Sachertorte is a famous Viennese cake.
It is the most famous chocolate cake in the world.
The sweet masterpiece consists of 3 layers of chocolate sponge cake with thickly spread apricot jam in between and on the top. The whole cake is covered in dark chocolate icing. It is traditionally served with unsweetened whipped cream on the side.
In 1832, Prince Wenzel von Metternich charged his personal chef with creating a special dessert for several important guests. The head chef, having taken ill, let the task fall to his sixteen-year-old apprentice, Franz Sacher, then in his second year of training in Metternich’s kitchen. The Prince is reported to have declared: “Let there be no shame on me tonight!” While the torte created by Sacher on this occasion is said to have delighted Metternich’s guests, the dessert received no immediate further attention.
Franz Sacher [photo below] completed his training as a chef and afterward spent time in Bratislava and Budapest, ultimately settling in his hometown of Vienna, where he opened a specialty delicatessen and wine shop.
Sacher’s eldest son Eduard carried on his father’s culinary legacy, completing his own training in Vienna with the Royal and Imperial Pastry Chef at the Demel bakery and chocolatier, during which time he perfected his father’s recipe and developed the torte into its current form.
In 1876, Eduard Sacher opens an exclusive luxury hotel in the heart of Vienna by the name of Sacher [photo below]. The cake of the same name becomes the hallmark of the house. Since then, the cake remains among the most famous of Vienna’s culinary specialties.
In the early decades of the 20th century, a legal battle over the use of the label “The Original Sacher Torte” developed between the Hotel Sacher and the Demel bakery. Eduard Sacher completed his recipe for Sacher Torte while working at Demel, which was the first establishment to offer the “Original Sachertorte” cake. After the death of Eduard’s widow Anna in 1930, followed by the bankruptcy of the Hotel Sacher in 1934, Eduard Sacher’s son (also named Eduard Sacher) found employment at Demel and brought to the bakery the sole distribution right for an Eduard-Sacher-Torte.
However, eventually an out-of-court settlement was agreed, under which the use of the label “The Original Sacher Torte” went to Hotel Sacher and the Demel got the rights to decorate its tortes with a triangular seal that reads “Eduard-Sacher-Torte.”
As the years have progressed, this has given Hotel Sacher a massive branding advantage over Demel, helping it to be able to sell both more cakes, and at a higher price.
Hotel Sacher’s “Original Sacher Torte” is sold at the Vienna and Salzburg locations of the Hotel Sacher, at Cafe Sacher branches in Innsbruck and Graz, at the Sacher Shop in Bolzano, in the Duty Free area of Vienna airport, and via the Hotel Sacher’s online shop.
The Original Sacher Torte is still made almost entirely by hand using Franz Sacher’s recipe and the exact composition is a closely guarded secret. More than 360,000 cakes a year are made in Vienna by its 41 employees, many of which are shipped all over the world allowing a “taste of Vienna” to be delivered to many far away places. The most popular destinations for its cakes are Germany, Italy, France, the US, and many countries in Asia.
Today, Sachertorte stands as one of Vienna’s best-known symbols.
December 5th is National Sachertorte Day in the United States.