Daring Bakers: Sachertorte Fail
The making of this month’s Daring Bakers challenge was a comedy of errors. I can truthfully say that I laughed more than I cried through this process and I couldn’t wait to share my Sachertorte tale. So here’s how it all went down.
The October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Korena of Korena in the Kitchen. She took us to Austria and introduced us to the wonders of the Sachertorte.
It sure is nice that to kids cake is cake no matter how it looks! Mine enjoyed having some chocolate cake in the middle of the afternoon for no reason.
I’ve never wanted to make or eat Sachertorte. Sorry. But I typically don’t like fruit with my chocolate. I do like raspberry, maybe strawberry, but other fruit and chocolate pairings are not hard for me to turn down. A Sachertorte is chocolate cake glazed with apricot and then dark chocolate. I wasn’t thrilled at this month’s challenge, but I’m only 3 challenges away from completing a full year of The Daring Bakers, so I couldn’t turn it down. Also, this was an opportunity to broaden my baking horizons, and that’s always a good thing.
I had everything I needed and planned to whip this up on a Friday. Since the cake can be made ahead I had what I thought was a good plan of getting that done in the morning, letting it cool, and then tackling both the apricot and chocolate glazes and the assembly during afternoon naps. My kids typically have about an hour of nap time that overlaps. And it’s not like I’m not used to juggling kitchen and kid duties. I thought I had this thing under control. That’s when you know you don’t.
My youngest had a couple of vaccines given at his 4 month well check the day before and while I’m not confident that his fussiness was due to the shots I am confident that something was not right with him. He is a happy baby who can deal with being put in the bouncer in the kitchen and being content while I cook. Typically. Today was not typical. He hardly napped all day. I’d just get him to sleep, get back downstairs to try to bake and he’d start crying again. Did I mention we also had a Halloween event that night? I needed to get the kids fed early and in their costumes by the time my husband got home. I felt like a crazy person going from the kitchen to the crying baby upstairs, to the kids, to the kitchen, to the crying baby in the bouncer, to the sink full of dirty dishes, to the pirate costumes, to the crying baby on his exercise mat to the Sachertorte.
You don’t need me to tell you that the opportunities for disaster were countless. While whipping egg whites with my hand mixer (something that seemed to take forever) my two boys were crying because they didn’t like the noise. Take a moment now and try to imagine a 4 year old crying and tugging at you, a 4 month old screaming, and the metal beaters hitting the sides of your glass bowl as the little motor on your mixer whirs. I should’ve given up right then. But I soldiered on. And amazingly the cake itself was fine.
Cake got baked, cooled and sliced ready for glaze.
Glaze got made and right when I got ready to use it my sweet baby woke up from his 30 minute nap and I had to feed him. But the apricot glazing went well. (Note: put parchment or wax paper under your rack when glazing.) Right about then my older son woke up.
The baby seemed ok after eating and I really needed to get this cake done. I’d read the directions for the glaze, knowing it to be both temperature and time sensitive. I decided I’d go for it. Curious George Halloween special on the TV and kids on the couch with snacks and drinks. Baby on the mat playing with toys. This would be fine…
Once you start the glaze you have to finish. No stopping points. You have to cook the sugar to 234°F, mix in the chocolate, pour it on the cake and smooth it all without taking a second to neglect your duties. My sugar was at about 215°F when sweet baby boy started to scream. I tried putting him in the bouncer in the kitchen and making silly faces and noises at him while I tended to the boiling sugar. He wasn’t fooled. He knew he wasn’t number 1 in my book at that moment. But I had to keep going. He screamed for about 5 minutes, then discovered one of the toys in front of him and settled down. I whisked in the chocolate and my glaze was thick and clumpy. The recipe says that you can return the pan to the heat and add “a few drops” of water to get it to a pour-able consistency. I did that and then proceeded to glaze the cake. I went on nice at first. I had my offset spatula at the ready and was spreading as I poured. I got to the other side of the cake and it basically hardened up and became not only not spreadable but clumpy and when I tried to fix it it started pulling up cake with it. So this is what I had on my hands.
I was watching the temp of the sugar carefully and turned it off right at 234°F, but I guess that could’ve been the problem. Or maybe I didn’t add enough water, although it did seem pourable enough. Regardless of what went wrong, this chocolate glaze was a bust.
My baby had started to cry again and my oldest son was now in the kitchen asking for more snacks and milk because he’d spilled his on the rug. At this point everything just had to be funny. No point in getting upset about it. Thankfully I wasn’t planning to serve this at a dinner party. I had told a friend I’d bring dessert to a casual lunch on Saturday, but thankfully she’s the kind of friend who doesn’t love you any less for bringing ugly cake!
I completed the cake with the required “Sacher” but didn’t spend too much time worrying about how well that turned out. Obviously. I’m pretty sure I was snickering about this whole debacle when I took this picture.
Now, the cake itself wasn’t bad. I liked it, actually. The chocolate glaze also tasted fine, but I will never make it again. I’ll look for a different chocolate glaze or ganache recipe the next time I want to try to glaze a cake. Now the apricot. I just can’t get on board with the apricot and chocolate together. If I am ever in Austria I will definitely order myself a slice of Sachertorte, but I won’t be making it again. I might try the cake with a caramel glaze and chocolate ganache. Or maybe just keep it all chocolate. But there will be no traditional Sachertortes coming out of this kitchen. The end.
- ¾ cup (4 1/2 ounces) good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- pinch fine grain salt
- Preheat oven to 375˚F with a rack in the center of the oven. Butter and flower the sides of a 9-inch springform pan, then line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper.
- Place the bittersweet chocolate in a heat-proof bowl and heat over a small saucepan of barely simmering water or you can melt it in the microwave, heating in 30 second increments, stirring in between each, until just melted. Set aside to cool completely, stirring often.
- Place the butter in a large mixing bowl and beat with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer or electric mixer on medium speed until very light and creamy. Add the confectioners’ sugar on low speed, then increase to medium speed and beat again until light and creamy.
- Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl.
- Add the cooled chocolate and vanilla and beat until well-mixed and very light and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl.
- In a clean bowl using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites with about one tablespoon of the granulated sugar on high speed until foamy. Gradually add in the rest of the granulated sugar and continue beating the whites until they form soft, shiny peaks – they should hold their shape but flop over on themselves.
- Vigorously stir about 1/3 of the whipped egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then gently fold the remaining egg whites into the chocolate mixture with a spatula until just a few wisps of egg white remain. Do this carefully so as not to deflate the egg whites.
- Stir together the flour and salt and sift half of it over the chocolate mixture. Fold in with a spatula until almost incorporated. Sift over the remaining flour and fold to combine completely.
- Spread the batter evenly in the prepared springform pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 35-45 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. The cake will crack and dome in the middle as it bakes but will flatten out as it cools.
- Cool completely, then slice in half. Glaze middle, top and sides with warm apricot glaze (recipe below). Let glaze set, then finish with your favorite chocolate ganache.
- 1 1/4 cups apricot jam or preserves
- 2 tablespoons water
- Boil the jam and water in a small saucepan over medium heat.
- Cook, stirring often, until the mixture thickens and drips slowly from the spoon, about 2-3 minutes.
- Strain through a wire mesh sieve, pressing firmly on the solids. You should have about 1 cup of glaze. Use warm.
Here are some recipes for chocolate ganache that you could use.