Just like all national treasures, Austria’s signature dessert, the sachertorte, has an interesting backstory. Legend has it that in 1832, Prince Klemens von Metternich was having a dinner party and charged his kitchen staff with creating a dessert that would wow his guests. The head chef, having become ill, was unable to take up the challenge so the task fell to his teenaged apprentice, Franz Sacher. Needless to say, the glazed chocolate cake that he baked for the occasion was a resounding success and the rest, as they say, is history.
In the years since, this tasty confection has become something of a revered icon—the cake even has its own holiday, with the fifth of December being declared National Sachertorte Day throughout all of Austria. The recipe is even protected by law and kept top-secret by the pastry chefs at the Hotel Sacher, the only place the original recipe can be tasted in Vienna. In short, it’s a pretty big deal.
A dessert with this stellar of a reputation (and one with this much chocolate) begs to be tried. And since a trip to Austria isn’t in the works, it was time to get out my baking pans.
The first thing I will say about making this cake is that it takes a while to complete. You have to let it cool completely between each stage (when it comes out of the oven, after you put on the apricot glaze, and once more before eating, after you’ve coated it with the chocolate topping). When everything was said and done, I’d spent six hours putting the whole thing together—it’s a labor of love, but well worth it!
Before I get to the recipe, here are a few tips to help you on your sachertorte journey:
- When beating the egg whites, try to use a glass or metal bowl if you have one. Due to their porous nature, plastic mixing bowls tend to retain grease particles from previous uses, and these can actually deflate the soft peaks you’ll be trying to achieve.
- If there are any tools that really made this whole process easier, it’s an offset spatula and a cake leveler. If you don’t have either of these and plan on making this recipe, they’re both well-worth the investment.
- When pouring and spreading both glazes (apricot and chocolate) quick work is key. Wait too long, and both will firm up and make this step almost impossible. I found that working with both almost immediately off the burner yields the best results.
- Don’t forget to put some sheets of tin foil or wax paper underneath your cooling rack! Things will get messy once you start pouring on the glazes.
For the cake
4 ½ ounces high-quality semisweet chocolate
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
6 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 pinch salt
For the apricot glaze
1 ¼ cup apricot jam
2 tablespoons rum, white or spiced
For the chocolate glaze topping
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup water
4 ounces high-quality bittersweet chocolate
For the cake
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with butter, then coat with flour. Set aside.
- Chop the chocolate into small pieces (flaking will occur). Place chopped chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and melt until smooth when stirred. Set aside to cool.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat butter on medium speed with a hand mixer until light. Add in the powdered sugar gradually, mixing on low speed until well combined.
- Separate the eggs. Place the whites aside, then beat the yolks into the butter and powdered sugar mixture one at a time until all are well mixed in. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Add in both the melted chocolate and the vanilla, and beat on medium until creamy.
- Put the egg whites into a metal or glass mixing bowl, and add one tablespoon of your granulated sugar. Beat on high speed until a foamy consistency is achieved. Add in the remainder of the sugar and continue beating until the whites form soft peaks (stop beating when they’re able to hold their shape but flop over on top—like what the top of a cone of soft serve looks like).
- Take about 1/3 of the egg whites and stir into the chocolate mixture by hand until completely mixed. Then, fold in the rest of the whites carefully, so as not to deflate them.
- Combine the salt and flour in a separate bowl. Sift half into the chocolate mixture and fold in until just combined. Sift the rest in and continue folding until all flour is completely mixed in.
- Take the pre-treated springform pan and add in all of the batter. Spread evenly and bake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
- Allow the cake to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Loosen from the pan by running a knife around the edge. Flip the latch and remove the sides of the pan. Then turn the cake over and place upside down onto a wire cooling rack and remove the bottom of the pan. Flip the cake back over to cool completely.
For the apricot glaze
- Put the jam and rum into a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
- Cook for about two to three minutes, stirring frequently, until the jam drips slowly from your spoon.
- Remove from heat and strain through a sieve to remove the apricot solids.
For the chocolate glaze
- Chop the chocolate into small pieces (flaking will occur). Set aside.
- In a small saucepan, bring sugar and water to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally.
- Clip a candy thermometer to the side of your pan and cook, while stirring frequently, until the mixture reaches 234°F.
- Once it reaches 234°F, remove from heat and mix in the chocolate using a whisk. Stir for 30-60 seconds before glazing the cake.
Assembly of the cake
- Flip the cake upside down, so that the flat bottom becomes the top. (note, if the actual top of your cake is still convex after cooling, use the cake leveler to shave off a thin layer so the finished product sits flat).
- Using the cake leveler, cut the cake horizontally into two even layers. Place the bottom layer on the cooling rack and set the top layer aside. As soon as your apricot glaze is ready, pour about half onto the bottom layer and coat the top evenly with the offset spatula. Place the second layer on top and quickly coat the entire cake with the remainder of the glaze.
- Cool completely to allow the glaze to set.
- After you make the chocolate glaze, pour over the cake immediately (while it’s still hot). Start around the edges and work your way toward the middle. Use the offset spatula to smooth the top and sides, covering any missed spots.
- Move the finished torte onto a serving plate and place in the refrigerator to allow the glaze to set.
- Once the glaze is firm, cover with tin foil and keep in the refrigerator overnight.
Please note: This is not the original sachertorte recipe. Though, after meticulous research, and thorough taste testing it’s earned the “super close” seal of authenticity.
Have you ever tried sachertorte in Austria? Made it yourself? Let us know in the comments!