There are few things I compete with for Francesco’s attention. One of them is steak. Another is books. Another is street performers (cannot. pull. him. away.) But probably the most significant relationship in his life after ours is his wholehearted love for Sacher Torte.
Truly fulfilling as no woman will ever be, Sacher Torte lights up his life. She is never served for guests, and she is shared only upon request and only if you’re very, very special. If you ask him about her contemptuous history (Hotel Sacher or the Demel bakery?), you will no doubt hear her entire origin myth beginning in 19th century Vienna. If you say something like, Oh, Sacher, isn’t that just like a chocolate cake or something? his steely glare will bring you to your knees. Should you ask if you could substitute, say, raspberry jam for apricot, you may well be bitch slapped. And if you dare to take a piece? God help you.
You may be thinking how lucky I am. All I have to do is whip up a Sacher Torte and voilà! My husband’s the happiest man alive and there’s dessert to boot. But it’s not that simple….first of all, the cake has to be perfect. No substitutions or shortcuts. And then, there’s the fact that…how shall I put this delicately? Let’s just say, I don’t care for Sacher Torte.
Living up to the mistress stereotype, she’s dry and dull with just a little line of tempting wet jam inside and a deceivingly appealing layer of smooth ganache on top, effectively hiding her true lack of depth. (What? Too much?) Plus, she’s fussy and demanding, requiring a dozen separated eggs, perfect cake slicing skillz, and a very steady hand.
But I guess that’s one of the reasons he loves her so much, she’s so hard to get just right. Though wildly popular in Italy, it’s usually just a sad chocolate cake with jam inside. His mother used to make the Sacher when he was little (put away your psychology text books, people!) and sometimes still brings him “the original” from Vienna or Bolzano (the only other place in the world where they sell authentic sacher tortes. I’m sorry. I wish I didn’t know this information, either). The cakes last because they are very dry and the ganache forms a sort of protective crust (they are often – but not without some contention, naturally – served with a pile of whipped cream to counter the dryness).
Over the years, I’ve cobbled together what my Sacher lover considers the best homemade version he’s ever had with help from my mother-in-law’s old cooking magazines and lots of practice. I decided to whip her out yesterday because I could see my constant gushing about how amazing it felt to be home was wearing on Francesco, whose biggest fear is that I’ll resent his bringing me to Australia. What he doesn’t understand is that for him I’m prepared to make much more trying sacrifices than living in a beautiful faraway land. Hell, I’m even prepared to live with a mistress. Just as long as he saves me a little piece.
This cake is supposed to be dry, that’s part of its appeal. Serves 10. Serve with barely sweetened whipped cream if desired.
6 oz. (180 g) dark chocolate, melted
2/3 cup (150 g) butter, room temp
3/4 cup sugar, divided
10 egg whites
8 egg yolks
1 cup sifted flour
1 1/2 cups smooth apricot jam
6 oz. (180 grams) dark chocolate
6 oz. (3/4 cup) heavy cream
Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Grease a springform pan. In a large bowl, cream the butter and half the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks one by one. Gradually beat in the melted chocolate.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and remaining sugar until stiff. Gradually fold in the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, alternating with the flour.
Pour batter into prepared pan; bake 40-70 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
When cool, carefully slice cake in half horizontally. Remove the top half, and spread ample apricot jam on the bottom half. Replace top half, flat-side up, and coat top and sides of cake with jam. (Keep the cake on the wire rack during the decorating process.)
Make the ganache by bringing the cream to a boil and pouring it over the chocolate. Stir until it smooths itself out. Cool for a few minutes before pouring the ganache onto the cake and spreading over the top and sides.