The chocolate is lifted by the unique flavor of apricot preserves. Overall, I’m so glad I did my homework.
First of all, in a large bowl, sift together flour, almond flour, cocoa, and a tablespoon of espresso powder. Like most chocolate cakes with the addition of espresso power, its flavor is largely undetectable. It enhances the chocolate and deepens the flavor.
Next, separate five eggs. The whites will be whipped into billowy peaks separately from the yolks.
Beat the yolks with sugar until light and thick. Then add melted chocolate and stir it all together.
Next, alternate folding the flour mixture into the creamed mixture with the whipped whites. Do this carefully so you retain as much volume as possible. The most common mistake a beginner baker can make is to knock all of the air out of the sponge. Use the motion of turning the bottom mixture to the top of the bowl repeatedly, occasionally using the spatula to cut through the center of the batter as you turn bottom-to-top.
Let’s talk pans. Ideally, use an 8-inch springform pan. I didn’t have one, but I did have an 8×3 inch cake pan. It’s important that the pan have high sides for the sponge batter to climb up during baking. You could probably get by with baking the batter in a 9-inch springform pan, but the single baked sponge is torted in two. So if you do this, expect thinner layers.
Simple syrup flavored with a spoonful of pureed apricot jam will go far to improve an otherwise dry sponge. It also imparts more apricot flavor.
Use high quality apricot preserve, jam, or fruit spread for the filling, mixed with a splash of apricot brandy. La Vieja Fabrica is the brand I used, and it makes an excellent filling and tastes as good as homemade apricot preserve.
Pour on more chocolate!
The glaze comes together quickly. I was suspicious of its thin consistency, but this is by design. It falls in an even curtain and completely coats the entire cake. Be sure to place the cake on a wire rack over some parchment before you glaze to catch the excess chocolate. And save that chocolate overflow. You’ll use it to pipe the ‘Sacher’ name on top.
That glaze is really something! It completely envelops the cake and holds in the moisture from the simple syrup and apricot jam. It was such a treat to share this with our party of four on New Year’s Eve. The cake was well-loved and I wouldn’t hesitate to make it again for a special occasion.
Classic Sacher Torte
8 inch springform pan
- 4 oz. semisweet chocolate
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup almond flour
- 1/4 cup unsweet cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar divided
- 5 large eggs whites and yolks separated
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon apricot preserves pureed
- 3/4 cup apricot preserves
- 2 tablespoons apricot brandy
- 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter softened
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 1/3 cup chocolate sprinkles
- Whipped cream for serving
Begin this cake one day ahead of time so the syrup has time to fully soak into the sponge.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour a round 8-inch springform pan and line the bottom with a parchment round.
Break the chocolate into pieces and place in a small heatproof bowl. Rest over a saucepan of barely simmering water and leave for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until melted. Alternatively melt the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl at 30 second increments at 100% power until melted. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a bowl, sift together the all-purpose flour, almond flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter with 3/4 cup of the sugar until pale and creamy, about 4 minutes. Add the yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition until thick. Fold in the cooled chocolate. Set aside.
Whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. Increase speed to high and gradually add in the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar; whisk until firm peaks form about 2 minutes more.
Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the creamed mixture to loosen it. Fold 1/3 of the flour mixture into the creamed butter mixture. The mixture will be thick and folding may seem awkward but keep going. Gently fold in another 1/3 of the egg whites – do this carefully as to not delate the batter. Keep as much volume as possible. Fold in the remaining flour mixture. Finally, fold in the remaining egg whites, all the while folding gently. This will take several minutes of careful mixing to incorporate all the whites.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the top develops a slight crack and is slightly puffed. A toothpick inserted near the center should come out mostly clean with a few crumbs attached.
Turn the cake out onto a wire rack topside down; peel away the parchment. The puffed top should flatten with the weight of being turned upside down. Cool the cake completely. If the puffed top doesn’t fully flatten, trim it flat with a serrated knife. Cut the cake in half horizontally (torte) using a cake leveler or serrated knife.
Stir together the water and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar is melted. Cool slightly. Stir in the pureed apricot preserves until melted. Using a pastry brush, coat the insides of the cake with half of the syrup.
Place the chocolate chips and butter in a large measuring cup with a pour spout. In a small saucepan, stir together the heavy cream and corn syrup; place over medium high heat. Cook while stirring until the mixture is hot and steams but does not boil. Immediately pour over the chocolate and butter. Let stand 5 minutes. Whisk together until chocolate is melted and smooth.
Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper and place a wire rack on top. Place the cake on top of the wire rack. Pour the glaze over the cake beginning in the center and circling outwards to the edges so it flows down the sides of the cake. The chocolate will overflow the cake and drip down onto the parchment. Allow the cake to stand on the rack until the chocolate sets, about 2 hours, or place in the refrigerator to speed setting. Transfer the cake to a serving plate or cake stand.
Gently pat chocolate sprinkles around the bottom edge of the cake. Brush away excess using a clean pastry brush.
Using a spatula, scrape the chocolate that overflowed onto the parchment into a piping bag with a tiny hole cut in the end. Pipe in scrolling letters “Sacher’ on top of the cake. You will have leftover chocolate, so you may choose to pipe more detail around the edge of the cake.
Depending on the brand or maker, apricot preserves range from small diced fruit to sliced chunks. If your preserves are the latter, pulse them in a food processor to finer pieces. They’ll spread easier and the cake will cut more evenly. I use a splash of apricot brandy in the filling. This is largely accepted as part of the original recipe, but feel free to omit it to suit your tastes or needs.
The chocolate sprinkles are optional, and a last-minute decision as I decorated the cake. They add an extra touch of chocolate, which is never a bad thing.