Simple Pleasures Made Simply Delicious: Sort-of Sacher Torte

Simple Pleasures Made Simply Delicious: Sort-of Sacher Torte

Day 89

It all started with an innocent trip to a country French café that I enjoy, La Madeleine. When I go there, I never can decide which pastry I want from the display case because they all look scrumptious. I am fairly certain I’ve heard most of them call my name on at least one occasion. I’ve learned to take my husband and daughter with me so that we can order three different pastries and share.

Copyright, Doug Kapustin Photography, 2015
Copyright, Doug Kapustin Photography, 2015

My husband favors their crème brulées and citrus cream desserts while my daughter consistently chooses a coconut cake that we have tried and tried to duplicate at home. I generally order a Sacher torte because I’m partial to the chocolaty and moist center of the Viennese delicacy. When we sit down to enjoy our pastries and coffee, we usually have a smattering of flavors—citrus, creamy, coconut, and chocolate. To be honest, it takes a great deal of self-restraint to keep myself from eating a lot more than just a taste of their desserts, but I do try to only take a bite. We all try, and sometimes we succeed. Our innocent La Madeleine visits have led me on a quest for an easy and wonderful recipe for both their coconut cake and their Sacher torte. 

Yesterday, we were wanting something sweet and uber European to enjoy with a good German movie we found on Netflix. So I decided to tackle a Sacher torte—at least my version of it— on what will probably have been our last snow day of 2015. I poured over recipe websites and cookbooks, gathering bits of information here and there, then I happened upon the actual Sacher Hotel website in Vienna, where you can read the history of the original torte and you can even have one shipped to you for about $75. I am seriously considering this as a birthday or gift request in the future.  I even checked the availability of a room for last night, just in case I found myself in Austria before the day’s end. As it turned out, they did indeed have a vacancy. My lucky day! The least expensive room yesterday was around $500, but if I had wanted to spend all of my past and future retirement savings, I could have booked the Presidential Suite all weekend for around $8000/night. Can you believe that? Let’s add the Sacher Hotel Presidential Suite to my list of nevers. Nevertheless, do check out the website if you want to dream with me (or just to read about the hotel’s history and their world-renowned, yummy cake) http://www.sacher.com/original-sacher-torte/. Having spent lots of time researching the Sacher torte, I learned that there are so many variations and recipes that might rival the original. 
As you can imagine, I loved almost every recipe I found, especially Wolfgang Puck’s version (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/wolfgangs-sachertorte-recipe.html) , but I decided to make something closer to La Madeleine’s version. I chose this because it’s just one layer. Typical versions of Sacher tortes are at least two layers, but I appreciate the simplicity of La Madeleine’s torte. Next, I chose to swap the standard apricot filling of the original for dark cherry because I much prefer the balance of chocolate and cherry to chocolate and apricot. La Madeleine uses a pomegranate layer, if I’m not mistaken. Your filling flavor is really up to you if you decide to make this cake, though. 
So to recap: one layer, cherry filling, very modified Sacher Torte. Check. Check. Check. If you don’t want to try the modifications that take my cake in a slightly different flavor direction, try Wolfgang Puck’s recipe above. I haven’t tried it, but you simply can’t go wrong with his desserts; he’s incredible, as we already know. Next, for the chocolate cake batter, I knew I had to consult Ina Garten, whose recipes always turn out exactly as she promises. I chose only the cake portion of her recipe for Beatty’s Chocolate Cake, which can be found at the following link: (wow—lots of links today!) http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/beattys-chocolate-cake-recipe.html

Oh, and if you’re interested, that German movie we watched is called Remembrance. It’s gripping and raw and emotional— a WWII romantic drama about a Polish man and a German Jewish woman who met and fell in love in a concentration camp. I definitely recommend it. With a box of tissues. And my Sort-of Sacher Torte. Bon appétit! Or, I should say, Guten appetit meine freunde! 

Sort-of Sacher Torte

Note: Recipe makes two separate, single layer tortes.



Butter, for greasing the pans

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans

2 cups sugar

3/4 cups good cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup buttermilk, shaken

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-inch x 2-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack.

Again, that part is from Ina Garten’s link, above.

Now, for the rest.



4 tbs. sweetened condensed milk

1 cup dark cherry jelly, cherry pieces removed (Note: most jellies won’t have fruit pieces but jams and preserves do; if you can’t find one, you can substitute seedless raspberry or blackberry spreadable fruit)


2/3 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup dark chocolate pieces

1/3 cup milk chocolate pieces

1/3 cup granulated sugar

½ cup butter, completely at room temperature and very soft

After the cakes are on a cooling rack and still hot, IMMEDIATELY take a fork or toothpick and make very neat holes all over the surface of the cakes. Place cake and rack on a baking sheet to avoid a mess. 

 Spread 2 tbs. of sweetened condensed milk on each cake, very gently. Wait five minutes for it to seep into the cake surface. This will give added moisture to the cake. Next, while cakes are still warm, heat the jelly in the microwave until it is pourable. Pour ½ cup on the surface of each cake, over the condensed milk. Excess will run off the sides of the cake. Allow the cakes to rest and to cool completely. 

To make the ganache/glaze, you might want to check out the video link* below, first. Heat the heavy cream, stirring constantly, until almost boiling. Add dark chocolate and stir. Add milk chocolate and sugar, and continue stirring. Turn off heat and allow to rest for 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Add softened butter and use a whisk to mix well, until completely smooth. Allow the mixture to rest just until warm, and no longer hot. Mixture will still be very pourable. Pour over completely cooled cakes, starting in middle of cakes so that ganache runs over sides and covers the cakes without using any spatula or utensil. This ensures a smooth ganache. 

Place in refrigerator until ganache sets. Slice and serve. 

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