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.
Dobos Torte is a five layer sponge cake, filled with a rich chocolate buttercream and topped with thin caramel covered cake wedges. (Some tortes may have as many as 12 layers, but 5-6 is quite standard.) 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, allowing everyone to use it freely.
In simplest terms Dobos Torte is five layers of whisked sponge, layered and covered with an enriched chocolate buttercream and topped with a sixth caramel topped cake layer, that has been cut into triangles and arranged in a fan design. It is this caramel fan which makes a Dobos Torte so unique and instantly recognisable.
Making the Dobos Torte was quite time consuming due to all the individual components, but it was also very enjoyable. I loved all the different techniques involved and seeing it all come together. I had also never made a poured caramel quite like this one before so the recipe was also a wonderful challenge. A recipe truly worthy of its Daring Bakers status.
The cake layers were very light and soft with a slight stickiness that reminded me of angel food cake. The hardest part was finding work surface space for them all to cool down on. Thankfully I did have three cooling racks on which to place them, all lined in a row. The chocolate buttercream took a little work but produced a gorgeous silky smooth and indulgent cream. I added some Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur) to mine and it really took it to the next level, complementing the chocolate flavour so well.
My caramel layer went without a hitch, but you really must keep an eye on it while its boiling away. It stayed a clear sugar mixture for ages and then all of a sudden – whoosh – it became an amber caramel, so don’t ignore it! Once the caramel had set firm, I had fun slicing the excess off the edges. The crack and slice as the shards scattered everywhere, including the floor, was rather satisfying.
The finished cake tasted fabulous. Creamy chocolate and hazelnut cream, soft and squishy layers of sponge and finishing sweet crunch of caramel, just divine. My family and I ate most of it in one afternoon. I found the caramel topping a little hard to eat on the first day, but after a night in the fridge it had softened slightly, allowing you to take a forkful much more easily.
Thanks Angela and Lorraine for such a fantastic challenge choice! Click here to see a list of fellow Daring Bakers and their Tortes.
Sponge Cake Layers
160g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g plain flour
Pinch of salt
200g caster sugar
110g dark chocolate
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tbsp Frangelico (hazelnut liquor – my adaption)
200g caster sugar
40ml lemon juice
50g finely chopped hazelnuts (optional)
12-13 whole peeled hazelnuts
For the Sponge Layers
Position the oven racks into the top third of the oven and preheat to 200C.
Cut out six strips of greaseproof paper to fit a baking tray and draw a 9inch/22.5cm circle on each one. Turn the greaseproof paper over, so the drawn line is not going to come into contact with the food. Lay one sheet ready on a baking tray.
Separate the egg yolks and whites into two large bowls. Whisk the egg whites until foamy and then slowly add half the icing sugar (80g) beating well until a thick and shiny meringue is formed.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks with the vanilla and the other half of the icing sugar (80g) until thick, pale in colour and ribbons form when you lift the beaters above the batter. This should take about 3 minutes.
Add a third of the meringue to the egg yolk mixture and fold together gently using a metal spoon or a spatula. Then lightly fold in the remaining meringue.
Sift over the flour and cornflour in two batches, folding in gently, as before, until no flour streaks remain.
Spoon one-sixth of the batter onto one of the prepared greaseproof papers, spreading it out to fill the circle you drew on earlier. (I found 2 heaped tablespoons of batter was the right amount).
Place the circle of batter into the oven and bake for 5 minutes. Prepare the next cake circle on a second baking tray while the first one bakes.
After 5 minutes the cake should be puffy and lightly golden. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool, leaving it attached to its base paper.
Place the second cake circle in the oven and prepare the third one in similar fashion. Continue until you have 6 baked cake circles.
For the Chocolate Buttercream
Half fill a saucepan with water and allow to come to a boil. Break the chocolate into small pieces and set aside. Meanwhile, beat the eggs and sugar together in a bowl (not a plastic one as its going over the heat) until it has tripled in volume, turned pale, thick and creamy, around 3-5 minutes.
Place the bowl over the top of the boiling water in the saucepan, but don’t allow the bowl to touch the water. Continue to whisk for 3 minutes until the mixture has warmed and is starting to thicken.
Add the chocolate to the mix and whisk until melted and well combined. It should be shiny and sticky at this stage.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
Once cool, beat the mixture and add the Frangelico if using. Continue mixing and add the soft butter in small chunks. It should start to stiffen, turn paler and become more creamy. Chill until required.
For the Caramel Top Layer
Use a shape serrated knife and the base of an 8inch/20cm cake tin to cut out rounds from your six cooled cake layers. Select the best one to be your top caramel covered layer and set the rest aside.
Cut your chosen top layer into 12 triangle portions and place on a baking tray lined with a well greased sheet of greaseproof paper or silicon mat. Reform the triangles to their original circle shape.
Oil a small metal knife or spatula and have it to hand.
Heat the sugar, water and lemon juice together in a small saucepan. Stir until the sugar has dissolved before bringing to a boil. Do not stir, but watch over it from now it. It will gradually turn a light brown before suddenly turning into an amber caramel colour. Immediately remove from the heat and carefully pour the hot caramel over the surface of the cut cake layer. Use the oiled knife to help you spread it out to the edges, but be quick as it starts to set after 20seconds.
Leave to cool and set hard before peeling off the paper, transferring to a chopping board and re-cutting the cake into its precut triangles. Use a long sharp knife and try to make each cut in one quick movement to prevent and layer from shattering where you don’t want it to. Slice the excess caramel off the outside too.
To Assemble the Cake
Place one of your five remaining the cake layers onto a serving plate and spread over 2 tablespoons of the chocolate buttercream. Repeat with the remaining cake layers.
After the final cake layer, use most of the remaining buttercream to cover the top and sides of the cake. Reserve 2-3 tablespoons for decoration.
Put the remaining buttercream in a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle. Pipe 12 swirls around the edge of the cake and place one of the whole hazelnuts on top.
Place one of the caramel topped cake triangles at a slant, half resting on top of the hazelnut, with the point facing inwards. Repeat with the other triangles to create a fan design.
Press the chopped hazelnuts onto the outside of the cake if desired.
Makes one 8inch/20cm 5 layer cake. Serves 12