Ben the Baker

Just a guy trying to get his kids to eat

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Dobos Torte, August DB Challenge

Posted by osakaben41 on August 27, 2009


I’ve been waiting awhile to be able to post this, but the rules are the rules, and they are clear: no revealing the monthly challenge until the 27th.  With that said, 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.

The challenge here was to get thin, thin, thin layers of cake consistent enough that the final stack doesn’t lean too much.  This proved more challenging that I expected, with a number of air bubbles making the sponge resemble Swiss cheese.  I tried baking with parchment paper on top of each layer of batter, silpat on top, and uncovered, but just was not able to get layers that didn’t suffer from air pockets.  I may have whipped the egg whites too much, or perhaps the batter needed to rest for a few minutes before going in the oven, but it’s a problem I need to come back to later to solve.  (The earlier Lemon Layer Birthday cake was actually a test drive for this process)


We did this for my father’s birthday, and from all accounts, it was generally received well.  Overall, I really enjoyed making this, though with the benefit of hindsight I would have changed a few things.  We ran out of powdered sugar before finishing the layering, so some of the butter cream had to be done with regular granular sugar and came out feeling gritty.  I had a different vision for the caramel pieces, and wanted to do a small layer of crushed nuts where the cake met the serving plate, but we didn’t have the right nuts for this.  Lastly, the cake was served with some homemade peach ice cream that my father had on hand that could have been done up as quenelles, but it was too hard at the time, and the crowd just wanted to eat.  In other words, a certain attention to detail was sacrificed for the sake of expediency, but it sure did taste good.


Some of the more interesting interpretations can be found at:

Saffron & Blueberry


Eat, show, & tell

Clumbsy Cookie

 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

 Directions for the sponge layers:

Rather than a round cake, I went with a pyramid shape, for no other reason than it looked cool and I’d never done it before.  I’ve included the standard directions for a round cake here though, as well as how to do the pyramid down below.  (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: (A few months ago I had to do a chocolate buttercream for an Opera cake, but the Boston humidity just ruined it.  It’s been just brutal up here lately, so I went with something a little more stable than the recipe suggested.  This was adapted from Elizabeth Falkner’s Demolition Desserts standard Vanilla Butter cream recipe, with ¼ cup cocoa powder added in, and the milk increased proportionally.

Makes about 2 cups


4 oz. unsalted softened butter

2 1/2 c. or 10 oz. powdered sugar

1/2 t. kosher salt

¼ cup cocoa powder

¼ cup whole milk

1 t. pure vanilla extract

1 t. fresh lemon juice (I put 1/2 t.)


In a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter & salt for about 30 seconds and then add half of the powdered sugar and half the milk to the butter and beat again until combined. Scrape down the bowl.  Add the rest of the powdered sugar, cocoa powder the vanilla, rest of the milk and the lemon juice and beat until combined.  Scrape down the bowl again.  Beat on high speed for 5-6 minutes or until the frosting is fluffy.  

Directions for the caramel topping:  

Overall, I just didn’t like the look of that caramel topping, but needed to incorporate some caramel element for this to be a true Dobos Torte.  So I went back and used the recipe from the Hazelnut Brittle that went with the Chocolate/Coffee tarts a few weeks back.  In short, make a basic caramel, spread it out on a baking sheet until cool, break it up into pieces and pulse a few times in a cuisinart until the consistency of kosher Salt.  This dust was then shapped with some circular cookie cutters into small circles and baked at 350 for about 3 minutes until melted and glassy, with an almond slice slapped in the middle, because why the hell not.

Assembling the Dobos

Rather than the round traditional look, I wanted to try making a pyramid with vertical layers.  The idea came from Professional Baking by Wayne Gisslen of the CIA.  In short, the cake layers were made in half-sheet pans, then cut into thirds, roughly 5” x 11” rectangles.  The recipe listed above ended up making 4 sheet pans worth, or 12 cake layers.  They were thin enough, and there was going to be enough sweet buttercream throughout that I opted not to use any syrup to flavor the sponge, but rather just layered cake/buttercream until I ran out of material.

A quick rest in the freezer to firm up, then trim all 4 sides to make for a nice clean rectangle.  Once again in the freezer to set it up nice and hard.  Once it’s ready to work with, place the cake on the edge of your counter, with the long side just against the counter edge.  With a long serreted knife, cut at an angle bisecting the cake laterally into two triangles, with the blade almost resting on your counter edge, pointing upwards towards the far top corner of your cake.  Separate the two triangles and stand them up next to each other.  Apply one more layer of buttercream between the two and mush them together into a single pyramid, before back into the freezer to set up again.

This could be a messy step, but don’t worry about getting melted buttercream over everything, that’s what the covering layer of chocolate was for.

I actually ran out of powdered sugar at this point, and didn’t have enough buttercream left to cover the cake, so I whipped up a coffee/ganache instead, with 10 oz of bittersweet chocolate broken up in a bowl.  ¾ cup heavy cream was heated with 1 Tbs of ground french roast coffee until just boiling.  Strain the heavy cream through a fine mesh sive over the chocolate, let rest for a few minutes, then whisk until smooth.

Refrigerate the cake under a cake dome until the ganache is set.. Let slices come to room temperature for the best possible flavour.


10 Responses to “Dobos Torte, August DB Challenge”

  1. Lauren said

    Lovely job!! I love the shape of your torte (kind of a tent torte?) =D. It looks amazing!

    • osakaben41 said

      Thanks Lauren. These things never seems to come out quite the way they look as imagined, but it sure was a good excuse to try out a new trick.

  2. asti said

    Kudos to you for doing that challenging shape. Can’t begin to imagine the effort behind it. Great job on the challenge =)

  3. anna said

    That looks like a cottage! A cottage that I would very much like to live in.

  4. CookiePie said

    WOW – what a gorgeous presentation!!! And I bet it was delicious with the peach ice cream.

  5. osakaben41 said

    Thanks for all the compliments guys. It’s a privilage belonging to a ‘membership of mutual admiration’ as the saying goes. The next challenge though has got to involve locking myself in a basement with some tablespoons and 10 gallons of ice cream to figure out how people manage to make such perfect quenelles

  6. chef_d said

    I love the shape!!

  7. Hilda said

    Wow Ben, I’d say yours was definitely one of the more interesting interpretations, I really like some of the architectural things people did with this one (you should go to Test with Skewer, hers is totally out of control). How sweet of you to say that about mine. Yours makes me think of a Swiss chalet or the witch’s house in Hansel and Gretel. And about the quenelles, I don’t know how to make them really well either because I haven’t practiced, practice practice practice. At some point Aran didn’t know how to make them either you know, although she is a master now… 😉

  8. Jill said

    I love that you did a triangle dobos torta! I think you did a great job–so beautiful and interesting to view. 🙂

  9. Sue said

    I love the design of your torte! It looks like an A-framed cabin in the woods:) The layers look fabulous!

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