Daring Baker August 2009 - ARRRGGHHHH!

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 Caffes of Vienna. Budapest, and Prague.

So, what is the Dobos Torta (or Torte)?

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.
Thank you Angela  and Lorraine for hosting this month's challenge.
So, how, pray tell, you might ask, did I end up with the concoction below???

This is my first Daring Baker entry and I must say when I found out what the challenge was, I wasn't particularly elated. Nevertheless, it was going to be a challenge and that was the purpose of participating in the Daring Bakers' challenge. This reminded me of the lapis legit I made, with the added fussiness of having to cut out numerous rounds of parchment paper and also multiple bakings. 

I stumbled several times. Firstly, I didn't halve the sugar and used it all up in the initial process, not saving any for the egg white & sugar part. This might explain why the cake resembled slightly of sweet omelette, and slightly rubbery. I loved, loved, loved the buttercream!!! It was simply delicious. The best I have ever tasted. Alas, it was at a temperamental consistency. It simply wouldn't thicken up enough or set enough. It was fine as long as it stayed in the fridge, but at room temperature, it would start to melt and going slippery slide-y. I initially thought that perhaps I just didn't cook the buttercream enough and made a mental note of this. 

The caramel part, I did not enjoy at all. I didn't rate the lemon component of the caramel very highly and I felt it gave the caramel a strange aftertaste. I also didn't cook the caramel for long enough which meant the caramel wouldn't set hard and crisp. 

Constructing the dobos was interesting. I had cut rounds out of the sheets of layer cake so I ended up with a tower dobos. It looks pretty dinky and cute, even when it did decide to lean sideways like the leaning tower of Pisa. I remedied this by sticking a skewer right through to the base. I also had to keep putting it into the fridge from time to time so I could slow down the melting process. 

I also gave this recipe another go recently. I played around with the filling -omitting the buttercream in between the layers and using rose petal jam instead. I made the same buttercream but instead of using dark chocolate, I used white chocolate. Again, the buttercream refused to set enough to make it easily useable and I think next time, I will add some cream of tartar(?) to help it along. I don't think the white chocolate tasted as nice as the dark chocolate but that could be due to the fact I had added so much icing sugar to get the buttercream stiffer. 

This time, I actually make the sponge layers according to the instructions (YAYY!!!) and I have to say, the texture was much improved. 

My conclusion, I don't think I would make this dobos torte in the form that the recipe suggests. The recipe is still a keeper though. The buttercream is yummy, the cake is very tasty and there is a gem of an cake idea in the making so watch this space. 


Recipe by: Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague, by Rick Rodgers
Yield: about 11-12 pieces of torte

2 baking sheets
9” (23cm) springform tin and 8” cake tin, for templates
mixing bowls (1 medium, 1 large)
a sieve
a double boiler (a large saucepan plus a large heat-proof mixing bowl which fits snugly over the top of the pan)
a small saucepan
a whisk (you could use a balloon whisk for the entire cake, but an electric hand whisk or stand mixer will make life much easier)
metal offset spatula
sharp knife
a 7 1/2” cardboard cake round (or just build cake on the base of a sprinfrom tin)
12 whole hazelnuts, peeled and toasted (I used macadamia nuts)
½ cup (50g) peeled and finely chopped hazelnuts
piping bag and tip, optional
Prep times
Sponge layers 20 mins prep, 40 mins cooking total if baking each layer individually.
Buttercream: 20 mins cooking. Cooling time for buttercream: about 1 hour plus 10 minutes after this to beat and divide.
Caramel layer: 10-15 minutes.
Assembly of whole cake: 20 minutes
Sponge Cake Ingredients
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
Chocolate Buttercream Ingredients
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 (I used Belgian chocolate)
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250g) unsalted butter, at room temperature.
Caramel Topping Ingredients
1 cup (200g) caster (superfine or ultrafine white) sugar
12 tablespoons (180 ml) water
8 teaspoons (40 ml) lemon juice
1 tablespoon neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed, rice bran, sunflower)
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. (You can do this step with a balloon whisk if you don’t have a mixer.) 
Note: I leveled each sponge layer after baking per a great suggestion from other Daring Bakers. I did this by covering the layer with an oiled, cocoa powder dusted sheet of parchment paper and then pressing another sheet pan down on the layer to even it out. 
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.)
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. 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.
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. Male 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!
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-coloured caramel.
3. The top layer is perhaps the hardest part of the whole cake so make sure you have a oiled, hot offset spatula ready. I also find it helps if the cake layer hasn’t just been taken out of the refrigerator. I made mine ahead of time and the cake layer was cold and the toffee set very, very quickly—too quickly for me to spread it. Immediately pour all of the hot caramel over the cake layer. You will have some leftover most probably but more is better than less and you can always make nice toffee pattern using the extra to decorate. 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.
Angela’s note: I recommend 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, then I highly recommend placing the wedges in 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:
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 icing on the sides of the cake.
3. Optional: press the 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 flavour.
Don’t forget to visit Daring Bakers and see other interpretations  of the Dobos Torte created! And don't forget to come back to tell me that I really didn't do that badly. 

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  1. Stumbles or not, you did a wonderful job - Congrats on your first challenge!! I love the shapes and flavours you made =D.

  2. What do you mean say something nice I'll say exactly what I mean and I mean you are one Daring Baker and your result stunned me in many ways. Your determination to finish the torta, the way you handled very obstacle on the way to the 'broken glass' torta you present. Your torta had so many comments on the forums from everybody and they all said the same thing 'great effort'. And it is clear to me you learnt a lot from the first torta looking at your second torta. And it is clear to me you are a wonderful addition to the Daring Bakers forum. And a huge welcome to the Daring Kitchen and congrats on your first challenge. Your are one very DARING Daring Baker. Cheers from Audax in Australia. Will be looking out for your other challenge reveals.

  3. Heeehee. I will take that as being told. :P

    Thanks for the crazy thin layers inspiration though.

  4. You finished it Yeah! This was one of the toughest challenges yet I think. Everything had to be just right for it to work. I had to change it because of the humidity. Possibly this recipe should be made in the winter only. Anyway it tasted good. See you next month.

  5. I love how you compare this cake to lapis legit. It does require almost the same time and effort to do. Your torte looks lovely.

  6. Great first challenge!!!!

  7. Welcome to the Daring Bakers! Good job for not only doing it once, but twice!! :)

  8. I think you did very well and your cake looks delicious!
    Congratulations on your first challenge!

  9. Congratulations on completing your first DB Challenge! I like the stained glass look on your cake, but sorry to read about the finicky buttercream. I agree the lemon caramel just ain't that good.


Say something nice..... :P