Sachertorte is the standard when it comes Viennese chocolate cake, which means it's been on my must-perfect recipe list since I moved to Austria. Sachertorte is the ultimate in special-occasion dessert here in Austria and though the original – served at Hotel Sacher – is a closely-kept secret, riffs are everywhere from cookbooks and home cook recipe boxes. No exaggeration, Sachertorte is to Austria what apple pie is to America — essentially, an edible national treasure.
So, a few months ago, just about a year after moving to Vienna, I decided it was about time to perfect the recipe. Armed with a stack of Viennese pastry books, my baking extraordinaire mother-in-law as chief advisor, and a serious stockpile of dark chocolate, I spent a few months tweaking, refining, and tasting this cake. Truth be told, my recipe is a teeny bit less than traditional – it's moister than most Sachertorte I’ve sampled (life’s too short to eat dry cake, you know?) and I’ve swapped the more traditional, boiled icing for a more indulgent and simpler, super dark chocolate ganache. But, all the non-negotiables that make a Sachertorte such a classic are well represented — I'm talking rich chocolate cake, rum-infused apricot jam, and a silky chocolate glaze.
Full disclosure: This cake is a bit of a project, worthy of that fancy-schmancy dinner party, best-friend’s birthday fête, or holiday feast you’ve got coming up. The good news? You can (and should) make it at least a day or two in advance to allow the chocolate flavor to deepen, and the apricot jam to really permeate the cake layers.
(about 65-70% cacao) divided
divided and softened
or vanilla bean paste
at room temperature and separated
ideally the smoothest variety possible
plus more whipped cream for serving
Coarsely chop half of the chocolate then, using the microwave or a double-boiler, melt the chocolate. Set aside to cool to room temperature. Line the bottom of a 8-inch springform pan with parchment paper, then butter, and flour the pan. Heat the oven to 325ºF and arrange a rack in the middle.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together 10 tablespoons (5 ounces) of the butter, all the confectioners sugar, vanilla, and a pinch of salt on medium speed until creamy and well blended, about 2 minutes. Add the egg yolks, one by one, and beat the mixture on medium-high speed until pale yellow and very light in texture, about 2 minutes more. Reduce mixer speed to low and mix in the melted chocolate. Add the flour and blend on low speed until just combined – the batter should be thick.
In a second bowl using an electric mixer, whip the egg whites on low until a lot of small bubbles appear, about 1 minute. Increase mixer speed to medium and add the sugar, tablespoon by tablespoon until glossy, soft peaks form, about 3 to 4 min. By hand, stir a about one-third of the egg whites into the chocolate base to lighten the batter. When the first addition is combined, carefully add the rest of the whites and fold very gently until no streaks of white remain. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs, and the top is set, about 50 to 55 minutes. Remove pan from oven, run a knife around the inside edge to separate the cake from the pan. Set aside to cool completely.
The cake center will sink, leaving you with a flat surface.
When the cake is cool, make the apricot glaze. Combine the apricot preserves and rum in a small saucepan and heat, stirring, until thinner in consistency and hot, 2 to 3 minutes. Strain glaze through a sieve, using a spatula to push on the solids. Let cool slightly.
Remove the sides from the springform pan. Invert the cake and place back on the springform base, so that the parchment paper is facing up (this is now the top of your cake). Discard the paper, and cut the cake into two equal, horizontal layers. Spread about half of the apricot glaze between the two layers, replace the top, then brush remaining glaze on the top and sides of the cake. Place the cake on a wire rack set over a baking sheet.
For the ganache, place the remaining 5 ounces of chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, mix together the cream, honey, butter and salt over medium heat until just simmering and combined. Pour the cream mixture over chocolate and allow to stand, about 2 min. Using a rubber spatula, gently stir together the chocolate mixture until glossy and smooth. Allow mixture to cool until no longer warm to the touch, stirring often, about 20 minutes. Working quickly, pour the ganache over the glazed cake, allowing the chocolate to run over the edges. If necessary, use a small offset spatula to cover any bare spots. Transfer the cake to the refrigerator to allow glaze to set, about 30 minutes. Serve with whipped cream.
Once glaze is set, the cake can be covered and refrigerated for two days. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Food styling and photography by Aida Mollenkamp