The Cakes of Vienna part 2 – the original Sacher torte found

The previous installment of the Cakes of Vienna ended with a cliffhanger, which undoubtedly left you agonizing over what the original Sacher torte would turn out to be like. Well, you needn’t fret much longer, because the moment of truth is nigh.

The Cakes of Vienna

Part 2 – the Sacher torte itself

Cafe Sacher brochure

The Sacher brochure. The picture at the bottom is a part of a brochure and not a miniature cake on my table.

We’re back at Café Sacher and it’s taking the waiter aeons to bring me my cake. Or perhaps I have temporarily lost my sense of time.

On my table there is a Café  Sacher brochure conspicuously hanging off  some kind of brochure hanger and I decide to browse though it while I wait. It appears that there is a brochure on every table and for a moment I reflect on how charming and unique this little feature is. I will soon find out, when I start going to other cafés, that pretty much every café in Vienna has its own brochure, but for the time being I am still an impressionable innocent.

The brochure turns out to be the menu combined with Sacher torte history.

Did you know?

The Sacher torte was created in 1832 by Franz Sacher, apprentice cook at the court of Prince Metternich. As the head chef had fallen ill on the eve of the arrival of bigwig guests, young Franz was asked to come up with a worthy dessert in his stead. And thus the first Sacher torte was made.

But enough of idle chit-chat because the cake is finally here, on my table.

I pause for a few seconds to take in the significance of this occasion, as well as the appearance of the cake. The Sacher torte is served on a branded Hotel Sacher plate and there is a branded napkin on the side. The slice of cake is reasonably-sized  and is the epitome of understatement. Its only decoration is a Hotel-Sacher-branded dark chocolate seal and some whipped cream on the side (the Sacher torte’s standard accompaniment). It’s as if the cake were saying that it needn’t try too hard, since it’s the original Sacher torte. Everything on the plate, including the fork, is expertly arranged in a way that suggests that ever single slice of the original Sacher torte has been served in this exact same way for at least the past hundred years.

But that is all theory – now for the practice. I take my ornate sliver fork and try the cake.

The original Sachertorte

Whipped cream, with a side of original Sachertorte

Hm. Not really what I expected.  What I expected was something rich and heavy and denser than a million black holes compressed to the size of a matchbox, but this cake is quite spongy and one might say, almost fluffy. It’s also very very sweet – it’s so sweet I can barely taste the chocolate. Moreover, the chocolate isn’t as dark as I expected and there is only one layer of the apricot jam filling – in the middle, between the two sponge layers (in some versions of the Sacher torte, the cake is covered in apricot jam all over underneath the chocolate glazing). For the sake of comparison, my most recent attempt at Sacher torte, based on a recipe I patched together from a dozen different sources (none of them the original one) , contained nine eggs, over 200g of dark chocolate and was as heavy as a brick, but a good, satisfying brick.

And there you have it – the original Sacher torte as it really is. Not at all what I expected. Clearly I had too many expectations and there is a lesson in all that, which I’m sure I’ll contemplate in due course. But in the meantime, I’ll be moving on to the next Viennese cake on my list – the Kardinalschnitte (cardinal slice). Read all about it in the next installment of The Cakes of Vienna!

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About Sonja Kudei

Sonja Kudei is a writer and web developer based in London.

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