Having a sweet tooth, I probably first knew about the Sachertorte before learning any name of a single popular, historical building in Vienna.
Vienna is home to the Original Sachertorte, two layers of dense, not overly sweet chocolate cake with a thin layer of apricot jam in between the layers and dark chocolate frosting on the top and sides. It is known as the world’s most famous chocolate cake.
And there are two famous, rival places to go for the cake in Vienna – Hotel Sacher or the Demel cafe.
I had my Sachertorte at Hotel Sacher.
When I was in Vienna just a couple of months ago, I was kind of obsessed to try and taste the world’s most popular cake but I didn’t know much about it until the Filipino (surprise! He’s lived in Vienna for 30 years) waiter who served me at the Hotel Sacher cafe shared to me a story that in Vienna, they take chocolate cake so seriously that the city’s two main producers once fought a nine-year legal battle about it.
The cake in question is of course, the Sachertorte.
The legal battle, which ran from 1954 to 1963, was centred on which had the right to call its Sachertorte the “original”.
A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY
The first Sachertorte was created for Prince Metternich in 1832 by Franz Sacher, a 16-year-old pastry apprentice in the royal bakery. He was decades ahead of his time as the chocolate industry only began developing in the mid-1800s, and it wasn’t until the late 19th century that chocolate cakes became common. Sacher’s son Eduard, who served as an apprentice at the Demel pastry shop, refined his father’s recipe and took it with him when he opened the ornate Hotel Sacher in 1867.
Because of this, the Sachertorte was the subject of a lengthy legal battle between Hotel Sacher and Demel. In 1955, the Commercial Court ruled Hotel Sacher’s version closest to Franz’s pioneering recipe and granted the hotel the exclusive right to identify its cake as the “Original Sacher-Torte.”
The first day that I was in Vienna, I headed to Cafe Sacher to order a slice of Original Sacher-Torte with a generous dollop of unsweetened whipped cream and a cup of Wien Melange. I won’t lie, the weighing scale tells me not too many sweets on this trip but I am eager to blow as many calories on the chocolatey indulgent dessert because of the history. Perfect excuse, no?
TIP WHEN TRYING OUT THE SACHERTORTE IN VIENNA
1. Go there early.
Whether you decide to try out the Sachertorte at Hotel Sacher or at Demel, head out early so you can enjoy the peace and quiet and ponder over the fact that your tongue is going on an adventure to taste a world famous food. Both cafes can get congested later in the day (especially the Cafe Sacher), sometimes with a long waiting time.
2. Don’t rush through it!
The Sachertorte takes days to make and an afternoon (or morning) to savor. Eating Sachertorte in Vienna is an unhurried ritual, can even be a sweet, romantic date. Put down your phone, while you’re at it, too. This deserves your undivided attention.
* The Original Sacher Torte is still made almost entirely by hand using Franz Sacher’s recipe and is a closely guarded secret.
3. Keep an open mind
Even if this is reputed to be the “the most popular chocolate cake in the world”, it can’t please everyone. Some like it, some don’t. I’d be curious what you think of it!
So, after my rendezvous with the Original Sachertorte, I wanted to walk around. Vienna’s Ringstrasse, a grand boulevard that encircles the historic city center in a 3-mile loop was just around the corner so I went there for a post-torte power walk. Learn more about Vienna.