This month's Daring Bakers' challenge is co-hosted by Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella and Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar. They chose Dobos torte.
According to Angela and Lorraine, the Dobos torte is a five-layer sponge cake, filled with a chocolate buttercream and topped with thin wedges of caramel. 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.
I originally planned to pass on this month's challenge because it's summer time and I wanted to spend as much time away from the kitchen as possible. Even though we only need to complete 8 out of 12 challenges per year to maintain good DB standing, as the posting date approached, I felt guilty for skipping one due to laziness. I blame it on my OCD. I just like knowing that I can check this one off my list. So at the last minute I threw this cake together.
The sponge cake recipe was straightforward. I was too lazy to bake the cake in six rounds so I just spread the batter in two half-sheet pans and cut out rectangular layers. My sponge layers ended up too thick since I used only two half-sheet pans for the whole quantity of batter. I should have used three pans instead of two. My frosting and cake layering skills need some work. It bothers me that my buttercream layers are so much thinner than the cake layers.
I've only made Swiss meringue buttercream before so using whole eggs for this particular buttercream recipe was new to me. Even though I used a 60% cacao chocolate, I felt the buttercream was too sweet. But I really enjoyed the whole egg method. The chocolate buttercream turned out super rich due to the egg yolks and the buttercream did not feel too greasy or taste overly buttery. The recipe was also very forgiving. I thought my chocolate-egg mixture was cool enough to start adding the butter, but after beating in all the butter my buttercream was still a bit runny. So I chilled it in the refrigerator for 15 minutes and then beat it until it was the proper fluffiness.
I didn’t want the caramel coating on the top cake layer to be so hard that it would be impossible to fork through it so I thought that adding a little butter to the caramel might help. When the sugar reached a medium amber color I added a generous tablespoon of unsalted butter and swirled it until melted and proceeded to coat my cake layer. I had a minor mishap involving the hot pan and my sink so I was distracted. I was distracted for less than a minute but it was long enough that the caramel I poured over the cake layer had already started to set so I was unable to coat the cake layer as well as I should have.
I could fork through the caramel coated cake layer without any problems. I was worried that the caramel might be too hard or stick to my teeth but it wasn't and it didn't. The caramel shattered perfectly and melted it my mouth. I'm not sure if it turned out so well because I took the sugar to the correct stage or because I added the butter.
I read somewhere that the caramel coated cake layer was the key to the Dobos torte's "keeping properties". Well, I can't speak to that, but I can say that the caramel coated cake layer technique is something I will keep with me and use for other cakes. The caramel coated cake layer was my favorite part of the Dobos torte.
The fine print:
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.
Sponge cake layers
* 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
Directions for the sponge layers:
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. (You can do this step with a balloon whisk if you don't have a mixer.)
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. Using an 8" springform pan bottom or plate as a template, trim each cake layer into a neat round. (A small serrated knife is best for this task.)
* 4 large eggs, at room temperature
* 1 cup (200g) caster (ultrafine or superfine white) sugar
* 4oz (110g) bakers chocolate or your favorite dark chocolate, finely chopped
* 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250g) unsalted butter, at room temperature.
Directions for the chocolate buttercream:
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. An electric hand mixer is great here, but it is possible to beat the butter in with a spatula if it is soft enough. You should end up with a thick, velvety chocolate buttercream. Chill while you make the caramel topping.
[Co-host Lorraine's note: If you're in winter just now your butter might not soften enough at room temperature, which leads to lumps forming in the buttercream. Make sure the butter is of a very soft texture i.e. 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!]
* 1 cup (200g) caster (superfine or ultrafine white) sugar
* 12 tablespoons (180 ml) water
* 8 teaspoons (40 ml) lemon juice
* about 1 tablespoon neutral oil (for coating the spatula and knife)
Directions for the caramel topping:
1. Choose the best-looking cake layer for the caramel top. To make the caramel topping: Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper and butter the paper. Place the reserved cake layer on the paper. Score the cake into 12 equal wedges. Lightly oil a thin, sharp knife and an offset metal spatula.
2. Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Once dissolved into a smooth syrup, turn the heat up to high and boil without stirring, swirling the pan by the handle occasionally and washing down any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan with a wet brush until the syrup has turned into an amber-colored caramel.
3. Using the offset spatula, quickly spread the caramel evenly to the edge of the cake layer. Let cool until beginning to set, about 30 seconds. Using the tip of the hot oiled knife (keep re-oiling this with a pastry brush 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.
[Note: Co-host Angela recommends cutting, rather than scoring, the cake layer into wedges before covering in caramel (reform them into a round). If you have an 8” silicon round form, place the wedges on that for easy removal later and it also ensures that the caramel stays on the cake layer. Once set, use a very sharp knife to separate the wedges.]
Assembling the Dobos torte:
1. Divide the buttercream into six equal parts.
2. Place a dab of chocolate buttercream on the middle of a 7 1/2” cardboard round and top with one cake layer. Spread the layer with one part of the chocolate icing. Repeat with 4 more cake layers. Spread the remaining buttercream on the sides of the cake.
3. Optional: Press finely chopped hazelnuts onto the sides of the cake.
4. Propping a hazelnut 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 flavor.