Sachertorte, or the Chocolate Cake That Ate Cincinnati

The sachertorte is a rich cake that originated in the Hotel Sacher in Vienna, Austria in the late eighteenth century. It asks to be eaten with a generous dollop of REAL whipped cream on a thin slice of the cake and a cup of coffee. You may take the coffee with or without sugar, but the Viennese tradition is to lighten the coffee with another generous dollop of the same whipped cream. It has absolutely no calories if you eat it quickly enough!

1 cup (one-half pound)(250 ml) real butter
1 cup (250 ml) table sugar
8 large eggs
1 cup (250 ml) flour
8-9 oz (250 g) semisweet chocolate
      (Buy two 12 oz (340g) packages for one cake and the icing. Or three for two cakes.)
half tablespoon (5 grams) baking powder
8-9 oz (250 g) apricot preserves
      (Buy a large (half liter) jar for two cakes. You can't let a cake become lonely.)

Separate the eggs. (Do not let ANY of the egg yellow get into the white.) In an absolutely clean (free of fat) mixing bowl and with a clean beater, whip the egg whites until the peaks are stiff. Set the beaten egg whites aside (not over 20 minutes).

Warm the chocolate in a double boiler. Cream the butter in the mixer. Add the sugar to the mixing bowl and mix. Add the egg yellows one at a time into the mixing bowl as the beater continues. Add the melted chocolate, continuing to mix. Sift the flour with the baking powder in it.

Butter and flour a springform baking pan. Preheat the oven to 350 °F (175 °C). When the oven is heated, gently stir in the flour and baking powder mixture. Do not over-stir. GENTLY and quickly fold the beaten egg white into the dough. Pour the mixture into the prepared springform pan. Bake at 350 °F (175 °C) for one hour. Remove the cake from the oven and place upside down onto a dinner plate. Leave the springform on the cake, but gently loosen the cake from the sides of the pan by opening the springform and gently tapping the (upside down) bottom. Leave the cake to cool or almost cool.

When the cake is relatively cool, remove the springform, cut the cake in half (make two thin cylinders), and slather the apricot preserves onto the lower half still in the plate. Reattach the top half of the cake and apply frosting.

If you have cut the cake to serve it and you wish to save the rest of the cake for another day, it is a good idea to rewarm any leftover frosting you might have and apply it to the cut surfaces of the cake.

Chocolate Icing (Frosting)

This recipe makes icing for one cake with generous icing or two cakes with thin frosting.

1 cup (250 ml) table sugar
15 oz (450 g) semi-sweet chocolate
2 pats butter

Warm the chocolate in a double boiler. To exactly a cup (or exactly 250 ml) of sugar in a Pyrex® measuring cup, add just enough very hot or boiling water to bring the volume back up to the original mark of the sugar volume. Stir until most of the sugar dissolves. Heat in a microwave on high for a minute at a time until all the sugar has been dissolved. The sugar should be slightly supersaturated at room temperature, but you should never let it get there. There should be slightly less syrup than your original measurement of sugar. Let the syrup cool a bit to be just about the same temperature as the chocolate. With a whisk, briskly stir the chocolate as you pour in the syrup, very slowly at first. Continue to heat the chocolate on the double boiler as you mix. By the time you finish pouring the syrup, the mixture should be smooth and consistent. If it is not smooth after some mixing with a whisk, add SMALL amounts (drops) of water and mix until it becomes smooth. Add the two pats of butter when it is smooth and continue to stir. When the icing begins to skin over when you quit stirring, it is ready to coat the cake.

Move quickly with the icing. Pour it over the top of the cake and very quickly move it around to cover the top. By that time, the icing should be a little more viscous and ready to adhere to the sides of the cake. Dribble the icing down from the top of the cake or pat it onto the sides of the cake, but completely cover the cake in icing. The icing does not swirl or mix around very much. It should harden in place fairly quickly.

When the icing is thoroughly hardened (about six hours), slice thin pieces

Whipped Cream

The real secret to making good whipped cream is to start with COLD whipping cream. If there are a few ice crystals in the cream, that's good. If you can cool the mixing bowl and beater in the freezer before whipping, that helps also. If you whip the cream in the classic style, in a bowl with a whisk, you can place a metal bowl on a bed of ice.

To make Viennese whipped cream, add about 20 grams of table sugar to a half liter of cream as it just begins to froth. (That is two heaping tablespoons of sugar to a pint of cream.)

Mixing the Chocolate with the Syrup

Here is an interesting operation. You will be adding a water solution of sucrose (table sugar) into an oil solution or suspension of melted chocolate.

As you pour in the first few drops of syrup into the chocolate, it takes some stirring to make the two liquids mix. Once they are mixed, the two liquids seem to make a stable mixture. As you continue to pour small amounts of syrup into the chocolate, you will see a thickening of the mixture. At some point, the mixture may become semi-solid. Keep adding syrup and stirring. After the semi-solid state, the mixture will need stirring to become more liquid. You may have to break up the pieces of semi-solid into the fluid mixture. One of the secrets to good mixing is to keep the chocolate and syrup as warm as possible in the top of the double boiler.

The change is from a water solution (syrup) and an oily suspension (chocolate) to a water solution with the oily chocolate being suspended in it. The mixture is mostly held together by the sugar, a material that will dissolve in either water or (to a lesser extent) in oil. I needed to sneak in a chemistry lesson here.

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