The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.
The Dobos Torta is a five-layer sponge cake, filled with a rich chocolate buttercream and topped with thin wedges of caramel. (You may come across recipes which have anywhere between six and 12 layers of cake; there are numerous family variations!) It was invented in 1885 by József C. Dobos, a Hungarian baker, and it rapidly became famous throughout Europe for both its extraordinary taste and its keeping properties. The recipe was a secret until Dobos retired in 1906 and gave the recipe to the Budapest Confectioners' and Gingerbread Makers' Chamber of Industry, providing that every member of the chamber can use it freely.
When I first looked at this recipe I had no idea what to do with such a festive, upscale looking cake. Then coincidentally my mother mentionned she was going to the annual potluck barbecue hosted by the Cancer Agency where she volunteers. PERFECT! Now my cake will have somewhere to make its appearance and be appreciated. The barbecue was on Saturday, so that's the reason/excuse for why this Dobos Torte is a little late for this month's DB. It was a hit! Everyone thought my mom had bought it and asked her what bakery it was from. To me, that's the ultimate compliment.
The ingredients and procedure for this cake are surprisingly simple. As others have mentionned, the most challenging part is the caramel layer. I didn't use the one provided with this month's challenge. I opted for a dry rather than a wet caramel. I cut the slices through all the way before covering with caramel. When the caramel was semi-set I used a very sharp, very buttery knife to cut through the caramel and separate the wedges to set fully. This seemed to work quite well. If i had a Silpat mat I would have definitly used it! My buttercream didn't turn out as dark as I wanted although it was still delicious. I would make this again but reverse the flavors so it would be a white chocolate buttercream on a dark chocolate sponge cake.
I urge you to try this recipe. I have included my adapted version below. For the original, see either one of the hosts' blogs above.
Recipe adapted from Kaffehauss by Rick Rodgers | Makes 8" cake
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups (162g) confectioner’s (icing) sugar, divided
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (112g) sifted cake flour
pinch of salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (200g) caster (ultrafine or superfine white) sugar
4oz (110g) bakers chocolate or your favourite dark chocolate, finely chopped
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250g) unsalted butter, at room temperature.
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp butter
8" cardboard round
12 whole nuts (hazelnuts, pecans, whatever)
Directions for the sponge layers:
NB. The sponge layers can be prepared in advance and stored interleaved with parchment and well-wrapped in the fridge overnight.
1. Position the racks in the top and centre thirds of the oven and heat to 400F (200C).
2. Cut six pieces of parchment paper to fit the baking sheets. Using the bottom of a 9″ (23cm) springform tin as a template and a dark pencil or a pen, trace a circle on each of the papers, and turn them over (the circle should be visible from the other side, so that the graphite or ink doesn’t touch the cake batter.)
3. Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 cup (81g) of the confectioner’s (icing) sugar, and the vanilla in a medium bowl with a mixer on high speed until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and forms a thick ribbon when the beaters are lifted a few inches above the batter, about 3 minutes.
4. In another bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 2/3 cup (81g) of confectioner’s (icing) sugar until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remainder, leaving a few wisps of white visible. Combine the flour and salt. Sift half the flour over the eggs, and fold in; repeat with the remaining flour.
5. Line one of the baking sheets with a circle-marked paper. Using a small offset spatula, spread about 3/4cup of the batter in an even layer, filling in the traced circle on one baking sheet. Bake on the top rack for 5 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed gently in the centre and the edges are lightly browned. While this cake bakes, repeat the process on the other baking sheet, placing it on the centre rack. When the first cake is done, move the second cake to the top rack. Invert the first cake onto a flat surface and carefully peel off the paper. Slide the cake layer back onto the paper and let stand until cool. Rinse the baking sheet under cold running water to cool, and dry it before lining with another parchment. Continue with the remaining papers and batter to make a total of six layers. Completely cool the layers.
Directions for the chocolate buttercream:
NB. This can be prepared in advance and kept chilled until required.
1. Prepare a double-boiler: quarter-fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil.
2. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale and thickened, about five minutes. You can use a balloon whisk or electric hand mixer for this.
3. Fit bowl over the boiling water in the saucepan (water should not touch bowl) and lower the heat to a brisk simmer. Cook the egg mixture, whisking constantly, for 2-3 minutes until you see it starting to thicken a bit. Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate and cook, stirring, for a further 2-3 minutes.
4. Scrape the chocolate mixture into a medium bowl and leave to cool to room temperature. It should be quite thick and sticky in consistency.
5.When cool, beat in the soft butter, a small piece (about 2 tablespoons/30g) at a time. Make sure the butter is very soft (running a knife through it will provide little resistance) before you try to beat it into the chocolate mixture. Also, if you beat the butter in while the chocolate mixture is hot you’ll end up with more of a ganache than a buttercream. You should end up with a thick, velvety chocolate buttercream. Chill while you make the caramel topping.
Directions for the caramel topping:
1. Choose the best-looking cake layer for the caramel top. Bring to room temperature before spreading the caramel on it. Place the reserved cake layer on a greased jellyroll pan. Cut the cake into 12 equal wedges. Lightly butter a thin, sharp knife and an offset metal spatula.
2. Place the sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan over low-medium. It will slowly dissolve. Keep a close eye on it and swirl the pot every few minutes. It will also darken. Add the lemon juice when almost all the sugar has dissolved. Lift and swirl. The moment the caramel darkens to an amber color, stir in butter. (It will hiss and bubble and spit at you!). Stir it in to melt it, working quickly before the caramel hardens.
3. Using the offset spatula, quickly spread the caramel evenly to the edge of the cake layer. Let cool until beginning to set. Using the tip of the hot buttered knife (keep re-oiling this between cutting), cut through the scored marks to divide the caramel layer into 12 equal wedges. Cool another minute or so, then use the edge of the knife to completely cut and separate the wedges using one firm slice movement (rather than rocking back and forth which may produce toffee strands). Cool completely.
Assembling the Dobos:
1.Divide the buttercream into six equal parts.
2.Place a dab of chocolate buttercream on the middle of a cardboard round and top with one cake layer. Spread the layer with one part of the chocolate icing. Repeat with 4 more cake layers. Holding a knife vertically up to the side of the cake, carefully level out the sides. Spread the remaining icing on the sides of the cake.
3.Optional: press 1/2 cup chopped nuts onto the sides of the cake.
4.Propping a nut under each wedge so that it sits at an angle, arrange the wedges on top of the cake in a spoke pattern. If you have any leftover buttercream, you can pipe rosettes under each hazelnut or a large rosette in the centre of the cake. Refrigerate the cake under a cake dome until the icing is set, about 2 hours. Let slices come to room temperature for the best possible flavour.