I step inside what appears to be wall-to-wall red fabric with gold appliqué, large portraiture and dripping crystal. A man in a black suit greets me as he points me in the direction of the coat check. Still frozen from Vienna’s cold outside, I hesitate. Do I have to? I glance around at the opulence bombarding me and realize, yes, I have to. To be an aristocrat for dessert in Vienna you would never wear your coat indoors.
Five minutes later, after peeling the various layers of coats, scarves and hats off of my frozen self, I rub my hands together for warmth as I am shown to my table by the window. I know what I am here for, along with all of the other tourists in the city analyzing their Vienna maps, the Sacher Torte.
Hotel Sacher in Vienna might be a five star hotel for politicians, artists and aristocrats, but it is its signature dessert for which the hotel has gathered fame. In 1832, 16-year-old apprentice chef Franz Sacher came up with the Sacher Torte for the court of Prince Metternich. Looking around at just how grand and regal this space is, it is almost paradoxical that a lowly chef’s apprentice, a teenager, would whip up a cake that would be known not just across Vienna, but the world.
While the original recipe is a well-kept secret by the Café Sacher, I do know I ordered a chocolate type cake, one thinly coated with apricot jam. Like any respectable dessert, the Sacher Torte comes with a coating of chocolate and a perfectly fluffed morsel of whipped cream. The cake is the only thing that can wear a coat indoors in such a setup.
I pick up my fork, not expecting to really like the Sacher Torte. I have never been a fan of adding things to chocolate, besides caramel of course. When a fruity jam is added, I tend to turn up my nose. The moment of truth arrives. I break down the Sacher Torte’s chocolate shell for my first taste. Rich, sweet and just chocolaty enough, I am pleasantly surprised.
And when you are in Vienna, you can’t just order one dessert. You must order two. I decide to also sample the Wiener Apfelstrudel. Served with an icing sugar and apples so crisp, it is a palette cleanser, or so I reason, in between bites of Sacher Torte.
Four euros later and a Sacher Torte missing in my stomach, I take a moment to soak it all in at Café Sacher. It might be a touristy place, but those “birthplace” destinations usually are. I know the traditional Austrian coffeehouse is much more rough and raw, dark in its interior and a place where you linger for hours while pouring over a newspaper or a game of chess. And while I don’t linger in the Hotel Sacher, I do pause to admire its vibrancy. Almost like walking into a dream world, back to the 1800s and with a royal title, just for a small moment and mouthful, I step back into a grand Viennese world, one I wasn’t a part of and yet I was.
Have you tried the Sacher Torte in Vienna?