Sometimes the things you remember about a trip are not just the big name venues or cities, the scenery, or the cultures. Occasionally it’s just minor things that were not even on the radar when you left.
This particular memory had its beginnings over a lunch in Lucerne, Switzerland. We had spent the morning on an excursion to Mount Pilatus, and had the afternoon free. After a return trip to see the Lion, we opted to grab a bite before continuing on our explorations. The lunch itself was nice, albeit unremarkable; I had a vegetable quiche and my wife had a spinach strudel. It was the shared dessert that had us both all agog.
On the face of it, it seemed like a simple slice of chocolate cake. Nice dark chocolate, with a glistening chocolate glaze. It was only after forks had travelled to tastebuds that the OMGs ensued. Bites became smaller, to extend the delight and savor every molecule. It perfectly moist, rich, and fairly dense but not excessively so. Unlike many cakes, it was not over sweetened, giving the dark chocolate full opportunity to express itself. It had a couple layers of filling, which appeared to be a light chocolate mousse. And of course the glaze (or Ganache as the fancy chefs call it) was lovely as well, no doubt created from some of that famous Swiss dark chocolate.
Such was our enthusiasm for this concoction we had to make a note of it, and upon checking the display case saw it named as a Sachertorte.
As our trip continued on into Austria, our guide made mention of the famous Sachertorte, which would be available in Innsbruck. However, as those of you who are familiar with Sachertorte know, the description she gave us for this confection was not exactly what we had. It seems the “official” Sachertorte, rather than having mousse as a layer filling, actually has apricot jam. Nonetheless, having developed a minor mania for things named Sachertorte, we had to try it once arriving in Innsbruck.
This version did indeed contain apricot jam rather than mousse layers. It was, if anything even more dense, and seemed a bit drier. The flavor was similar, but frankly both my wife and I liked the Swiss version better.
After the trip was completed we did a little research on the Sachertorte, and found that indeed the Austrian version was the “real” version. It had been invented in 1832 by a sixteen-year-old apprentice chef named Franz Sacher while serving in the kitchen of Prince Wenzel von Metternich. It seems the prince wanted a special dessert created for some important guests, but as the head chef was ill that day the apprentice got the job. His creation was well received by the guests, but it was not instantly famous.
I also found some references that suggest that the original creation was light and fluffy, but I found the current version was anything but. This may be the fault of Franz’s son Eduard, who picked up the family legacy and did some tweaking on the recipe.
So here’s a callout to all you chocolate cake lovers out there: if you know of a killer cake recipe, feel free to let us know in the comments. Extra brownie points will be awarded if it fits the profile of that delicacy we had in Lucerne.
It has been written that Queen Marie said “Let them eat cake!” when informed that the citizens were running out of bread. While it’s unlikely she actually said that, some subsequent historians liked to use it to demonstrate the obliviousness and selfishness of the French upper-classes at that time, which was part of reason she eventually lost her head.
We too, lost our heads over a bit of cake. Fortunately, we regained them, only filled with a memory that will stay with us for years to come.