It’s hard to believe that last week marked the one year anniversary of my middle daughter Sarah being diagnosed with Celiac Disease.  This past year has been full of challenges as well as rewards, as we embarked on transitioning our household to completely gluten-free.  Last weekend may have been one of the greatest rewards yet, when my Sarah was able to not only enjoy, but LOVE her first gluten-free birthday!

In line with following our family tradition, Sarah got to choose what she wanted as her special birthday dinner (dessert included).  Her request was Berghoff Bourbon Short Ribs, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin cake.  While I (and with much help from my team at Berghoff) have managed to convert most of my family’s recipes to gluten-free, it is the baking that I have found to be the biggest struggle.   A year ago Sarah would have told you that she wanted Chocolate Sacher Torte Cakes, or what I call, “part of my last meal”, but has since changed her tune after discovering she has an intolerance to chocolate as well (just to add another one to the list).

Thus began our journey for finding a delicious gluten and chocolate-free cake that Sarah (and hopefully the rest of my family) would enjoy.  This was a job that called for my amazing Pastry Chef, Chon Reynozo.  His finished product was Spiced Pumpkin Cake,with cream cheese frosting and toffee chips, and what Sarah calls as “Too Good”.  “It is best to wait till after people try it, to tell them that it is gluten-free, because it is too good to go untried”, Sarah says. We even made Gluten-Free Pumpkin Cupcakes that Sarah could take to school as a birthday treat. So while Sarah turns another year older, my team and I grow another (gluten-free) year wiser.

Sacher Torte Cakes

Yield: Makes 8 servings

This is my version of death by chocolate, and I stand by it. The original Sachertorte, which is trademarked by the Sacher Hotel in Vienna, was created there in 1832 by Franz Sacher. But when I ate Sachertorte at the hotel, I decided that my version, created by pastry chef Chon Reynozo, was much better.


  • 1 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped coarsely
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • Raspberry Sauce
  • 2 ¼ cups frozen raspberries, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • Cakes
  • ¾ cup canola oil
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup brewed black coffee
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup seedless raspberry preserves
  • 6 fresh mint sprigs, for garnish


Make the ganache:

In a double boiler, combine the chocolate and heavy cream; heat gently, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is melted and the ingredients are well combined and smooth. Cool slightly.

Make the raspberry sauce:

In an electric blender, combine the raspberries and confectioners’ sugar, and blend until smooth. Strain the sauce through a fine sieve or cheesecloth to remove the seeds. Refrigerate until serving.

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Spray a 15 ½ by 10 1/2 – inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and line with parchment paper.

Make the cakes:

Using an electric mixer, beat the oil and sugar until well blended. Add the egg, and continue to mix. Set aside.

In a second medium-size mixing bowl, sift all the dry ingredients together. Mix the coffee and buttermilk together in separate small bowl. Slowly add the coffee mixture to egg mixture, alternating with the dry ingredients. Continue mixing at low speed for 4 to 5 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally, until the batter is smooth. The cake batter should have a shiny appearance and will be thin.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until a food pick comes out clean from the center of the cake. Remove from the oven and allow the cake pan to cool to room temperature. Remove the cake from the pan and, using a bread knife, cut in half through the middle to make two 7 ¾ by 10 ½-inch pieces. Spread the raspberry preservers on one half of the cake. Invert the other half of the cake, bottom side up, and place on top of the raspberry preserves. Press gently to hold firmly. Place the raspberry-filled layer cake in the freezer for 1 hour. Remove from the freezer when firm and, using a biscuit cutter, cut into 8 by 2 1/2-inch rounds.

Place the cakes on a wire rack with a tray underneath to catch the chocolate. With a ladle pour the warm ganache over the top and sides of the cakes, allowing the chocolate to drip down and coat all sides evenly. Refrigerate the cakes for 30 minutes before serving.

For each cake, drizzle 3 tablespoons of the raspberry sauce over the bottom of a dessert plate. Gently place the cake in the center of the sauce and garnish with a fresh mint sprig.