Possibly the world’s most famous cake, the Sacher Torte dates to 1832 in Vienna. The name is a combination of the inventor’s surname, Sacher, and the German word for cake, Torte. When Austrian Prince Klemens Wenzel von Metternich requested that his staff create a dessert to impress visiting dignitaries, his pastry chef was out sick. The then 16-year-old apprentice chef, Franz Sacher, was tasked with conjuring up a dessert to live up to the high expectations. Little did Franz know that he would create the most well-known Viennese dessert.
This classic Austrian chocolate cake incorporates apricot preserves in three forms: for moistening the cake layers, as a filling between the layers, and as a glaze to seal the cake before coating it in a chocolate glaze. This light yet rich not-too-sweet cake features layers of moist chocolate sponge, a simple apricot filling, and a smooth semisweet glaze. As the cake sets, the apricot preserves are partially absorbed into the cake infusing the whole cake with luscious apricot flavor. This refined, elegant combination of flavors makes a lovely cake for any special occasion.
¾ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
8 g vanilla sugar
7 large eggs, room temperature, separated
6 oz good quality semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature
¼ tsp kosher salt
1 cup cake flour
½ tsp baking powder
17.5 oz apricot preserves
¼ cup water
8 oz good quality semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup toasted sliced almonds, optional
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and ½ cup of sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla sugar and one egg yolk at a time and mix to combine after each egg yolk addition. Once all egg yolks have been added, add the melted chocolate, and beat until creamy, about 2 minutes. Set aside.
In a large bowl, use an electric handheld mixer to beat the egg whites and salt together on medium-high speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Then add the remaining ½ cup of sugar and mix on high speed until stiff peaks form, about 3-4 minutes.
Carefully fold the whipped egg whites in 3 additions into the chocolate mixture. (If the chocolate mixture has hardened, mix it with the paddle attachment for 30 seconds-1 minute to soften it.) Fold only in one direction and with the same repeating movement. Don't overwork the batter, or the egg whites will deflate and the cake will turn out flat.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the cake flour and baking powder.
Add the cake flour to the chocolate mixture in 2 additions and fold just to incorporate and no lumps remain. Be careful not to overwork the batter. Otherwise, the batter will deflate and the cake won't rise as high. The batter should be light, fluffy, and silky.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and use an offset spatula to gently spread the batter to the edges in a smooth layer.
Bake the cake for about 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool completely.
Place a mesh strainer over a medium-sized heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven, and press the apricot preserves through the mesh strainer into the saucepan. Discard the fruit pulp. Add the water and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes until hot, smooth, and combined. Then remove from the heat and set aside.
Cut a thin layer off the top of the cake to create a flat surface. Then flip the cake upside down and cut it in half horizontally. It's best to place the cake on a cake turner at this point. Spread about ⅔ of the preserves all over the bottom cake layer. Place the top cake layer on top of the apricot filling and evenly spread the remaining jam all over the top and the sides of the cake. The cake should be completely covered in jam. Let dry uncovered at room temperature for at least 1 hour, or until the jam is dry to the touch.
Place a large heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven over low heat and fill 2-inches high with water. Place a large, heatproof glass or metal bowl on top ensuring the bowl doesn't touch the water. Place the chocolate and butter in the bowl and slowly melt for about 5 minutes. Stir the chocolate often with a rubber spatula until the butter is completely melted. (There will still be a few small pieces of chocolate.) Remove the bowl from the heat and let rest for 5 minutes until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth, stirring occasionally.
All at once and in a circulating motion, pour the chocolate glaze on top of the cake and quickly spread with a long frosting spatula to level the top and let the glaze run down the sides of the cake. Work quickly and with just a few movements. If desired, decorate the top with toasted almonds.
Allow the glaze to dry for 1 hour. Slice and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.