The first in an erstwhile series of classic recipes, designed to be simple, quick and – hopefully – foolproof. The use of the word “Masterclass” is tongue in cheek as many of these recipes will be made for the first time by myself too and any comments or suggestions are gratefully received.
All recipes, of course, are using chocolate. This week, Sachertorte.
I have an ongoing love affair with gateaux, particularly those from Vienna. I have yet to try them at Demels or indeed any coffee shop in Austria (much less Vienna) having never visited there but this doesn’t stop me lusting after their tender, multi-layered cakes, the flaky pastries interlaced with stained glass preserves or the tall cups of coffee topped with frothy clouds of whipped cream. For now, I must make do with reading the pertinent Foods of the World book, devoted to Vienna or the tattered issues of Gourmet Magazine from the late 60s which serialised Lillian Langseth-Christensens Old Vienna Cookbook.
Now, whilst I love to look at these seemingly superhuman feats of patisserie, I am not the best or most patient baker. I don’t have much time to devote to churning out trays of cookies or muffins and even if I did, we don’t have a large family to devour them. That said, my work colleagues are always willing and able guinea pigs (albeit a little too critical at times) so I decided to bake a cake that I have found alluring and beautiful ever since I first saw its thick, glossy dark icing and woodly dense interior: the Sachertorte.
The original recipe, first invented at the Hotel Sacher, is a closely guarded secret.
It is a cake that arouses such passion in people that Demels and the Hotel Sacher had some intense legal wranglings over the decoration and naming of the cake. Eventually the Hotel Sacher won the court case and the right to call the cake, Sachertorte, identified by its chocolate seal. Demels now refer to their version as Demels Sachertorte. Seems like a case of “You Say Tomato and I Say, er, Tomato” if you ask me but family reputations are built and destroyed upon such trifles (or rather, gateaux).
The cake itself is famous for its deeply dark texture, an apricot jam filling and the glossy dark mantle of chocolate icing, this is a chocolate cake for adults. The recipe I made used ground almonds instead of flour, two whole bars of the blackest chocolate, and over 300g of sugar! This being in addition to 6 eggs and several freshly ground coffee beans. The eggs are separated, the whites whisked to snowy white stiffness and the yolks made frothy with the sugar. The two are then combined and baked for an hour (although, I took mine out of the oven maybe 10 minutes earlier as it would have dried out too much otherwise).
The taste of the cake is as rich as you might expect but with the unexpectedly tart apricot jam flavour. I don’t normally like fruit with chocolate but this was a whole new taste experience for me. Apparently the cake should be stored for a week when, like a vintage wine, it matures and deepens in flavour. Of course, this is impossible.
After making the cake, I wondered why it had taken me so long – it is so easy and makes a perfect coffee cake or dinner party dessert, served, as the Viennesse, with whipped cream.
LORNA WING’S SACHERTORTE – Serves at least 8
200g Excellent Quality Dark Chocolate
1 1/2 Teaspoons Ground Coffee (freshly ground if possible)
6 Eggs (5 separated)
150g Ground Almonds
310g Granulated Sugar (not caster)
6 Tablespoons Apricot Jam
100g Excellent Quality Dark Chocolate
40g Unsalted Butter
Preheat oven to 180c.
Butter and line a 9″ Springform Tin (I actually used an 8″ tin because that’s all I have but it didn’t effect the cake).
Gently melt the 200g chocolate in a double boiler.
In a large bowl, whisk the 5 egg yolks and remaining whole egg with the sugar until pale and fluffy, like homemade mayonnaise.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiffly peaking.
Add the almonds, molten chocolate and ground coffee to the egg yolk mix and combine well.
Gently but firmly fold in the whipped egg whites until throughly combined. The mixture will seem very grainy.
Pour into the cake tin and bake for about an hour (it may be done sooner). Halfway through cooking or when the top has set, cover with some foil. This cake burns easily because of the egg whites.
When cooked, remove from the oven (the top may crack or sink, again due to the high egg content). Don’t worry because you can always do as I did – turn it upside down!
Leave to cool on a rack.
Once cool you can begin the icing. Melt the Apricot Jam in a small saucepan over a gentle heat.
Unmould the cake, and decide which side up you are going to ice it. Brush over the now liquid Apricot Jam thickly over the top and sides. This is not merely going to help the icing stick but will be an important and surprising layer of the cake.
In a double boiler, melt the 100g chocolate. Once liquified, add the butter and stir until melted. It might look as if it’s going to seize up but keep stirring over the gently heat and it will become runny, like double cream.
Pour over the cake, spreading fairly quickly over the top and sides until it is coated all over. With the back of a spoon, make a circular pattern. You can pipe the familiar Sacher moniker on the cake with a little melted chocolate if required.
Leave for a week or a day until you cut it if you can bear it! This cake lasts superbly due to the high quantity of ground almonds in it and makes a wonderful treat for your gluten intolerant friends who often miss out on lovely gateaux.
Recipe from Green and Blacks Chocolate Recipes.