On the Dean’s list

Sachertorte is “the most famous cake in the world since 1832,” at least according to the website of Vienna’s Hotel Sacher. It’s also Dean John Boyer’s favorite dessert. The exact recipe is a hotel secret, but here’s a reasonably authentic, slightly simplified version.

Adapted by Carrie Golus, AM’91, AM’93, from


4½ oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
9 tbs butter, room temperature
1 c powdered sugar
6 large eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla
½ c granulated sugar
1 c all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly butter two 9" springform pans and line the bottom with parchment or wax paper.

Melt the chocolate in a microwave or double boiler. Beat the butter on high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Beat in the powdered sugar. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time. Beat in the chocolate and vanilla.

Beat the egg whites and granulated sugar in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Do not overbeat. Stir about a quarter of the whites into the batter, then fold in the remaining whites. Sift half the flour over the batter and fold in. Repeat with the rest of the flour.

Pour half the batter into each springform pan and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick in the center comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Remove the sides of the pan and flip the cake onto a plate. Remove the paper and flip over. Cool completely.


Apricot glaze

1¼ c apricot preserves
2 tbs golden rum

Bring the preserves and rum to boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring often. Cook until very sticky, about 2–3 minutes. Brush the glaze on the top of one cake layer, then put the other layer on top. Brush the top and sides of the cake with the rest of the glaze.


Chocolate glaze

1 c sugar
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ c water

Bring the sugar, chocolate, and water to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring, about 5 minutes. Pour the warm chocolate glaze over the cake, allowing it to run down the sides. Patch any bare spots with the glaze that has dripped onto the plate.

Cool until glaze is barely set, then transfer to a clean plate. Refrigerate until glaze is completely set, about 1 hour.


Whipped cream

1 c heavy cream
2 tbs sugar
½ tsp vanilla

Pour the cream into a well-chilled bowl and add the sugar and vanilla. Using a hand mixer, beat until soft peaks form.

Remove the cake from the refrigerator about an hour before serving. Slice with a sharp knife dipped in hot water and serve with a large dollop of whipped cream on the side. Enjoy while reading a book on the Habsburg Empire, preferably in German.


When Dean Boyer, AM’69, PhD’75, teaches his civilization course in Vienna, he takes the students out for a Thanksgiving goose feast with a Sachertorte finish. He also regularly serves Sachertorte when he entertains at home.

The cake is a little drier than the typical American dessert; to compensate, dip every bite in the whipped cream before you eat it. Traditionally (unlike in this recipe) the whipped cream is unsweetened. (Photography by Tom Tian, AB’10)