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.
I sure hope that starting the Monday morning with a piece of cake is a good sign for the week. It must be, especially if the cake is fantastically delicious like this one turned out. I am craving a second piece now... The Dobos Torte is a 5 to 12 layer sponge cake filled with chocolate buttercream and topped with wedges of caramel. From the Darling Baker's site: "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 must admit I procrastinated on this one. Big time. It is August in Southern California and in my 1940's house with no central air-conditioning August is the month you give the oven a break. It has been so hot and with the wild fires raging just miles away, my enthusiasm to make a cake kept waning as the days of August kept slipping away. Also, I must admit, I found the recipe a bit intimidating. With all the measurements in grams and the equipment list as long as the Torah, my kitchen felt ill prepared for the challenge. But in the end, it all turned out well to my utter surprise, nothing was too hard to handle, the sponge was great and the cake is amazingly delicious. Maybe I'll go home for lunch and have another piece...
I only made half the recipe and cut the layers in rectangular shapes to simplify things. However below I am including the full recipe. The elements can be made separately and then assembled. Store the layers in the fridge between layers of parchment paper.
For the layers:
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 1/3 C powder sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 C + 2 TBS sifted cake flour
pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 400F. Beat the yolks with 2/3 C of sugar and the vanilla until the mixture is pale yellow and thin ribbons form when the beaters are lifted. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form and then gradually add the remaining sugar. Gently fold the whites into the yolk mixture, not stirring completely. Sift in the flour and salt, a tablespoon at a time and incorporate very gently. None of that vigorous stirring here - you need to be very gentle. If you do not have cake flour do not despair - mix 3 Tbs corn starch and 13 Tbs regular flour and sift to combine.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. For the rectangular layers I spread the batter all over the sheet, not quite reaching the edges. I you want circular layers, then trace the circles (bottom of a spring-form pan) on the reverse side of the parchment paper and then spread 3/4 C of the batter very thinly to just fill the circle. Bake at 400F for 4 minutes. Once you start smelling the sweet aroma of the baked cake, the layer is ready. Repeat to make the rest of the layers - you need at least 6 of them. Cool very well. Once the layers are cooled, you can peel the parchment paper (carefully!) and trim them to the desired size and shape (I used a pair of scissors though they pinched the dough a bit at the edges).
For the buttercream:
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 C sugar
4 oz bakers or dark chocolate, chopped
1C + 2 Tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature.
Beat the eggs and the sugar in a bowl until well mixed. Place the mix in a double-boiler or improvise one with a bowl nested in a pot and cook the mixture over water at a rolling boil for a few minutes until the mixture is hot to the touch, stirring constantly. Once hot, take the egg mix off the burner and stir in the chopped chocolate until it is all melted. Let cool. Beat the butter in the chocolate mix piece y piece and finish off on high until the mix is smooth and no butter lumps are visible. Refrigerate to thicken.
For the caramel:
1 C sugar
12 Tbs water
8 tsp lemon juice
1 tablespoon neutral oil
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and oil it lightly. Place the best-looking layer on top (the layer better be at room temperature) and cut as desired - sections or strips or whatever. In a small pan combine the sugar, water and lemon juice. Heat at low until the sugar is melted and then crank up the heat and bring the syrup to boil. It will foam - that's ok, just make sure the heat is not so high that the syrup will boil out. Occasionally turn the heat down and check the state of the syrup. Eventually it will turn thick and brown. At that point pour it over the cut-up layer, using a spatula to distribute it evenly all over. You must be pretty quick because the caramel will start setting quite fast. Do not spread the caramel over the edges of the cake layer because that will make removal difficult. Let the caramel set and then peel the pieces off the paper.
Assembly: This should be pretty obvious. Layer-cream-layer-cream and so on till you run out of layers, frost the sides with the remaining cream, arrange the caramel pieces on top. Optionally, decorate the sides with chopped hazelnuts (I put some hazelnuts between the layers as well).
I would love to make this cake again! It looks very sophisticated but in the end it was not all that difficult to make. Next time I would probably skip on the caramel on top. I thought it really was not worth the trouble - it looks interesting but my caramel pieces were the dentist's nightmare and not really edible. The butter-cream was a bit on the soft side but maybe I did not cook the eggs enough. Anyways it was so delicious I licked the bowl twice. And finally, the hazelnuts were a great addition, on the sides and the top. If you would like to put them between the layers then they must be really finely ground - mine were a bit too chinky. All in all, a fantastic cake. Thank you, Daring Bakers!