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Making Sachertorte (Chocolate Fudge Cake with Apricot and Chocolate Ganache)

Difficulty:  3 stars             

Whipping Egg Whites:

Apparently I committed a deadly sin: I whipped egg whites in a plastic mixing bowl. Did you know how bad this is? Until recently, I lay blissfully unaware of this conundrum. But try as I will, and beat though I may, I couldn’t achieve these: ‘stiff and unwavering peaks’ so illusive in my kitchen yesterday.   It was not until afterward however, that my Mom instructed me on the error of my ways. If there is even a bit of oil or residue in plastic, it can (and in my case did) ruin your whipping. Egg whipping should be confined to glass bowls or better yet, copper bowls.

I include here a good website with further instructions to avoid making the same mistake I made the next time you are whipping egg whites: http://www.ochef.com/223.htm

Of course, it was too late for this go around and I had to proceed with inferior whipped egg whites hoping I had not ruined this cake (already).

Although I consider myself no novice when it comes to baking, it is clear no one is too experienced to make beginner errors. I found myself a bit rushed and panicked making this cake since it requires a good deal of transferring, which I would have been prepared for had I read the method before picking up my spatula. A word to myself and all present or future bakers out there: always read the method (in its entirety) BEFORE beginning a baking project; (and usually) when in doubt, consult Mom.

You will notice that I include no picture of my first attempt of the Sachertorte in this post. Admittedly, it was not the most beautiful creation I have produced. I also think the density/height as well as the texture of the cake was affected due to my egg white issue.

A Few Thoughts On This Cake:

– The next time I make this cake I will try baking it without the wax paper on the bottom and substitute the baking spray or grease/flour approach. The wax circles didn’t seem the best method for these cakes.  Removing these cakes was not a smooth process.

– If you’re not an apricot person, you could easily substitute a preserve more to your tastes. I think my next attempt will have raspberry preserves.  

– On the right hand tap marked, *recipes can you find the official recipe  as it appears in the 1968 edition of the Time Life Book: The Cooking of Vienna’s Empire,  p. 186 (*note unless otherwise noted the recipes which I quote here in addition to information stem from this source)

– Invest in good chocolate. The flavor in this case surrounds the chocolate in this recipe. I used the simple Nestle Chocolate chips melted, another mistake which I won’t repeat. I will buy better chocolate next time.  

– It is worth it to invest in a small kitchen scale it will make measuring ounces, grams, etc, a no-brainer. You can pick them up for around $8 in stores with kitchen supplies.

Princesses, Princes, & Pastry: O, my!

                                                                                                                        

 

My first endeavor through my pastry expeditions is an exploration through the sweet delicacies of the Austrian-Hungary Empire (1867-1918).  Don’t be bored by the long and seemingly stark historical title. But do be interested in an influential family wrought with controversy comprising one of the oldest dynasties (600 yrs. +)  in Europe.   Two centuries ago, the Hapsburg family dominated the thrones of Europe, (circa 1282-1918) guarding the Austrian-Hungary Empire among their holdings. The vast lands spanned from the Czar’s borders in Russia, to the beaches of the Adriatic Sea; Vienna served as the capital and also stood as the main center for the arts, and of course, the city of Vienna was famous for its cuisine. 

What we know about this luxurious kindgom makes the eyes pop and ones mouth water. Descriptions of tables upon tables laden with sweet delicacies, in every shape and size. Chocolate and sugar sculpture, gold lettering, and houses made from cake, include some of these lasting accounts.

This decadence is best presented by the Congress of Vienna – a meeting of major European powers (with the goal to stabilize Europe) after the fall of Napoleon in 1815.  Known more for its extravagance in drink & food, than for political action, the Congress of Vienna would last for eight months. This coming together marked a new precedence in the art of diplomacy.  The official Host was Emperor Franz I of the Austrian0Hungarian Empire -before anything else, he instructed that 300 gala coaches with golden wheels be available for his honored guests. Though no menus survive from this grand fete, we do know a little about the desserts-  large disks of marzipan filled with creamy nougat. ( Marzipan: a confection made of almonds reduced to a paste with sugar: often molded into various forms, usually imitating fruits and vegetables ).  Fortunately, many recipes do survive from this period.

An ardent Austrian politician and prince has been  forgotten in the pages of history. But maybe Prince Metternich ( 1773 – 1859),  although impossible to resurrect,  can be recaptured by a renewing of his Sachertorte, ( a chocolate sponge cake drenched in hot apricot marmalade along with bittersweet chocolate)  This dessert may continue to conquer the world.  It is this recipe, which I will introduce first along with my questions, problems and findings dotted here and there with historical tidbits.  Please continue to read, and always eat dessert.

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