Wednesday, July 01, 2009

June 25-26: Torta Sacher

A vegan potlucker formerly known as Buttons hosted a Europe-themed potluckin' party a few days before she set off for the real thing. Michael stirred together a pot-load of mushroom paprikash (made with Tofutti Sour Supreme), while I pulled out The Vegeterranean and started flicking pages from the back - I knew there was a recipe for vegan Sachertorte in there!

Unlike Michael, I've not eaten a 'real' Sachertorte and so didn't have specific expectations. Well, maybe one or two - I assumed it'd be a round, multi-layered cake. Actually it's a smallish quantity of batter, to be baked in a square cake tin. Though it's supposed to be carefully sliced into three layers, my cake proved to be less than 2 inches tall. I had no hope of splitting it into more than two layers!

I didn't have high expectations of the chocolateyness of this recipe, given that both the cake and the 'ganache' use cocoa rather than chocolate. But you can be assured that it is a moist, rich and very chocolatey experience! The apricot jam that's spread between the layers is difficult to recognise, but certainly contributes to the moist texture and fruity sweetness. Likewise it's unlikely that your guests will spot the espresso (which is in both the cake and the ganache) but I think it contributes to the depth of flavour.

Another great thing about this cake? It doesn't require any weird ingredients as vegan substitutes, just non-dairy milk (I used rice-based rather than the suggested soy), vegetable oil, margarine and vinegar. The most difficult to locate ingredient might be the extra-refined '00' flour, which I found at our local independent grocer. I reckon you could substitute your usual plain flour without ill effects.

The downside? It's not the smooth and elegant creation I had envisaged. Moist cakes are difficult to cut cleanly, and I also struggled to spread the ganache evenly. And then there's the square and squat dimensions. This Sacher's not something to daintily serve and nibble for high tea, but it is a great basic chocolate cake to have in your repertoire. (Skip the fiddly jam layers for easy-peasy weeknight baking.) There's even half a chance that a vegan-friendly cook would have all the ingredients on hand without a trip to the shops.

Vegan Sachertorte
(adapted very slightly from The Vegeterranean by Malu Simoes and Alberto Musacchio)

75g cocoa
200g Italian '00' flour
200g sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
80mL brewed espresso, cooled
100mL sunflower oil
2 tablespoons white vinegar
210mL rice milk
200g apricot jam

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a 20cm square cake tin with paper and grease it lightly.

In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the cocoa, flour, sugar, salt and baking powder.

In a larger bowl, whisk together the vanilla, coffee, oil, and vinegar. Gradually whisk in the dry ingredients, then the milk.

Pour the cake batter into the cake tin, smooth the top flat, and bake it for about 35 minutes, checking for doneness with a skewer. Allow the cake to cool completely while it's in the tin.

Take a look at your cake and decide how many layers you want. Split the jam into as many equal portions as you will have layers. To one portion, add a very small amount of boiling water and push the mixture through a sieve. Mix the strained apricot pieces into the other portions of jam, and reserve the smooth, sieved jam portion for the top layer.

Use a serrated knife to trim the top of the cake until it's flat. Gently slice the cake horizontally into layers. Spread a portion of the chunky jam between each cake layer and stack them back up. Spread the smooth portion of jam on the top of the cake. Transfer the cake to its serving plate.

2 tablespoons cocoa
3 tablespoons icing sugar
2 tablespoons warm espresso
2 tablespoons Nuttelex

Combine all the ingredients in a double boiler, mixing until the ganache is smooth and shiny (I just rig up two saucepans, with boiling water in the bottom one and ganache in the top one). Pour and spread the ganache over the cake - you will have to work quickly, while the ganache is still warm. Allowing a drippy effect down the sides will probably be smoother and prettier than trying to force full coverage of the cake.

Let the cake cool completely and store it in the fridge.


  1. It certainly looks delicious. I'm intrigued by the ingredients that go into a vegan cake. Particularly rice milk, is it just the starch that comes from rice? If so, how is that a substitue for cow's milk which is a protein? Why not just use water?

  2. Sacher torte is the world's best cake and I'm sure your variation is just as good.

  3. Hiya KJ! The original recipe used soy milk rather than rice milk so there were was probably plenty of protein in that version. I made the swap as a flavour preference rather than thinking about the composition, and the resulting cake texture seemed quite 'normal'. I guess water could potentially be fine too! I'd love to set up a multi-cake experiment.

    Thanks, Kitchen Hand. :-)

  4. wow this looks divine - I might have to get off the dairy to try it! :D

  5. Thanks, Mel! We are developing a habit of keeping some kind of vegan milk next to the dairy stuff in the fridge. :-)