In my family, we really appreciate a good chocolate cake. We were definitely in our element in Vienna which has a well-deserved reputation for having lots of sweet treats on offer. Just about everyone has heard of the famous chocolate cake, Sacher Torte, which was the first of the great Viennese cakes.
The Sacher Torte is a chocolate cake made with dark chocolate and a thin layer of apricot jam. The top and sides of the cake are covered with chocolate icing. It is usually accompanied by unsweetened whipped cream on the side. You are supposed to eat the cake with a dollop of cream with each bite. The dryness of the chocolate cake is tempered by the cream.
Here are seven fun facts about this most recognised of Viennese cakes:
- In 1832 Prince Metternich ordered his staff to create a special dessert for a banquet. He wanted something manly very unlike the fluffy cream cakes that were popular at the time. Unfortunately the chef came down with the flu. His 16 year old apprentice, Franz Sacher, stepped into the breach and created the famous chocolate cake that would go on to bear his name.
- Franz Sacher’s son, Eduard Sacher, went on to start the Hotel Sacher. By the mid 19th century, the Hotel Sacher was shipping 100,000 of these cakes around the world annually.
- Today, the Hotel Sacher ships around 360,000 of those cakes around the world. These cakes are still hand-made by a bevy of hotel kitchen staff. Making all these cakes requires (i) 1.2 million eggs, (ii) 80 tons of sugar, (iii) 70 tons of sugar, (iv) 37 tons of apricot jam, (v) 25 tons of butter and (vi) 30 tons of flour. Yowza!
- The origins of the original Sacher Torte though were subject to dispute because Eduard Sacher perfected his father’s Sacher Torte while he was working at the official Imperial bakery, Demel. Demel claimed they had the original Sacher Torte. The dispute between Demel and Hotel Sacher lasted until the 20th century. Of course, for the sake of completeness we had a taste test of Demel’s cakes, too.
- Apparently Austria’s answer to Princess Diana, the beautiful yet unhappy Empress Sisi had a Sacher Torte sent to her every day. Despite the daily dose of chocolate cake, Empress Sisi was still fairly miserable with her lot and met a tragic end.
- December 5th is National Sacher Torte day. Now you know!
- The Hotel Sacher keeps its original hand-written recipe secret in a safe. People have claimed that its the chocolate icing which makes the hotel’s version special. The icing is supposedly made from a blend of 3 different chocolates from Belgium and Germany.
We, of course, tried several variations of the Sacher Torte throughout Vienna. Which one did we like in our family? Our family opinion was divided but it’s safe to say that the children didn’t really like Sacher Torte.
My children decided they preferred another cake created for another Austro-Hungarian aristocrat, Prince Esterhazy. The Esterhazy torte is made of buttercream sandwiched between layers of spongecake with a white glazing on top. I personally thought it was sickly sweet.
On the plus side, that just meant more Sacher Torte for me!