December 5 – National Sachertorte Day

Posted on December 5, 2015

How does the U.S. manage to have a National Sachertorte Day – when Sachertorte is a Viennese culinary specialty?!

(Translation time! Vienna is a famous city in Austria. Culinary means “of cooking” – so a culinary specialty is a special dish, a particular food that a place or person is known for. In this case, a special food that Vienna is known for!)

Sachertorte is a kind of chocolate cake, or torte. It was invented by a fellow named Franz Sacher. I guess you can see where the name for this famous dessert comes from!

Now, notice that I didn't say that this famous cake was invented by a famed chef. I didn't even say it was invented by a “man” – I used the word “fellow.” That's because the cake was invented by a teenager, just an apprentice to a chef! That's pretty cool, huh?

Here's how it happened:

In 1832, Prince Wenzel von Metternich asked his personal chef to create a special dessert for some important guests. But the head chef became ill! So the 16 year old apprentice, Sacher, had to make a special dessert for the VIPs.

The Prince probably was a bit nervous about this. He is reported to have begged, “Let there be no shame on me tonight!” But the torte that Sacher made ended up delighting the guests.

Happy guests, happy hosts.

Happy teenage apprentice?

I'm sure that Sacher was pleased at his success, but it wasn't until a long time later than his cake became famous. First, he had to finish his training and apprenticeship. Later, he spent time in several other towns and nations before returning to his hometown, Vienna. He even had to marry and have children and raise his firstborn to be an adult...

And at that point, Eduard Sacher, who went into the family biz of cooking, kept making and serving his father's special chocolate cake. Actually, he ended up tweaking the recipe, and he was the one who developed the current form of the torte.

Actually, the Sacher family served this special cake at a particular bakery and at a particular hotel restaurant, and in the 1930s a big brouhaha broke out between the bakery and the hotel over the rights to label their cakes “The Original Sachertorte.” We're talking lawsuits and court time and witnesses and testimony... (Wait 'til they hear that the U.S. has declared a National Sachertorte Day!)

Notice that all of these cakes have the word
"Sachertorte" or "Sacher" on the cake, in many
cases on each piece - or at least the letter "S"!
 These two photos show the bakery's version (above)
versus the hotel's version (below).

Note that "Wien" is the name of Vienna in German (the language that is
spoken in Vienna and all of Austria). In German, the letter "w" is pronounced
like the English "v," and the German letter "v" is generally pronounced
like the English "f."

What makes this chocolate cake so special - worth fighting for, even in court? Apparently there is a layer (or two) of apricot jam between the chocolate icing and the cake itself. But of course, as you can imagine, the actual recipe for the dense, smooth cake is a closely guarded secret!

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