The Sachertorte is a great example of a cake that was created nearly two centuries ago and needs a serious update to impress anybody nowadays. The original dessert was invented by Franz Sacher in 1832 and became popular in Budapest and Vienna several years later. However, similar recipes already appeared in the 18th century — after all, we’re just talking about a chocolate sponge cake with apricot jam in the middle and a coating of chocolate glaze.
The Sachertorte isn’t even that well designed, as most people agree that it suffers from being overly dry, hence the whipped cream usually served with it. And the real deal from the Hotel Sacher is now shipped worldwide (starting at 45 euro for a tiny cake delivered to the U.S.) and produced on a nearly industrial scale (about 800 cakes a day made by 20 cooks), which is rarely synonymous with quality. Seriously, that’s about 15 minutes per cake!
I didn’t have to resort to any crazy ideas to get a great dessert. I simply worked on reaching the best possible recipe for each of the 3 elements:
- The chocolate sponge is adapted from the recipe for the Deep, Dark Chocolate Cake from Shirley O. Corriher’s Bakewise, an excellent cookbook that explains how baking works.
- The chocolate glaze is inspired by the same book.
- The apricot filling is a slightly modified version of my Armenian Brandied Apricot Preserves.
It all sounds simple now, and yet it took me over 10 months to get the perfect balance between the flavors! (Okay, to be fair, part of that time was spent waiting for apricots to be in season, and I was busy with other recipes, too.)
Chocolate sponge cakes
Yields about 3 individual cakes (3″ diameter)
4 oz sugar
1/4 tsp salt
0.6 oz Dutch process cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 oz water
1.4 oz canola oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1.9 oz flour, sifted
1 egg yolk
0.5 oz sour cream
0.5 oz butter
- Mix the sugar, salt, cocoa powder and baking soda in a saucepan. Bring the water to a boil in the microwave, then stir it progressively into the cocoa mixture. Place the saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil, then turn off the heat, cover with a lid and let rest for at least 10 minutes.
- Transfer the cocoa mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fit with the whisk attachment. Add the oil and vanilla, and beat on low speed for 10 seconds. Still on low speed, mix in the flour, then the egg yolk, egg and sour cream. The batter should seem on the thin side for a cake.
- Spread the butter on a baking tray lined with parchment paper, and on the inner side of three tall 3″ ring molds. Divide the batter between the molds. You might have a little bit of batter left at this point, as this recipe really makes 3 1/3 cakes. You can either replace one of the molds with a 3.5″ one, or just eat the remaining raw batter voraciously. Bake in a 350 F oven for about 15 minutes, until the center feels springy to the touch. Let cool on a drying rack without removing the ring molds, and reserve.
Yields filling for 3 cakes
14 oz halved and pitted apricots
3 1/4 oz sugar
1 1/4 oz water
2 oz Armenian brandy (e.g. Ararat 5*)
- In a saucepan, mix the apricots, sugar and water, and let sit for 45 minutes.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. Add the brandy and boil for 1 minute. Let cool and reserve.
Yields glaze for about 3 cakes
3 oz heavy cream
3/4 oz sugar
1 tbsp corn syrup
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream and sugar to a boil and simmer for 1 minute. Add the corn syrup and the chocolate, and let stand for 30 seconds.
- Gently stir with a spatula until homogeneous, and start assembling the cakes immediately.
Yields 3 cakes
chocolate sponge cakes
- Take the cakes out of the ring molds and cut them in half transversely. Drain the brandied apricots in a colander, and brush both sides of the cake halves with all the liquid. Reserve 3 nice apricot halves for decoration, peel the remaining ones as best you can and spread them on the cake bottom halves, and cover with the top halves. Pour about half of the glaze over the tops of the cakes, starting at the center, and spread evenly across the top and the sides using an offset spatula. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Reheat the remaining glaze with 1/2 tsp water over low heat until it flows easily, then pour atop the center of the cakes again. Tilting the cake as needed, make sure the top and the edges are completely covered with the glaze (don’t use a spatula, as this will make marks). Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. You may have some glaze left — I’m sure you’ll find something to do with it. Pat dry the reserved apricot halves and place one on top of each cake.
- The cakes can be kept in the fridge for up to 2 days.