The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonfulof Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular DobosTorte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: ExquisiteDesserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.
This month’s DB challenge is really one I wish I could have spent more time on. I was very excited when I saw that our hostesses had chosen the Dobos Torte, a six-layer, buttercream-frosted, toffee-topped monster of decadence. All too rarely do I have an excuse to make a huge cake – which is a shame, because I could use the practice. I had only made a layered cake once before, and it was much simpler than the Dobos: only three thick layers. This was definitely going to be a challenge.
I stuck to the original recipe, because absolutely everything was new to me. For one thing, I had never made sponge cake. Génoise, yes, but not sponge cake – the difference being, as I recently discovered, that for génoise the eggs are beaten whole with sugar, whereas they are separated for sponge cake. The recipe gave us the following technique for making regular sponge cake layers: draw a circle on a sheet of parchment paper (using a template), spread a thin layer of batter within the limits of each circle, and bake for 5 minutes per baking sheet. Then, the layers had to be trimmed to down to equal diameters with the help of a pie tin or some other circular object. I wonder if it would have been easier to bake each layer directly in a parchment-lined pie tin, in order to obtain fool-proof regular circles…
Well, at any rate, the tracing method worked well enough, and I was pleasantly surprised by the texture of the sponge cake: quite sticky (peeling it off the parchment was a little tricky), but solid (even in my clumsy hands, it didn't come close to tearing). I could tell the layers would be good for stacking. I actually ended up with eight layers, instead of the predicted six, because I used a slightly smaller diameter.
I had never made buttercream, either. At least not this type, which required whisking eggs over a double boiler until thickened, adding chocolate, then incorporating butter when cooled (does that make it a German buttercream?). I cooked my eggs and chocolate mixture for longer than indicated, because it didn’t seem to be thickening. In fact, I worried about the result being too liquid until the very last stage, when the butter finally turned the runny mixture into a creamy, thick frosting that was just begging to be licked off the spoon.
And finally, there was the toffee. The task was to slice one of the sponge cake layers into portions, then pour hot caramel over it, spread it around and cut through it quickly, so as to obtain separate toffee-covered cake pieces, to decorate the top of the Dobos. Having burnt my fair share of caramel in the past, I erred on the side of caution this time, and didn’t cook the caramel long enough. As a result, it was too liquid when I poured it over the cake.
I looked at my cake portions as they bathed in the liquid-caramel-filled cake pan I had placed them in. I fully expected them to turn soggy and dissolve – but they didn’t. Instead, the caramel very slowly solidified… under the cake pieces. So, in the end, I wound up with more or less what I was aiming for, just upside down (which was easy enough to fix, obviously). Well, the toffee was definitely too chewy and nearly impossible to eat at first, but a night in the fridge hardened it a bit.
I made a rookie mistake while assembling the cake: I put more frosting at the center of the layers than at the edges, resulting in a domed cake. So, of course, when I put the toffee pieces on top of the final frosted layer, they started to slip. So I did what I always do when something in the kitchen starts to slip, stick, or tear: I tried to keep everything in place as best as I could, while screaming for Laurent to get me something – in this case, aluminum foil. We formed a cylinder around the cake to hold it together, then let it set in the fridge. No fancy decorations this time, I was just happy it looked more or less normal.
Knowing how much buttercream I’d smeared over and inside it, I was expecting the Dobos to be really heavy on the stomach, but it wasn’t: I actually find ganache-covered cakes to be much heavier. This buttercream very much reminded of the kind used on bûche de Noël: not too strong, with a pleasant, melting texture. I’d really like to experiment more with buttercream, maybe make it more chocolaty, or try a different flavour altogether. But, like I said, I ran out of time this month.
Given that I made the full recipe, I shared this cake with a lot of people, and it was very well received. It also kept really well (although, given that it’s been pretty warm here, I had to store it in the fridge), and the sponge cake kept its texture until the end. I really learned a lot with this challenge, and I’m really grateful to our hostesses for it!