Hello, December. Hello, snow.
Yup, December is birthday month over here. The official date is the 8th, and my friends and family made this past weekend wonderfully special. There was dinner and a spa and dinner again. And a few more things to come. As I said, it’s birthday month on my blog.
That chocolate cake up there? It’s a birthday cake. But it’s not my birthday cake; it’s Alyson’s. And I made it one year and ten days ago on the dot.
In case you don’t remember, a few years back, Alyson and I went to Vienna where I dragged her from cafe to cafe in search of the best sachertorte. From one side of the city to the other, we chased this dense, slightly-dry, not-too-sweet, layered chocolate cake whose richness can only be tempered by a large scoop of whipped cream.
From the day my plane touched down back in Boston, that sachertorte haunted me. Within days of my return home, I started my search for a recipe. First there was Austrian chef Wolfgang Puck’s version and one from Kaffehaus, a cookbook of cakes from central Europe. Then a high school classmate sent me a German recipe that her husband swears is authentic, and that the daughter of a colleague translated for me. Just before summer, I clipped a recipe from Food & Wine and found this dreamy video of sachertorte being made (watch it if you think chocolate is sexy) and its accompanying recipe.
I tucked away all of the recipes and waited.
As Alyson’s birthday approached, I studied each set of instructions and devised a plan of action. I created a spreadsheet comparing each of the recipes I had collected: quantities of ingredients, number of cake layers, amount of apricot filling. (I know, I know. A spreadsheet? I know.)
Armed with way too much information, I decided to go with the recipe that had the highest bittersweet chocolate-to-sugar ratio, only two layers, and a hefty dose of apricot.
I cooked from sunrise to sunset on the day of Alyson’s birthday. In addition to sachertorte, I banged out challah, a roast, kale salad, and pomegranate carrots.
But here’s the deal. Since the torte was dairy, and dinner was meat, we ate dessert first. And then after dinner, we ate a second dessert.
PS – I hear that the best sachertorte in NY is at Cafe Sabarsky. Guess where I’ll be later this week. Who wants to join me?
As I mentioned above, I adapted this cake from five different recipes and most closely followed the one from the most unlikely of sources. A sachertorte is definitely a special occasion cake: it takes about 4 hours to make (much of it cooking and cooling time) and you have to use and wash your stand mixing bowl three times.
Make sure to serve with barely-sweetened whipped cream.
For the torte:
- 10 oz bittersweet chocolate (70% cocoa; I used Callebaut)
- 8 eggs
- 1 C sugar
- 2/3 C unsalted butter, softened
- 2 t vanilla extract
- 1 1/3 C all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 C apricot preserves (I used Hero brand)
For the chocolate ganache:
- 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 8 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped (I used Callebaut)
- 2 T light corn syrup
- 1 t vanilla extract
For the whipped cream
- 1 C heavy cream
- 1 t vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 T confectioner’s sugar
Prep. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan.
Melt. Finely chop the chocolate and melt it in a double boiler (I set a metal bowl over an inch of water in a pot) over medium-high heat. Set aside.
Separate. Separate the eggs (this is easier to do straight from the fridge).
Beat. Beat the sugar and butter in a stand mixer until creamy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, blending after each addition. Add the vanilla. Fold in the flour and melted chocolate (don’t bother cleaning the bowl you melted the chocolate in; you’ll need to melt some more chocolate later). Transfer the chocolate batter into another bowl, clean and dry the mixer bowl well and then beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold them into the batter in several batches.
Bake. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. (Clean the mixer bowl because you’re going to need it one more time.)
Cool. Let the cake cool in the pan for at least 30 minutes.
Puree. Pour the apricot preserves into a small bowl, microwave them for 10 seconds, and use an immersion blender to smooth into a glaze.
Cut. When the cake is cool, cut it in half crosswise, making two layers.
Spread. Brush the bottom layer with apricot, stack on the second layer, and then brush the whole cake with the rest of the preserves. It should look like this.
Melt (again). Melt the butter in a double boiler over medium-high heat. Finely chop the chocolate and add it with the corn syrup and cook, stirring constantly, until the chocolate is melted. Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla, and let cool. Makes about 1 1/2 cups of ganache.
Pour. Pour the ganache over the cake, smoothing out tops and sides with a spatula. Before the ganache hardens, the cake should look like this.
Cool. Let the cool in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, until set.
Whip. Use a stand mixer to whip together the cream, vanilla, and confectioner’s sugar.
Serve. Serve each slice with a nice scoop of whipped cream.