Day 127 – National Sachertorte Day

Uh oh.   This one looked like trouble.

So what is it?  A sachertorte is a specific type of chocolate cake which was created by Austrian chef Franz Sacher.  The story goes that Sacher was an apprentice in 1832 working in the kitchen for Prince Wenzel von Metternich.  The Prince had asked his personal chef to create a special dessert for several important guests.  But when the chef fell ill, the task fell to the sixteen-year-old apprentice who was just in his second year of training .  Sacher created the now famous torte.  The torte was a hit with the guests and the Prince.  Sacher went on to complete his training and eventually opened his own specialty delicatessen and wine shop in Vienna.  Later, Sacher’s son Eduard, who would become a pastry chef and chocolatier in his own right, perfected his father’s recipe.  From there, Eduard would establish the Hotel Sacher in 1876 where the Sacher Torte was featured.  Since then, the cake remains among the most famous of Vienna’s culinary specialties.  That’s quite a history for a chocolate cake.

The original recipe is a secret that is still protected today and served exclusively by the Sacher Hotels in Vienna and Salzburg.  That could be an issue.  For a brief minute this morning I thought I was going to have to fly to Austria and get a piece of that damn cake.  That may have happened had my passport been up to date.  That would have been a story.  However, that was not in the cards.  Maybe someday.  I hear Vienna will wait for me.  Thankfully, there were some copycat recipes aplenty for the sachertorte on the internet.  I even found a local bakery that sells a version, The French Confection in Middletown, but they are closed on Mondays.  (I wonder if they knew how much business they lost from everyone out there celebrating National Sachertorte Day?)  I knew I’d be baking today.  I was ready for it.

A quick look at some of the recipes got me a bit scared because they seemed complicated.  After a deep breath though, I sifted through the top ones and started to process what it would take.  I realized that the recipes weren’t too difficult, just lengthy in explanation.  I stumbled across one from celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck.  I’m not usually a fan of Wolfgang.  He’s a bit too Hollywood for me.  But I have to admit, I should give him another chance.  Every time I see him on television, he seems delightful.  He seems genuine, he seems to love what he does and he seems to really enjoy life.  Maybe I’ll start to pay more attention to him.  For today’s celebration, I though using his recipe would be appropriate because he’s probably the most celebrated Austrian chef in America.  I don’t think he ever worked for the Hotel Sacher, but I am sure he is familiar with the legendary cake.  Plus, his recipe seemed easy enough to follow.  That’s what I would make.

The only ingredients I needed to secure were dark chocolate and apricot preserves.  After that, I was good to go.  You first melt the chocolate with butter.  Then you add in some whipped egg yolks.  Eventually you fold in some flour (just 1/3rd of a cup) and some whipped egg whites and you end up with a very light batter.  You bake it for about 40 minutes.  After it cools, you slice it in thirds (a very delicate cut) and you spread the preserves in between the layers.  I was supposed to add some apricot brandy to the preserves (just a tablespoon) but I omitted this because I didn’t have any on hand and I didn’t think it would make or break the cake.  I actually prefer cakes to not taste boozy, so I was ok with the decision.  After the cake is all layered and set, you top it with a glaze of dark chocolate, butter and heavy cream.  It creates a thick-dark covering which makes the cake look absolutely delightful (this is foreshadowing).  It probably took me about 30 minutes of actual preparation time, which wasn’t bad at all.  I would say the recipe was easy to make.

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While I was making this, Lola was in our family room working (and probably annoyed at all the pots and pans I was clanging, my incessant whistling and the general noise I was making).  But throughout, she was overtaken by the smells that were emitting from the kitchen.  Warm chocolate cake emanating throughout the house.  She was probably salivating at the thought.  She didn’t know what I was making, but she probably saw this beautiful chocolate cake cooling on a wire rack and then later saw the same cake drenched in this dark, shimmery glaze.  She probably had the image of the most decadent chocolate cake waiting for her at the end of the day.  I was tempting her.

After dinner, we decorated our tree which is always a fun night.  We have quite the collection of ornaments that really tell the story of our 15 years together.  Almost every one tells its own story whether it is from a place we went together, was a gift from someone, is reflective of something we enjoy or just a happy memory.  It’s fun.  I tend to go for spreading our ornaments all over the tree while Lola is a bit more selective and will even move ornaments that I have put up to more prominent spots on the tree.  That’s Lola though.  She thinks about what she wants to see.  I just throw it up.  No matter, it is always a special night.  We put Love Actually on in the background and had a cheery time together. When we were done, it was time to reward ourselves with some sachertorte.

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I told Lola what the cake was but did not tell her the ingredients.  I gave her the piece in the photo above and she looked at the filling oozing down the cake.  She asked excitedly, “Is that caramel!?!?”  I had to quickly tell her it was not.  You never want someone going into a bite they think is caramel when it is not. That’s disappointment.  I still didn’t tell her it was apricot because I wanted to test her palette.  Lola took her first bite, as did I.  Suddenly, Lola made a very distinct and decisive blecch sound.  It was almost a gag.  I heard her spit it out.  So no, Lola was not a fan.  I feel like I set her up.  She probably had the vision of getting this chocolatey cake filled with gooey caramel and that is not what she got.  I liked it though.  Really.  It was good, but I knew what I was getting.  Lola didn’t realize it was dark chocolate (always a disappointment) and apparently she does not like apricot preserves.  But honestly, I liked it.  The whipped cream helped balance out the bitterness of the dark chocolate and the filling was tasty.  It wasn’t overbearing, but added some moisture to every bite.  I’m a fan.  But I also have some Austrian roots in my blood, so maybe it’s culture thing.  In any case, I learned that you can’t win them all, as did Lola.

In the end, I can be proud that I celebrated this day because it’s not something you run into everyday.  I searched out what it was all about, made it and enjoyed it.  That’s celebrating.  I made a cake that is world renowned and I didn’t have to travel to Vienna to get it.  I’ll take that as a win.  And I’ll also know that the next time I make a dessert from Austria, I’ll go for a crisp apple strudel.  That’s more of Lola’s jam, along with a cream colored pony.

Next up: National Gazpacho Day 

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