Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Daring Bakers: Dobos Torte

I posted a few days ago about the baking slump I'm in. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: dieting is bad for baking mojo. So much of the fun of baking is sucked out of the experience when you can't fully enjoy the finished product! Or, in the case of these mini Dobos Tortes, when you enjoy too much of the finished product and then feel massive pangs of guilt. (What? Chocolate buttercream isn't one of the healthy foodgroups? Surely you jest.)

So yes, it was with a heavy heart and a hungry stomach that I made these chocolate and hazelnut layer cakes. I wanted to save a little work so I made a half batch, but my first attempt fatally stuck to the parchment (don't believe anyone who tells you not to grease and flour your parchment! THAT WAY DISASTER LIES) so I ended up making it twice, equaling a full batch in the end.

My mini cake layers were brushed with a hazelnut-infused simple syrup, to add some moisture and a nice subtle nutty taste. For the chocolate buttercream I used unsweetened chocolate, to give it a deeper flavor, which was intensified by the chocolate ganache glaze. I omitted the traditional caramel-glazed cake slices on top, opting instead for a hazelnut praline that was formed into shapes and also crushed. The crushed praline added a really nice--and necessary--crunch to the cake without being too overwhelmingly hard to chew.

My original plan was to go big--12 layers! 20!--but they turned out a bit thicker than planned, and I opted to scale the layers to the size of the 3" cakes. So I ended up with 6 layers of cake, which still looked lovely and impressive when cut. All in all, tasty little cakes with a delicious flavor profile. Perhaps in another life, at another time, with another diet program, we shall meet again...and next time, I'm coming with a fork.

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.


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

Chocolate Buttercream

* 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.

Caramel topping

* 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)

Finishing touches

* 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.

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.

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.


  1. looks great. And, glad you recovered from that baking hiccup. I think the minis are perfect.

  2. Such picture perfect drips. Your tortes just look so gorgeous, and sound very yummy - love hazelnut praline.

  3. They look like Xmas candles and I bet they tasted wonderous. And the way you did the caramel is brilliant. Your photographs are superb. Excellent effort and result on this challenge. Cheers from Audax in Australia.

  4. c'est magnifiquement imaginé ! la présentation est superbe :) bravo :)

  5. Sorry about the slump. But your cakes sure look de-lish! I've got plenty of forks over here!

  6. They are beautifully dainty and I just love the way that chocolate ganache drips over the sides. The praline is a really nice touch.

  7. The cakes look gorgeous! I totally know how you feel... I always want to make cakes, but I don't have anyone to share them with and they are TOTAL diet killers because they can stay around forever! Haha!

  8. Gorgeous job!! They may not be the healthiest for you, but they look amazing =D.

  9. so beautiful!! i am going to try to get these done still but not sure i have time...

  10. Eep! Your tortes look so candy-ish! Yum!

  11. I hope your slump passes soon but WOW for those cakes. Where can I find one?? :)

  12. What a wonderful cake - absolutely perfect!
    I love your presentation. Great job!

  13. Soooo classy, Liz! So you!

  14. Love your presentation and your ideas for amping up the flavor. I intensified the hazelnut flavor with praline paste, but now I am wishing that I also used a hazelnut liqueur syrup and a praline garnish. The idea of using unsweetened chocolate in the frosting and a chocolate glaze is such a great idea, plus it looks so nice..

  15. Popped in from Cathy's to say hi! Your presentation is gorgeous!

  16. totally agreed abt the mojo diet thing :(
    i like the semi-deconstructed dobos and praline idea.

  17. Your torte looks fabulous. Your changes/additions sound wonderful. I'm so in a baking slump right now and didn't have the time/energy to make this, but I will soon.

  18. I can totally relate with you on baking being bad for diet aspect! I suffer because of this a lot!

    Your tortes look beautiful! I agree with a commenter above who said they look like christmas candles!! How did you make the caramel toppers?

  19. Your tortes are some of the most beautiful I've seen in this challenge! Almost too pretty to eat! LOVE the praline, and the ganache dripping down the mentioned above, lit candles! Fantastic job!

  20. And THAT'S why I don't diet! Just beautiful!

  21. Oh yes, diet sucks big time! But at least your dobos don't suck at all! Love the chocolate on top!

  22. Sooooo beautiful. I so wish I had had time, but.... ah, well. Made one last year, but don't have pics. Ah, well.

    But, really, yours are lovely. Perfect layers.