Dobos Torte: The old beginning of something new…?

Dobos Torte: A Hungarian layered cake made of sponge cake (often made with nuts) and chocolate buttercream, topped with a final layer of sponge that has been covered with a light caramel. The number of sponge layers depends on the source, either 5 or 7. Either rectangle or round.

This is a cake that would be comfortable on a menu from the seventies or on a buffet that has a lot of jello-based salads. I normally don’t pull out the classics, but I had a request from a customer recently, and needed to make the sacrifice. I love a challenge, but this customer gave me enough instruction for me to believe that he makes this torte every night and this is simply something to amuse himself with- testing the unassuming overacheiver…..

For the most part, it’s actually a pretty simple project- the caramel layer is a hurdle. The caramel, (and by caramel, I mean hard crackly caramel, not soft or supple) needs to be cut in proper portion sizes before it sets. The cutting is not hard- it’s the caramel sticking to the knife despite being greased up with half a pound of butter proves to be the challenge, and one that I didn’t quite conquer.

There are a couple of things that will help immensely with the final product:
Flat sheet pans- I use mine at high temperatures and they twist a little, making a bit of a dip in the center. You may have notice the gentleĀ slop in the first picture…
Soaking syrup- soaking syrup is liquid, sugar, and flavor (optional). With this cake, I chose to make an Amaretto syrup to soak the sponge cake. Most cakes I make are not consummed the day they are finished, a soaking syrup helps keep them moist.

This cake has potential, but it needs some refinement. The hard caramel top reeks of days gone by, there is too much buttercream, and the sponge cake is… reliable but boring. I hope that this will be the beginning of a series of posts starring the classics, and the neoclassics. Even though this will not be my next birthday cake, munching on marzipan for the duration of the project made it all worth it in the end!

Almond Sponge
(From the baking book I would chose if I was only allowed one baking book for the rest of my life: Professional Baking by Wayne Gisslen)
Grease 4 half baking sheets with shortening, then put parchment down, grease parchment. Preheat oven to 425F. This does make extra, an extra sponge cakes can be used for a jelly roll or to make a smaller dobos torte.

350 g marzipan
235 g sugar
350 g egg yolks
-In a mixing bowl, combine sugar and marzipan until uniformly blended. Using the paddle attachment, SLOWLY add egg yolks and beat until mixture reaches ribbon stage. (If egg yolks are added too quickly, it may result in pulling out the food processor to get rid of lumps- which may food process itself off of the counter and onto the floor, and having to act quickly and rescue it from losing anything…)

525 g egg whites
7 g salt
175 g sugar
-Beat to stiff peaks.

350 g cake flour, sifted
-Alternately fold egg whites and cake flour. Divide between 4 sheet pans, and spread evenly, without overworking the batter (it will deflate, which is your leavener). Bake for 6-8 minutes turning half way through. The cake should be set and lightly browned, but still moist. Cool completely. Reserve the most even cake for the caramel.

Chocolate Buttercream
The combination of butter and shortening allows you to use the “best of both worlds,” the flavor of the butter and the elasticity of the shortening. This will hold up in warmer weather, and is great to use for decorating.
454 g butter
225 g vegetable shortening
30 g heavy cream
675 g icing sugar, sifted
pinch salt
340 g dark chocolate, melted and room temperature
-Cream butter in mixer with paddle attachment until smooth, slowly add shortening in small pieces and cream until uniform. Mix in cream. Add icing sugar in 2 halves with the mixer on a lower setting to prevent clouding (very technical puff of white powder that goes everywhere over your workspace). When buttercream has all of the sugar, and is consistent, add melted chocolate. Blend until chocolate is fully incorporated.

Soaking Syrup
225 g sugar
225 ml water
40 g Amaretto (substitute 1/4 teaspoon almond extract if need be)
– Heat until sugar is dissolved

Caramel
I did this step after the assembly part (below) was done, so I could measure the proper size to cut the cake appropriately.
225 g sugar
75 ml water
1/2 tsp lemon juice
-Combine all ingredients in a pot and let sit for several minutes to allow water to fully moisten sugar. Heat over medium high heat until sugar reaches 245F/ 118C. Have a knife with a buttered cutting edge, with extra butter on hand. Pour over cake in a thin, even layer. Using the knife, cut cake into portion sizes (almost like cutting guides for the consummer). Reserve for finished cake.

Assembly:
Invert one of the pans on a clean cutting board or work surface, and remove the parchment paper. Lightly soak the cake with the syrup- a few tablespoons over the whole surface. Cover cake with a thin layer of buttercream, then invert another cake ontop, removing parchment. Soak cake with syrup, cut cake into three even rectangles, don’t worry if they aren’t even- the sides get trimmed up.

Spread one layered rectangle with a thin layer of buttercream, cover with another rectangle- continue to stack rectangles and buttercream until they are all used. Refrigerate until firm. Using a serated knife, trim up sides for a flat surface to ice. Ice cake with chocolate buttercream, refrigerate to set frosting. Before serving bring cake up to room temperature and use buttercream to secure the caramel covered cake in place, shingle the pieces over the length of cake. Refrigerating the cake after adding the caramel pieces is ill-advised: the humidity from the fridge will melt the caramel. And don’t forget to clean up the buttercream off of you presentation plate (before you take a picture)!

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