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Sometimes monuments are not to be found in churches, on the street or in museums, but rather in restaurants and bakeries. When visiting Vienna, it is essential to find a quiet moment to sit down in a cafe and sample a portion of one of the emblems of Austrian national confectionery: Sachertorte.
In order to trace the origins of Sacher-Torte one must go back to 1832, when one Franz Sacher, who at the time was an apprentice chef, had to step into the shoes of the personal chef to Prince Metternich, who had taken ill. Faced with the need to create a new dessert that would not disappoint the then Austrian Chancellor, Sacher came upon this chocolate marvel.
The ideal place to sample this delicious dessert is in the luxurious surroundings of the Hotel Sacher, a true five-star hotel that was founded in 1876 by Eduard, the son of the creator of the cake, though it is best remembered for the glory days it reached during the period when it was managed by his widow, Anna, from 1892 until her death in 1930. Legend has it that Anna, a true lover of Cuban cigars, was a veritable institution, just like the hotel itself.
Since its opening, the hotel has been the meeting place for the cream of Viennese society, where illustrious writers, diplomats and aristocrats would garnish their conversations with generous portions of sublime cake. We know not whether it was the influence of the delicious cake or the power of cocoa to instil passion, but it is said that the hotel was often used for the extramarital affairs of the rich and noble. Even today the very walls of the hotel still retain their sumptuous décor of marble, velvet, red, gold and beautiful paintings... Maybe after trying the delicious cake in the cafe you will want to spend the night.
Thanks to its combination of luxury, comfort, tradition and modernity. the hotel is still a meeting place for politicians, aristocrats, businessmen and artists from around the world, visitors having included such eminent figures as the Prince of Monaco, Indira Gandhi, Queen Elizabeth II and Herbert von Karajan.
As curiosities you may be interested to know that the hotel was built on the site where the great composer Antonio Vivaldi once lived, and that at the end of World War II, when Austria was occupied, the British used the hotel as their headquarters, and finally, of course, as one of the great emblems Vienna, the hotel also appears in the film The Third Man.
The famous Café Demel has been a constant competitor with the Sacher Hotel for the right to sell their product as the "Original Sacher-Torte", and the fact is that the nearby cafe has always claimed that it sold the authentic cake as one of the members of the Sacher family had sold them the recipe. In any event the dispute ended up in court, where the judge upheld the Sacher Hotel, awarding them the right to name their dessert as the "authentic and original Sacher", though all the titles in the world will not stop the cake being imitated by anyone and everyone.
However, while the essential elements of this work of art are well known, the recipe for the original Sacher-Torte is kept in a safe by the creator's heirs.
What certainly cannot be taken away from the hotel is the fact that since 1998 it is listed in the Guinness Book of Records for having produced a Sacher of 2.5 metres in diameter.
The internationally renowned cake consists of chocolate sponge separated by a thin layer of apricot jam. The whole sweet combination is then topped by a meticulous, smooth and thick chocolate coating. Sometimes you may also be rewarded with a little whipped cream on the side.
Anyhow, as you will find Sacher cake in everywhere from the grubbiest bar to the most select cafe, make sure the establishment where you are going to try this delicacy offers a homemade product containing quality ingredients. That is the best guarantee for an authentic Viennese experience. Oh, and despite the fact that the coffee here is great, do not forget that Sacher cake also pairs well with champagne.
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