Boston Cream Pie, Sachertorte: Cakes That Were Invented At Hotels

World-famous cakes like the Sachertorte and Boston Cream Pie have something in common: They were all invented at hotels.

Chances are you've heard of Vienna's famous Sachertorte, a round cake enrobed in rich dark chocolate with apricot jam between three layers of firm chocolate cake (and served with the requisite side of whipped cream). But not many know the story behind the dessert, which was invented in Vienna in 1832 by 16 year-old apprentice chef Franz Sacher, when an Austrain diplomat requested that a cake be created in his honor. Years later, Sacher's son Eduard further developed the torte into its current form while working at the famous Demel Bakery. And when Eduard established the Hotel Sacher Wien in 1876, the Sachertorte became its signature cake.

Hotel Sacher Wien joined several other grand Viennese hotels that already had signature cakes, which had become somewhat of a trend in the city at the time. Soon, other hotels around the world joined in the cake tradition, from Vienna to New York.

The Imperial Torte at Hotel Imperial

The palatial Hotel Imperial, a Luxury Collection hotel in Vienna that has been welcoming guests since 1873, created their Imperial Torte upon opening. "Legend has it that a kitchen apprentice created the Imperial Torte in honor of Emperor Franz Joseph I on the occasion of the Hotel Imperial's opening in 1873," Mario Habicher, the hotel's general manager, says. "Cacao cream beaten to an ethereal lightness is layered in between delicate wafers of almond pastry and then enveloped in fine marzipan and a rich glaze of chocolate."

Boston Cream Pie at the Omni Parker House

Cake historian Jessica Reed explains that in the early 19th century, restaurants and fine dining in the U.S. were still new, and they provided a prestigious platform for a wider audience. "This was before KitchenAids and reliable ovens—to create a cake took time. If you have a prestigious hotel behind you, why not create a Boston Cream Pie instead of just a pound cake?" Reed says. When the Omni Parker House opened in 1855, New Englanders had already been eating a dessert called "pudding-cake pie," but when Parker House's Chef Sanzian drizzled chocolate icing onto sponge cake filled with vanilla custard, the Boston Cream Pie was born. Another famous creation from the hotel? Parker House Rolls.

Red Velvet Cake at the Waldorf Astoria

Some claim that red velvet cake was created at the Waldorf Astoria New York, and it remains the brand's signature dessert. Legend has it that the chef who developed the recipe kept it a secret until a guest wrote to him asking how to make it. The chef provided the recipe to the guest, but also included a bill for 300 dollars. The guest was so offended that she took revenge by sending the recipe to her friends and family, many of whom were well known New York socialites. Whether or not this is all true, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts have made the red velvet cake a staple on the menus at their hotels around the globe.

The Cake at the Ritz-Carlton

In 2014, the Ritz-Carlton brand formed their signature cake by combining Grand Marnier and rich Valrhona chocolate. Why Grand Marnier? In 1880, when Louis-Alexandre Marnier Lapostolle invented a new liqueur, he named it Curaçao Marnier. His friend, César Ritz, who would open the Ritz Paris just a few years later, suggested that he rename his new liqueur Grand Marnier to give it a name worthy of its opulence.

The Vittoria Cake at the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria

The signature cake at this hotel in Sorrento, Italy, is rooted in tradition. The Vittoria Cake is based on a family recipe from the Fiorentinos, who founded the hotel in 1834 and still own it today. The Fiorentino family would serve this cake—made with nuts, oranges and chocolate, with a small figurine such as a crown or a bean baked inside—to celebrate the Epiphany on January 6. The cake was cut into slices and whoever got the piece with the figurine became king or queen for the night.

Devorah Lev-Tov is a contributing writer for Tasting Table who travels the globe—and traverses NYC block by block—in search of her next amazing meal. See her latest adventures on her Instagram at @devoltv.