Global Issues: Austria & Czech Republic/Case Reports/Torte Wars
Historical Issues: Vienna, Austria
In Linz, Austria the oldest tradition of "Torte" or cake can be traced to a black currant latice work detailed creation in the year 1696. The "Linzertorte" as it is known today is still produced using much of the original recipe and 80,000 tortes are produced each year for Austrians and people all over the world. A history of fine torte production has followed over the years in Austria and this art form has become an intertwined aspect of Viennese culture.
In 1832 in Vienna, a talented sixteen year old apprentice chef named Franz Sacher created a very special chocolate cake. The legendary story began when Prince Metternich requested a mememorable creation be prepared for some important visitors; that day the head chef was home sick and the order became the young Sacher's first culinary test and proved to be his enduring legacy. The Original Sacher Torte was created and established a long line of rivals and imitators that can still be found to this day in many of Vienna's finest kaffeehauser(coffee houses).
It is important to realize Vienna's claim of being the "coffee house capital of the world". A strong tradition of coffee houses created an environment where people both local and visitors could meet, share ideas, and leisurely discuss the events of the day. The coffee houses status in Vienna would become central to its culture and tradition with the cornerstone of each fine coffee house being its freshly baked cakes. The analogy of Vienna's coffee house and fine cakes would be similar to the tradition of baseball and apple pie in the USA.
These classic tortes overtime became highly regarded works of art and intense rivalries developed as to who could create the finest work of art. Today, the Original Sacher Torte is one of the most recognized cakes in the world and even helped establish the five star Hotel Sacher Wein founded in 1876 by Franz Sacher's son, Eduard Sacher. The Original Sacher Torte is still made almost entirely by hand using Franz Sacher's recipe and is a closely guarded secret. More than 360,000 cakes a year are made in Vienna by its 41 employees, many of which are shipped all over the world allowing a "taste of Vienna" to be delivered to many far away places. The most popular destinations for its cakes are Germany, Italy, France, The USA, and many countries in Asia. The Original Sacher Torte is a combination of two layers of soft and light chocolate cake separated by apricot jam and coated with a chocolate icing, often accompanied with unsweetened whipped cream.
The tradition of Grand Hotels having their own signature cake continued with the creation of the "Imperial Torte" to celebrate the opening of the Hotel Imperial during the 1873 World's Fair in Vienna. The cake was designed to impress the Emperor Francis Joseph I and the square shaped chocolate torte is still produced today. Other Vienesse classic cakes include a Sacher Torte made by Demel confectionery which up until the early 1960's had fought a legal battle over the name rights of the cake. The "Esterhazy Torte" can trace its legacy back to the days of the ruling Hungarian family of the same name and is still produced in many of Vienna's coffee houses.
The issue of the "torte wars" and the competition to create a memorable cake is significant when you consider how coffee houses and their cakes have become an integral part of Viennese culture. When the question is asked, how much of this culture has shaped the world? Consider how many coffee houses (although somewhat less refined) are there in the US today. It would be difficult to walk more than a few blocks in most major US cities without walking past some type of American style coffee house selling freshly baked goods with gourmet coffee. Bookstore/coffee houses often provide the same type of environment, a place to relax, meet friends or family, and talk about important issues in peoples lives. Many Americans officially start their day with a visit to the local coffee house and the number of new franchises being established shows the trend in America has embraced part of this export of Viennese culture.