The Seven Years’ Cake War: Sachertorte

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With its velvety chocolate icing and lashings of tangy apricot jam, Sachertorte has become Austria’s national dessert. But the history of this luxurious chocolate cake is as rich and as dark as the Sachertorte itself.

In 1832 Prince Clemens Lother Wensel Metternich, the Austrian State Chancellor placed an order for a special dessert for himself and his dinner guests. Orders were sent to the court kitchen where there was instant mayhem; the royal pastry chef was sick. When it became clear that none of the cooks knew what to make, the 16 year old apprentice, Franz Sacher rolled up his sleeves and set about creating a dessert which was to be celebrated to this day. According to legend the recipe came from his sister Anna. The prince’s guests fell in love with the indulgent chocolate cake, and the Sachertorte was born.

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Prince Clemens Lother Wensel Metternich

This was only the beginning of Franz Sacher’s success story. The Sachertorte, along with some of his other desserts made him prosperous, and he was able to open several cafes and restaurants. He handed down his secret recipe to his son, Eduard Sacher, who also trained as a pastry chef at the imperial and royal pastry store Demel. Eduard refined his father’s recipe, honing and perfecting it until it became the dish we know and love today. Demel was the first pastry store to sell the Original Sachertortre.

In 1876 Eduard Sacher opened the hotel Sacher. The Sachertorte became a staple of the menu there. Its popularity around Vienna grew and was a favourite of the imperial family. Sacher’s kitchen, staffed by four chefs, exclusively made this special chocolate cake. Up to 400 Sachertorten were sold a day and sent to Paris, Berlin and London by sea

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Eduard Sacher died in 1892, leaving his wife Anna to run the hotel. After her death in 1930, the hotel was sold. The son of Anna and Eduard Sacher, also called Eduard Sacher, found employment at the pastry store Demel. He transferred the sole selling rights for the Eduard Sachertorte to Demel.

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In 1938 the new owner of the Hotel Sacher started to sell the Sachertorte from vendor carts, selling the cake as the Original Sachertorte, which he registered as a trade mark. This Original Sachertorte, had two layers of apricot jam, one underneath the chocolate glaze and one in the middle of the cake itself. It was also made with margarine instead of butter.

The pastry store Demel was furious. This was the beginning of a long-standing feud between the two businesses. The time period between 1950 and 1957 is referred as the Seven Years Cake War between Demel and Sacher. Both parties were fighting about the right to use the term Original Sachertorte, about the second layer of apricot jam in the middle of the cake and the use of margarine instead of butter. In 1965 Sacher and Demel made an out-of-court agreement, giving Hotel Sacher exclusive rights to name their cake Original Sachertorte. Demel’s Sachertorte, with its one layer of jam, received the official title Eduard Sachertorte. The stand off over the famous Austrian cake was over and peace was restored to Vienna once more.

These days almost 1000 Sachertorten are produced every single day by the Hotel Sacher. Every year 1.2 million eggs, 80 tons of sugar, 70 tons of chocolate, 37 tons of apricot jam, 25 tons of butter and 30 tons of flour are needed. There is one assistant who is just responsible to crack 7500 eggs every single day!

The sumptuous cake, Sachertorte is best enjoyed with a generous dollop of cream and a steaming pot of coffee.

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Emma Rose Millar is author of the award winning novel FIVE GUNS BLAZING. Her second novel, THE WOMEN FRIENDS: SELINA, will be published by Crooked Cat Books in December 2016. For further details, visit her author page on Amazon.

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