BACK to a spot of baking this week, folks. After last week’s visit to a Japanese transport café, it’s to a far more refined and elegant type of place that we head for our culinary kicks this time.

We are headed straight into the heart of proper ‘Old Europe’, and our sights are set on the epicentre of café society, the charming Austrian city of Vienna, home to some of the most exquisite architecture, a school for incredibly clever horses, a gigantic ferris wheel that James Bond clambered all over, and, perhaps most importantly, the finest range of classy cafés and coffee houses that the world has to offer.

You could spend days there and not have to eat in the same place twice.

Vienna is a gourmet’s delight, whether it’s for the classic, dumpling-laden soups, stews and roasts that the city does so well, or for the unapologetic chintz of the patisserie and chocolate work on show.

Everywhere you look there are shop windows full of impossibly delicate and artistic pastries – layers of puff pastry, thick coats of glossy chocolate, whorls of smooth, ivory-hued whipped cream, and picture-perfect apricots and strawberries, sealed beneath limpid blankets of jelly.

Turn a corner and there’s another café, bustling with happy, contented folk, and set before them by waiters in pristine ankle-length aprons is the delightful paraphernalia of the serious business of the ‘Kaffee Und Klatsch’ (coffee and a good natter) – proper tall coffee pots, fine porcelain, silver tongs and suchlike. Cake forks poised above a construction of crisp pastry and subtly-spiced apples, or a devilishly rich slice of hazelnut torte.

Vienna, evidently, is not the place to go if you’re looking to shift the pounds. It is foodie heaven. Of course, the one cake that is synonymous with Vienna is the classic Sachertorte, and it’s a cake with quite a story.

In 1832, the Prince von Metternich asked his personal chef to quickly knock up a new dessert for some honoured guests. This sort of behaviour was apparently quite common back then!

The chef was taken ill, and was forced to leave the making of the dessert to a 16-year-old junior cook called Franz Sacher, who cleverly decided not to be too flashy, and make a rich chocolate cake, glazed with a little apricot purée and coated in a dense chocolate-butter icing.

It went down well, and Sacher took it with him through his career, passing the recipe down to his son Eduard, who began serving the cake regularly at the famous Viennese café, Demel.

In 1876, Sacher left and opened the Hotel Sacher, taking his recipe with him, and here it gets a bit messy, as both Demel and Sacher claimed to be the originators of the world-famous Sachertorte.

The conflict, taken very seriously, perhaps a little too seriously, raged all the way until 1963, and even then was only sorted out with an out-of-court agreement to share the title of ‘Original Sachertorte’. All this over a chocolate cake!

How wonderful that the world gives us such dramas amongst all the serious and nasty business of world politics and shady financiers.

So, the Sachertorte, wherever it is served, is still made to the original recipe – a dense chocolate cake, glazed with tangy apricot jam, and topped with a rich, unctuous chocolate butter icing. It is quite a dry cake when baked, deliberately so, because it is meant to be served with a good dollop of ‘schlagobers’ or sweetened whipped cream.

The combination is terrific and I see no reason why one shouldn’t hold with tradition on this occasion.

With a cup of good strong coffee and some fine conversation, there are few more pleasant ways to pass the time. Aprons on!

For the cake:

175g dark chocolate, (at least 70% cocoa)

150g butter

150g unrefined golden caster sugar

6 large fresh, free-range eggs

140g plain flour, sieved

Pinch of Maldon salt

For the glaze:

1 jar good-quality apricot jam

For the icing:

250g dark chocolate

60g unsalted butter


a 22cm round cake tin, regular or non-stick

a fine plastic or non-reactive sieve

To serve:

a little whipping cream

a pinch of unrefined golden caster sugar


Set the oven to 180ºC / Gas 4. Line your cake tin if necessary. Gently melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a food mixer, or by hand, cream the butter and 100g of the sugar together until very pale, light and fluffy.

Separate the eggs and beat the yolks into the butter, one at a time.

Gently stir in the cooled, melted chocolate. Add the flour gently, folding carefully until it is all combined.

Whisk the egg whites until just becoming firm, then add the remaining 50g of sugar and whisk until stiff and glossy.

Take about a quarter of the egg white and stir into the chocolate mixture. This lightens the thicker batter and helps incorporate the whisked whites more easily.

When mixed thoroughly, gently fold in the remaining whisked whites until the mixture is even and no specks of white remain.

Tip the mixture into the lined cake tin and bake for about 40-50 minutes. Test by inserting a metal skewer into the centre: it should come out without any uncooked cake mixture on it.

Run a knife around the edge of the cake, turn it out upside down on to a cooling rack and leave to cool completely.

Melt the apricot jam in a small saucepan over a very gentle heat with a teaspoon of water. When simmering, pass through a fine sieve and allow to cool to blood temperature.

Pour or brush over the cake, covering the upper surfaces completely. Allow to dry for 20 minutes or so.

To make the chocolate coating, heat the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, and when completely melted, whip in the butter in small pieces. It should be glossy and smooth.

Pour over the cake, and use a palette knife to work the icing to the edges and down the sides evenly. Leave to set before serving.

To add authenticity, pipe the word ‘Sacher’ on top of the cake with a little melted dark or milk chocolate.

To serve, whip the cream to a soft peak, adding a little sugar just before the end, and spoon a good dollop next to each slice of Sachertorte.

Stephen is co-owner and chef of T&Cake Cafe, Almondbury