Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

Sachertorte, Vienna’s famous chocolate cake, is easily that city’s most storied confection. The cake is almost the personification of the sweet—and perhaps somewhat staid—elegance that still hovers over the old Habsburg metropolis. As described by the authors of the comprehensive Appetit-Lexicon (1894), the pastry is “a superior sort of chocolate cake, distinguished from her rivals primarily by the chocolate gown she wears over her blouse of apricot jam.” Poetic hyperbole aside, the definition of what can legally be called a Sachertorte in Austria is very specific. The Österreichisches Lebensmittelbuch (the Austrian food codex) devotes six pages to a precise definition of cakes and related confectionery, starting with the celebrated Sacher. To summarize, the cake itself needs to be a chocolate sponge (minimum 15 percent chocolate solids); nuts can be added, as long as the name reflects the addition. The cake must then be covered with apricot preserves, and finally with a fudgy glaze containing chocolate and sugar. Forgeries that contain such verboten additions as buttercream, ganache, or raspberry jam may be perfectly delicious, but they are not a Sacher.