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 Torta based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.
Dobos torta (/'doboʃ/, Hungarian: dobostorta, Slovak: doboška) is a famous Hungarian cake, famous also in Slovakia, invented by and named after a well-known Hungarian confectioner, József C. Dobos (1847-1924) in 1884. It is a five-layer sponge cake, layered with chocolate buttercream and topped with thin caramel slices. The sides of the cake are sometimes coated with ground hazelnuts, chestnuts, walnuts or almonds but the original cake is without coat, since it was a slice of a big cake. Dobos's aim was to make a cake that would last longer than other pastries, in an age when cooling techniques were limited. The caramel topping helps keep the cake from drying out. The cake is also often called 'Dobos-torta' or 'Dobostorta'.
Dobosh or Dobos Torta (type of cake) was first introduced at the National General Exhibition of Budapest in 1885; Franz Joseph I and his Empress Elisabeth were among the first to taste it. The cake soon became popular throughout Europe as it was different from all others. It was simple but elegant, as opposed to the multi-storey, flaming cakes of the age. Its other secret was its use of fine buttercream, which was very little known at the time; cake fillings and frostings were usually made with cooked pastry cream or whipped cream. The chocolate buttercream and the batter of the cake were both invented by Jozsef C. Dobos.
Dobos travelled around Europe and introduced the cake wherever he went. For a long time he kept the exact recipe confidential, until 1906 when he retired and gave the original recipe to the Budapest Confectioners' and Gingerbread Makers' Chamber of Industry, providing that every member of the chamber can use it freely.
Dobos Torta is known everywhere in the world and there are more than one hundred recipe variations. It is a commonly made torta in the upscale hotels, restaurants and pastry shops of the world.
Thanks Angela and Lorraine for a fantastic choice.
This was an effort it has 32 layers and I followed the recipe below I coated the layers of sponge with unsweetened coffee syrup. Tastes like elegance and definitely worth it. No real problems with any part of the challenge. Try it with coffee it is even better. I used ground hazelnuts on the sides and the toffee had a nice lemon after-taste that really set off the cake. (A lot of the Daring Bakers' found the buttercream was too soft and that the lemon wasn't the best taste for the caramel and it was very difficult to apply to the top of the cake slices). This is a two person cake though it feed four after a lunch. I think I got the toffee layer too thick on the torta pieces but it was nice and crisp. I followed the recipe I just did a jelly roll (Swiss slice) pan of sponge very thin and cut the baked sponge into many squares. Then I cut each square into halves to get thin layers of sponge.
Above #54595 Tastespotting
The Verdict - This is a very delicious torta and the addition of the coffe syrup really adds to the taste. The buttercream is sweet so I only used the bare minimum if you don't have a sweet tooth use unsweetened bitter chocolate in the buttercream this will counteract the sweetness. I like the lemon aftertaste in the caramel and even if it was thick it was crisp and a nice contrast to the softness of the torta.
I did chocolate sponge layers (added some cocoa powder to the batter). I did a much better job of doing the caramel pieces this time I was very happy with them.
I then filled the torta with coconut buttercream and bittersweet chocolate buttercream in alternating layers and garnished with moist fresh shreaded coconut.
The cut torta I soaked the layers in strong coffee.
The Verdict - Even better than the first one, the contrasting flavours and colours were delightful and this time I toned down the sweetness. I also like I had a nice close grained crumb in the sponge which was very nice to eat.
If you want to see some truely creative versions of the Dobos torta see here it is Lisa's site (Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives)
Tips and hints on torta making and baking
How to make level even thick or thin torta layers
Remember you are the boss and not the cake. I'm very bossy when it comes to torta. Below is the method I use to make layer cakes. It can be used to make thick or thin even layers. You will found that the edges will be slighter thinner than the middle but not by much. And making a great torta is about mixing and matching the cut-outs to make the finished torta even there will be some wastage.
I used 1/12 (one half of an egg white and half an yolk) of the recipe to make a 30cmx30cm (12"x12") thin layer of torta for demonstration purposes below.
Prepare the baking paper – iron both sheets to make them flat and smooth. Then spray some oil spray on the baking sheet and place one sheet on it do not spray the top side. Then spray the other sheet and cover the oil evenly with cocoa powder (or flour).
This is the most important step place some batter on the paper without the oil and spread as evenly as possible take your time and do a good job, the better you do here the easier it is to cut and you will have less wastage.
Then place the other paper with the cocoa (or flour) on top of the spread out layer. The cocoa helps you remove the top sheet and helps when you spread the top of batter with the rolling pin. Now use a light weight 12oz (330grams) or less rolling pin and roll very gently over the paper, do it very gently, at first use your fingers to take the weight of the rolling pin then slowly and gently while rolling use the full weight of rolling pin, you shouldn't have batter coming from the edges this makes for a very flat even layer. Hold the rolling pin level to the pan with your fingers just below the height of the paper so when you roll gently the action is only making the top of the layer even. The idea is to even out the top of the batter and not move batter to edges. A good torta sponge can take the weight of the rolling pin and not move too much of the batter to the edges. This method does not work well if you haven't done a good job on spreading the batter onto the parchment paper in the first place. It makes for a very smooth flat thin layer when presentation is paramount.
Bake in the oven, when you smell sponge it is ready this layer took about 4 mins and you will find that the top parchment paper lifts and puffs up from the sponge layer and makes for easy removal. If you are making very thin layers - when the sponge is still warm cut into the shape you require using a knife or scissors. How thin can you make the sponge. See for yourself I used scissors to cut the sponge. No the sponge isn't crisp in fact it is soft - I find that thin layers are nicest and hold the max amount of icing.
The torta tower I made for the challenge used thin layers about a matchstick thick. It was only about a matchstick and half high and I used one egg (that is 1/6 of the recipe) enough for two people I had about 5% wastage of the baked layer near the edges. The sponge is not crisp also I usually use coffee or liquor to moisten the sponge when I make the completed torta.
Lightly pressing the still hot unmoulded sponge cake with another unused sheet pan to level the top of the cake is the easiest method I think to make the sponge layers even and also I did spread the cold buttercream between two pieces of parchment to make those layers very even and then placed them in the freezer to make them hard and then cut them to the same shape as the cold sponge layers then I assembled the torta. Cold sponge is much firmer and easier to cut and handle than room temperature cake. This is how to make the most even and level torta you can.
Icing the Torta
*Chill the torta between the filling of the layers and the final icing. The torta will be much easier to work with.
*Apply a thin layer of icing to the torta then refrigerate until it is set before applying the final, heavier layer of icing. This will seal in the crumbs, ensuring a clean final appearance.
Making even thin layes from a thick layer
1.To split a cake into layers, loop a length of waxed dental floss around the outside of the cake at the point you want the cut, then cross the ends and pull gently but firmly. The floss will cut right through the cake.
2.An easy way to split layers evenly: Measure halfway up side of each layer and insert wooden picks into the cake all around, about 1 to 1 1/2 inches apart. Rest a long serrated knife on wooden picks, using them as a guide on where to slice. Discard wooden picks before proceeding with the icing.
How to ice many layers at once and keep them straight.
1.If tiers of a multi-layer cake slip as you are applying icing, insert strands of uncooked spaghetti through the cake for support. Carefully pull out spaghetti when the icing has set.
2.To prevent icing from running off your cake, try dusting the surface lightly with cornstarch or cocoa before icing.
Testing for doneness
When testing a large cake to see if it is done, use a strand of uncooked spaghetti. It reaches where a wooden pick won't.
Cutting your torta
Use unflavored dental floss to slice evenly and cleanly through a cake or torta. Simply stretch a length of the floss taut and press down through the cake.
Recipe Dobos Torta
2 baking sheets
9” (23cm) springform tin and 8” cake tin, for templates
mixing bowls (1 medium, 1 large)
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
a 7 1/2” cardboard cake round, or just build cake on the base of a sprinfrom tin.
piping bag and tip, optional
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 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 (SUBSTITUTE 95g plain flour + 17g cornflour (cornstarch) sifted together)
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.
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)
a 7” cardboard round
12 whole hazelnuts, peeled and toasted
½ cup (50g) peeled and finely chopped hazelnuts
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.)
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.
I (Angela) am quite happy to store this cake at room temperature under a glass dome, but your mileage may vary. If you do decide to chill it, then I would advise also using a glass dome if you have done. I should also note that the cake will cut more cleanly when chilled.
Shape: The traditional shape of a Dobos Torta is a circular cake, but you can vary the shape and size if you want. Sherry Yard in her book Desserts By The Yard makes a skyscraper Dobos by cutting a full-size cake into four wedges and stacking them to create a tall, sail-shaped cake. Mini Dobos would be very cute, and you could perch a little disc of caramel on top.
Flavour: While we both love the dark chocolate buttercream and this is traditional, we think it would be fun to see what fun buttercreams you all come up with! So, go wild! Or, you could brush each layer with a flavoured syrup if you just want a hint of a second flavour. Cointreau syrup would be divine!
Nuts: These are optional for decoration, so no worries if you're allergic to them. If you don't like hazelnuts, then substitute for another variety that you like.
The cooking process for the buttercream will produce lightly cooked eggs. If you fall into a vulnerable health group then you may wish to use an egg-less buttercream.