Yesterday was the last day of my holiday and with the house to myself for the morning (Paul having been consigned to airport taxiing duties), I decided to bake something from one of the cookbooks that I had been given as Christmas presents. Amongst these ever-welcome gifts was the Green and Blacks Chocolate Cookbook, from whence the following recipe was duly culled.

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. I cut it one whole day after making it and that was purely because I had been Cheetoed out (my brother-in-law brought over the biggest bag of those chemically orange cheesy snacks you can imagine) and was not hungry at all.
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 (I ground my own because a) I only had whole almonds in the house and b) I wanted to use the grinder attachment on my Christmas Present from Paul - a Food Processor, Yeah!)
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.
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. I didn't bother. Leave for a week or a day until you cut it!


Kathryn said...

Oh. My. God. It looks amazing!! I didn't know it was advised to let it mature - that makes it a very handy cake indeed for entertaining purposes, always supposing you can bear not to break into it sooner. Chocolate is my main sweet weakness and this looks utterly divine. Bravo, Freya - and never mind sending Paul round to bake me bread, you can come too with a slice of Sachertorte!

Kathryn x

Carolyn Johnson said...

Very nice, Freya! I love dense chocolate cakes and only with the best chocolate. I'd make one myself but I have the same problem as you as I don't have enough people to feed and I dare not eat the whole thing myself. lol :)

Saffron said...

Happy New Year!
This Sacher is wonderul!Since wednesday I've started to work again and this cake is ideal for cheering me up!!Baci,

FreyaE said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
FreyaE said...

Hi Kathryn! If I bring the Sachertorte, then you have to make the Ginger Choc Cake! If you're going to fall off the New years Resolution Wagon, do it in style (not that I'd give up chocolate for anything, actually!)! It would be ideal for dinner parties, leaving only the main course to stress about....!

Carolyn, I'm afraid that I will end up eating the whole thing. Such is life!!!! You should give it a go anyway!

Saffron, Happy New Year! I had to return to work yesterday too...a real shock to the system!

Freya x

Francesca said...

This sacher seems greedy :-P
Happy new year 2007

Shaun said...

Freya, love - How fabulous of you to go all out on your last day off and make sachertorte, one of the best tasting dense cakes in the world. There is a really cool cookery book called "Kaffehaus" in which the author has culled various cake and dough recipes from all over Vienna. You might want to check it out.