So, summer is finally here in the UK, and that means being a busy bee! I've been all over the place the last month, back and forth between the Midlands and London and not much time for baking and I've been a little slack on blogging front, with lots and lots to catch up with and lots to explaining to do! But in short, I'm moving back to the South! Quite an exciting time but I'll get onto that in the many blog posts I've got to catch up on!
So I'm a huge fan of researching and baking cakes from across the global, taking a traditional bake and regional flavours and trying them out for myself. So following my Lithuania Tinginys, also known as a chocolate salame to the Italians or a chocolate fridge cake to us Brit's, my newest search takes me to Hungary, with a striking seven layer cake, the Dobos Torte.
So a little history lesson for you here, because I love food history! The Dobos Torte was invented by a man who goes by the name Jozsef C. Dobos, whose dessert took the pastry world by storm when it was first introduced at the National General Exhibition of Budapest in 1885. Now this dessert was unlike anything of the time, it's elegance, it's extravagance, yet it's simplicity saw the Dobos Torte become a European treasure, a pièce de résistance!
For 20 years after the dessert first took the sweet hearts of Europeans, Dobos was the only confectioner in Europe who could give the continent the dessert they craved so deeply. It was only through retirement Dobos parted with his recipe, having himself been the sole creator of the cake; Dobos travelled from city to city across Europe introducing the dessert and even developed a special shipping container for the cake!
So what exactly was it that the continent just loved so much? Well this cake was different to all others at that time, popular during this era were flaming cakes, but what Dobos created in practice is a very simple cake, composed of five layers of sponge cake, chocolate buttercream and topped with caramel. One of the big secrets was the buttercream. Then, cakes were typically filled with cooked pastry cream or whipped cream, and so Dobos, having discovered the buttercream technique in France, decided to 'revolutionise' cake fillings!
This cake does take a good bit of love and effort, but, it is so worth it! It is light, it is rich, it is silky, it is simply just an absolute delight, and most of all, it truly is a show-stopper! All of those layers, wrapped up in a buttery and chocolatey filling, topped with the gorgeously sweet and warming caramel, it truly is the cake that will make jaws drop and have people coming back for more, making that time and effort crafting your cake masterpiece, completely worth it!
To make this I followed the great and informative instructions provided by Joe Pastry, and I highly recommend if you're going to give this a go you certainly check out the photographed step-by-step guide which you can link to here - I found it a brilliant guide to work alongside with!
The Cake Layers
450 grams (2 cups / 1 pound) icing sugar, sifted
115 grams (1/2 cup /4 ounces) plain flour, sifted
1 tbsp lemon juice
7 egg whites
10 egg yolks
(The buttercream also calls for yolks and not whites, but don't go wasting these! They are suitable for freezing and I froze them and used them later for meringues, for which, I have a delicious raspberry meringue recipe if you need some inspiration)
300 grams unsalted butter
300 grams dark chocolate
4 egg yolks
1 1/2 vanilla extract
5 tbsp icing sugar
(You may have some leftover - it'll keep well in the fridge for a week or you can freeze it for use later)
150 grams caster sugar
2. Preheat the oven to 230C/210C fan/gas 8/450F. Now you'll want to prepare the baking sheets - I took one of my cake tins (9-inch) to use as a template. Using the cake tin or any circular object in the size you desire and draw out 9 circles on some baking paper and cut these out leaving just a little space around the circle so that you can peal the baking paper away from the cake easily. Dust these with some icing sugar, shaking off any excess, this will help when you come to peeling.
2. Beat the egg yolks with an electric mixer on a high speed for a few minutes - 3-4 or so - until they become a pale yellow colour. I'd suggest you use one of the largest bowls you have as when you come to stage 5, things get fluffy and potentially messy, so you'll need as much bowl space as you can get.
3. Reduce the speed of the mixer once you've got pale egg yolks and begin gradually adding the icing sugar. Once all added, crank up the mixer speed and mix for about 5 minutes, so you have a very very thick texture. Scrape the sides of bowl to make sure everything is well mixed.
4. Reduce the speed again and now start adding the flour, and once added, crank up the speed again to fully combine everything, and then add in the lemon juice. Now at this point, you will be alarmed, this is a thick sticky mess, but keep going, the egg whites will loosen everything back up again. Trust me.
5. Now on that note, the egg whites; whisk these in another bowl until they reach the stiff peak stage. When you've got that, start spooning a few heaped teaspoons of the whites into the sticky thick yolk mixture to loosen it all up a bit, which will require some serious elbow grease, but trust me the mixture does all of a sudden become loose and fabulous again. Once everything starts loosening up, fold in the rest of the whites.
6. On a baking sheet, place down some foil, dust with some icing sugar and take one of those circle baking paper sheets and place it in the middle. You'll spoonful some of the batter onto the sheet and then using a spatula spread it out - it is totally up to you how thick you want your layers, mine are quite thin and I spooned on about 4 heaped tablespoons up my purple circular line. Don't worry about being perfectly circular as you can use the template you used at the beginning to trim these to perfect circles later on. Do bear in mind to not go too. thin as you want to be able to handle these, peal them off and not lose their texture and taste when they're covered in that gorgeous silky buttercream.
7. Once you've got the batter on the baking sheet, pop in the oven for roughly 6-8 minutes - remember to bear in mind the thickness you're going for here, but what you want to achieve is a golden brown cake layer. Once done, remove from the oven, then slide and invert the layer onto a cooling rack and then carefully peel of the baking paper and then invert again onto an icing sugar dusted cooling rack or surface.
8. Now prepare the next layer following step 6 again. Out of this batch I made 9 - my first was too thin and it broke but the rest were all fine, leaving me with 7 layers and one to be coated in caramel.
9. Once all of your layers are baked and ready, take your original circle template and use this to trim the layers into circular layers that are identical to one another.
10. Start with the melting the chocolate as this will need sometime to cool down, do this by melting the chocolate either over simmering water in a heatproof bowl or in the microwave in short bursts to ensure you don't burn the chocolate. Allow the chocolate to cool but do not let it re-firm you still want to have some 'looseness' to it.
11. Once the chocolate has had some time to cool down, make a start on the buttercream by creaming the butter on a high speed in an bowl using an electric mixer. Once the butter is light and pale then add the vanilla and egg yolks and beat well until well combine. Then add in the cooled down melted chocolate and icing sugar and beat until its all combined - what you will have a silky, glossy and beautifully light chocolate buttercream.
12. To assemble the cake take a little of the buttercream and place it on your plate or cake stand - consider this a 'glue' for the first layer. The place one of the layers down and then cover in a layer of buttercream, then cover with another cake layer, more buttercream...and you get the jist. Leave one of the layers for the caramel if you're going to do the caramel wedge decoration, if not, use it up. Then just make sure you over the whole cake using your palette knife and smooth it all over.
13. Lay the final cake layer in a surface which has been covered with baking paper or the like to protect the surface from the hot caramel. I recommend again you have a look at Joe Pastry's blog post on how to go about the caramel, the pictures make it far less daunting.
14. To make the caramel place the sugar in a dry pan or frying pan and heat over a high heat to dissolve the sugar - refrain from stirring the sugar and instead gently tilt the pan to move the sugar around. The sugar needs to completely dissolve and turn a medium amber colour - when making this I went to a dark amber and it was a nightmare to work with, so much so, I got some splash back and burnt my chest somehow, so a medium amber will do just fine and make life easier when cutting and pouring over the final cake layer.
15. Once the caramel is medium amber, remove from the heat and pour the caramel over the cake layer quickly - you don't want to take to long and let it start solidify, I found that out the hard way! Allow the caramel to harden for a few seconds and then take a large knife and cut the layer in wedges - like the picture below, however I cut it before putting the caramel on as a test and I prefer the method of cutting afterward. Then assemble as you like, I went for a star looking shape so I could use the rest of the buttercream too, but do as you please, I quite like the fan approach, very elegant!
As a note, if you do get a sticky and hard caramel from going to a darker amber, don't worry, mine was, at first it's very hard but after having a day to soak into the sponge it softened up and was no longer a tooth breaking hard caramel but incredibly tasty!
So there you have it; a delicious Dobos Torte. Yes it looks daunting from the offset, but I can genuinely assure you, it really is not that bad, it's just a series of simple repetitive tasks and what you get in the end is a stunning show-stopping cake with the most delightful texture and it is bound to get people talking!