It’s arguably the most famous cake in the world: the Original Sacher-Torte. It was created by the Hotel Sacher Wien in 1832, and the original recipe is still a closely guarded secret by the hotel.
The Sacher-Torte (that first word is pronounced the same as the word Americans use for European football) features a dense chocolate cake with a texture similar to a flourless cake, with a layer of apricot jam, then covered with a hard chocolate icing.
Not being a huge fan of chocolate desserts, I can take a Sacher-Torte or leave it. But when I found myself in Vienna for Christmas, I figured, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Or in this case, the Viennese.
The Hotel Sacher exploits its famous confectionary to the hilt. It’s a very posh hotel with expensive rooms, but I wonder if the torte doesn’t provide the majority of funds. A large cafe is prominent on the side of the hotel, overlooking a pedestrian promenade. And a gift shop is available for those who want to purchase a whole cake to take home. I’m told the lines for the cafe form early and can become quite long. The last time I waited in line for a confection was at the Magnolia Bakery in Greenwich Village to try one of the cupcakes everyone had been raving about after seeing the women on “Sex & the City” moan over them. Forty-five minutes later I got my cupcake. It was just a regular cupcake, and a pretty small one at that. There was no moaning on my part, although others in line were oohing through the goo, possibly to rationalize their irrationality at standing in line to pay an exorbitant fee for something they could purchase in a six-pack for the same price at the corner grocery market. They refused to admit the emperor had no clothes.
But where was I? Ah, yes: Vienna.
I wasn’t about to wait in a line. So instead I trundled into the hotel and found the Blaue Bar, a small but ornately decorated bar just beyond the lobby. It’s decorated in various hues of blaue, um, I mean blue. My friend and I found a couple of bar stools, ordered some wine and requested a serving of the torte.
It was delivered by the bartender with the pronouncement, “The famous Sacher cake." Much like Magnolia’s product, it was just a simple torte. No moaning. Good? Yes, even for someone who doesn’t appreciate chocolate as much as some. And I was surprised at the price: about 5.50 euro for a slice, or about $7.36 US. Not cheap, but not too much to charge for a legend.
Even more than the cake, I enjoyed just being in the Blau Bar that had a decor that even Gainsborough’s Blue Boy would consider over the top, with its blue-flocked wallpaper and blue velvet upholstery and alabaster bar top. It made us feel like swells.
So that’s my recommendation. Skip the cafe and head for the bar. You’ll get your cake faster, and you won’t have to put up with the crowds. It’s also a way to enjoy the dessert after the cafe closes for the day.
Here’s a link to the Hotel Sacher’s Web site.