We all know the story of Sachertorte: some guy called Sacher invented it in the early 19th Century in Austria for somebody important and the rest is history – if not very muddled and convoluted history about what constitutes a real Sahcertorte. All the subsequent versions – original or not – have a few things in common: a dense chocolate cake with intense chocolate taste and a thick covering of chocolate, usually served with a big dollop of whipped cream. It can have one or two layers, but it is not a tall-layered affair – more a squat, flat disc of heavy chocolate sponge.
Leo insists that he does not like sponge desserts at the end of a meal. Although I can understand this, when it comes to birthday meals, (especially American birthdays) it should traditionally end with a cake and ice cream. In recent years, our family unwittingly hit on a good compromise – a recipe from an American cookbook, based on a classic torte, using Amaretti biscuit crumbs and ground almonds. It’s now a family favourite. But I find it hard to continually repeat the same cake for birthdays… So I have ventured out on a limb and dabbled in the realm of torte – particularly the Sacher variety. To keep some resemblance of our original torte favourite, I have added almonds. I also used a small amount of cocoa to replace some of the chocolate. It gives a very intense chocolate hit. It’s very continental, and doesn’t knock you out with the normal heavy richness of a chocolate cake. I’ve shown an all chocolate alternative if you prefer. I’ve also added baking powder as a fail safe to the rising power of my egg whites. I’ll leave it in for those who want a lighter, more risen torte, but otherwise leave it out for the full flat, dense torte effect. My topping is perfect, don’t change a thing with this. My other contribution is to eliminate the continental classic patisserie-taste of apricot jam and go for the winning combo of chocolate and cherry. When served with cream it becomes a deconstructed Black Forest gateaux!
- Preheat the oven to 180C Gas 4.
- Butter a 26cm spring form baking tin. Dust with cocoa and tip out excess.
- Melt the chocolate in a pan over another pan of simmering water. When melted set aside to stay liquid but cool.
- Cream the butter, moscavado sugar and 75g of caster sugar. Beat for 10 minutes until very light and fluffy.
- Add the egg yolks one at a time and beat in well.
- Sieve the flour (with the baking powder if using). Add the ground almonds and whisk together.
- Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until the soft peak stage, sprinkle over 25g of caster sugar and continue to beat until the eggs stiffen slightly.
- Beat the chocolate into the egg mixture, add the vanilla or Amaretto and beat again. Slowly mix in the flour and almond mixture. Add a quarter of the egg whites the egg and flour mixture and mix until blended well. Gradually fold in the remainder of the egg whites.
- Fill the spring form with the cake batter and bake in the middle of the oven for 30-40 minutes. Test with a wooden skewer. Remove from the oven when done and cool.
Filling and glaze
- Drain the cherries over a pan to collect the syrup. Boil the syrup until reduced and thick. Add the cherries and mash into the syrup. Continue to heat until a thick paste. Remove from the heat and cool.
- Slice the torte in half horizontally. Over the bottom half spread the cherry paste. Put the top over the base and glaze the top and sides with the conserve or jam. Use a brush – heat or thin the conserve or jam with hot water if necessary.
- Ideally, allow to dry for a couple of hours.
This is a little fiddly for a chocolate sauce, but it will ensure the chocolate does not seize or become grainy.
- Heat the sugar, water and syrup in a pan on low heat until dissolved. Stirring if necessary.
- Bring the heat up when dissolved and boil until a temperature of 121C is reached. Let it cool a little then add the butter and cream and mix. Add the chocolate and stir, if more heat is needed put the pan over simmering water until the chocolate has melted. Add the vanilla and salt. Set aside to cool.
- Using spatula, ice the torte. The normal method is to make a smooth flat surface, but this requires pouring lots of chocolate over the cake, which is not practical here. This topping will smooth out quite well. Ensure the sides are covered. Clean the base holding the torte and transfer to a serving dish.
- Serve with whipped cream.