Monday, August 31, 2009

August Daring Bakers Challenge - Dobos Torte

dobos torte - top of cake

Time again for another Daring Bakers challenge!

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 Caff├ęs of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

dobos torte - finished cake

Okay so I'm quite late in posting, however, I did manage to complete the challenge ahead of time. I've just been so busy lately that the little free time I have had has been spent very much away from a computer. The weather around here has been absolutely gorgeous and I have spent every moment possible enjoying it!

This torte was a very straight forward challenge and fairly easy in it's entirety. I chose to halve the recipe and make a small cake (4" round) which I mistakenly thought would mean a bit less work overall. Wrong! I probably got away with less time as far as baking the cake layers go, since I was able to bake 3 at a time, but other than that I'm pretty sure it took almost the same amount of time as it would have if I'd gone with the full size cake. Oh well! It was still fun and the end result was just as pretty as a full sized cake.

dobos torte - beaten egg yolks and sugar
Whipping the egg yolks and sugar

dobos torte - beaten egg whites
Whipped egg whites for the sponge cake

dobos torte - folding the batter
Folding the whites into the yolks

dobos torte - cake layers pre bake
Cake layers ready to bake

dobos torte - chopped chocolate
Chopped chocolate for the buttercream frosting

dobos torte - candied hazelnuts
Candied hazelnuts drying

When I saw this recipe called for working with caramel, I remembered a decorating technique I had seen in my Martha Stewart Cupcakes book. These lovely candied hazelnuts excited me when I saw them in her book and I knew I wanted to try making them someday. This challenge seemed like the perfect fit since it called for hazelnuts and already had some fancy presentation going on with the caramelized cake layers as the decorative top.

Instead of using the caramel recipe from Martha's book, I chose to just go with the caramel from the challenge which was a little softer than what I needed. Of course I didn't know that at the time, but I still ended up with some decorative hazelnuts to use on my finished cake.

dobos torte - hazelnuts

dobos torte - filling the layers
Assembling the layers

dobos torte - caramel layer
Caramelized layer of cake

Unfortunately, the caramel cake layer didn't end up tasting very good. In fact, it was met with a grimace of displeasure! It might've looked nice, but the taste was...less than desirable. I'm not sure if I overcooked the caramel or if that's just the way it is.

dobos torte - frosted

dobos torte - frosted with nuts
I love how nuts look pressed into the sides of a cake.

dobos torte - top close up

Dobos Torte

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:

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 center 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 center and the edges are lightly browned. While this cake bakes, repeat the process on the other baking sheet, placing it on the center 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:

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-colored 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 flavor.

dobos torte - slice


  1. Wow Martha Stewart has a lot to answer for by the fabulous look of your torta it is wonderful. Love the decorations that tall tail of caramel really has a WOW factor. Very well done on this challenge. Bravo and the cut torta looks smashing. Cheers from Audax in Australia. And love the photo series. A

  2. Your torte looks really well and you managed to get some great photos too (which was where I let myself down)!

  3. A work of art/heart~! and I can appreciate your candied hazelnuts:) I made some a while ago..and just recently found a drip on my cabinet:)

  4. Beautifully baked! Your torte looks lovely and your photos are fantastic :)

  5. I am so impressed! Your photography is wonderful, and the spiky nuts look great. As a newbie to both the DB and to fancy baking, it's a treat to see a pro at work. BTW, I think the recipe was just bad on the toffee. Mine tasted awful, too.

  6. Wonderful!! You are a superb baker and a creative foodie.

  7. Beautiful!! Love hazelnuts.


  8. Thank you so much everyone! Your kind words mean the world to me :)