custom cakes/cookies

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dobos Torta

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.

So, what is the Dobos Torta?

The word 'dobos' means 'like a drum' in Hungarian. However, this cake is named after its creator. This rich torte is made by stacking 7-9 extra-thin layers of GÉNOISE (or sponge cake) spread with chocolate buttercream. The top is covered with a hard caramel glaze. A classic Viennese layer cake.

One of the great "fad" desserts of the 19th century, the Dobos torta or torte (sometimes Anglicized as "Dobosh") was invented by the famous Hungarian confectioner Jozsef C. Dobos in 1884. Dobos owned a well-renowned shop in Budapest that specialized in gourmet foods at a time when shipping food over distance was usually unreliable. His shop routinely featured as many as sixty imported cheeses, as well as foreign wines, breads, and occasionally cakes. His high profile often took him to international food exhibitions, so that he became, for his time, what we would think of as the equivalent of a superstar TV chef/food impresario. The fame of the torte to which Dobos gave his name was probably at least partly due to its extravagant use of chocolate buttercream, at a time when most cakes were iced or filled with cooked creams, whipped creams, or custards.

Dobos had brought the buttercream recipe back with him from one of his many exploratory journeys -- in this case, a trip to France -- and shortly thereafter introduced the cake at the National General Exhibition of Budapest in 1885, as well as featuring it in his shop. Due to all this publicity (for it became a favorite of the Emperor and Empress of Austro-Hungary), people in cities across Europe began clamoring for it, but Dobos refused to license out the recipe. Instead. Dobos developed a special container in which it could be safely shipped, and "the cake with the secret recipe" soon started appearing in all the great European capitals. In fact, Dobos actually toured with the cake, personally introducing it in city after city, until the early 1900's, when he retired. He then gave the recipe to the Budapest Confectioners' and Gingerbread Makers' Chamber of Industry, on the condition that all members should be able to use the recipe freely.

So here it freely is for you to try too...

Sponge cake layers
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 ⅓ cups confectioner's sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sifted cake flour
pinch of salt

Chocolate Buttercream

I added hazelnut paste to the buttercream to really amp up the flavor, for this cake became a birthday treat for a friend that adores hazelnuts.

4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup superfine sugar
4oz dark chocolate, finely chopped
⅓ cup hazelnut paste
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Caramel topping

1 cup superfine sugar
12 tablespoons water
8 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil

Finishing touches

7” cardboard round
12 whole hazelnuts, peeled and toasted
½ cup peeled and finely chopped hazelnuts

Directions for the sponge layers:

1. Position the racks in the top and center thirds of the oven and heat to 400F.
2. Cut six pieces of parchment paper to fit the baking sheets. Using the bottom of a 9" cake pan as a template and a pen, trace a circle on each of the papers, and turn them over so that the ink doesn't touch the cake batter.
3. Beat the egg yolks, ⅔ cup of the confectioner's 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 ⅔ cup of confectioner's sugar until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, stir about ¼ 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 ¾ cup 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 center and the edges are lightly browned. While this cake bakes, repeat the process on the other baking
sheets. 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 (or possibly more) layers. Completely cool the layers. Using an 8" cake pan as a template, trim each cake layer into a neat round.

Directions for the chocolate hazelnut 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 5 minutes.
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) 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. Add hazelnut spread and continue to beat. 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. To make the caramel topping: Line a 8-9” silicone cake pan with parchment paper and butter the paper. Cut the reserved cake layer into 12 equal wedges. Reform into a circle and place on the paper. 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. This could take some time, be vigilantly patient.
3. Immediately pour all of the hot caramel over the cake layer. Using the offset spatula, quickly spread the caramel evenly to the edge of the cake layer. Let cool until set, about a minute or so. Using a sharp, hot oiled knife (keep re-oiling this with a pastry brush between cutting), 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. 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 additional cake layers. Spread the remaining icing on the sides of the cake.
2. Press the finely chopped hazelnuts onto the sides of the cake.
3. 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.


Michael said...

Hi Olivia, could you tell me what your source is on the Dobos info. I'm writing a history of desserts and have found it difficult to corroborate a lot of stories I come accross.

Olivia said...

Unfortunately, I can't seem to relocate my source. It was from some sort of internet wiki, which admittedly is not exactly reliable. Sorry I can't be of more help. Your book project sounds absolutely fascinating! Best wishes for a successful completion of the project.