This is one of the best cakes I have ever eaten: the traditional Hungarian Dobos Torte with several layers of pastry and chocolate buttercream and a sinfully delicious caramel topping.
An amazing cake, I am telling you! Not the easiest one to make, but so worth it! I mean, it is really not that difficult to make, but it does require a bit of patience, baking all those layers will take some time and making the buttercream and the caramel also mean spending a bit of time in front of the stove, but the result will be one of the best cakes you have ever eaten.
I am really not a chocolate person, I rarely crave it and when I do than it is mostly in form of a cake, something like Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Cheesecake with Sour Cream or this Moist Chocolate Gateau or Cake with Chocolate Cream Filling. But, although chocolate is not my thing, not the way it is for most people I know, I swear I could make and eat this Dobos Torte forever!
You will not believe the taste of that chocolate buttercream (the best I have ever tasted), the creaminess and comfort of it, the crunch and deliciousness of that caramel topping – a chocolate cake dream come true!
Dobos Torte is a very well-known cake in Romania, especially in Transylvania and I suppose in many other parts of the world. Nonetheless I have never eaten it in Romania; cake, chocolate and sweets generally were not my thing as a child, so I was never tempted.
Actually the idea of eating buttercream in those days and actually up until recently, only 5-6 years ago or so, was outrageous for me. I suppose that came from my grandmother, who never ate any butter or white milk products and who considered that people using these products in their cooking or baking, were plainly bad cooks/bakers, who knew nothing about good food… Well, I have always liked butter and milk products, but still the idea of having so much butter in my mouth was still not very appealing. That changed when I had the chance to taste a real good buttercream for the first time.
According to Wikipedia the Dobos Torte was invented by a Hungarian confectioner Jozsef C. Dobos in 1884. He “aimed to create a cake that would last longer than other pastries in an age when cooling techniques were limited”. The cake became so popular that it was ordered in cities like Vienna, Berlin or Paris and people were able to transport it there by cart with horses, packed in wooden boxes filled with ice.
Jozsef C. Dobos kept his recipe secret for over 20 years and only revealed it in 1906 when he decided to retire. Therefore, many versions of the Dobos Torte were born during this period of time. Nowadays, people following the original recipe claim that the cake must have six layers of pastry made with eggs, butter, sugar, a little flour and a pinch of salt. The upper layer must be covered in crunchy caramel and the buttercream has to be made with butter and not margarine and has to use Belgian chocolate with 53% cocoa in it.
Well, I did not use Belgian chocolate but German one and as I haven’t read the original recipe I am not entirely sure how close I’ve came, but I suppose pretty close, the cake was just soooo good! Recipe source: Savori Urbane (in Romanian).
How to make the Dobos Torte:
- First of all, this will make a rather small cake, at least for German standards, we are used to cakes of a 26 cm/ about 10 inches diameter around here. The Dobos Torte has a diameter of about 22 cm/ about 7 inches. But do not worry, the cake is so rich, you will most likely not be able to eat more than one slice, no matter how much you like it.
- You will have to divide the batter into 6 portions and bake 6 layers. You could do that by estimating the portions, but I have only had bad experiences with estimating the batter portions. So, I prefer to use an extra bowl and weigh the batter exactly, then divide that properly into 6 portions.
- Use a long batter spatula to spread the batter on the circles you draw on baking paper.
- The egg mixture for the buttercream is made in a double boiler (bain-marie) and you will have to pay attention that the eggs don’t curdle. That is why stirring and very low heat are important. When making anything in a double boiler, you should never let the water come to a boil, the water should be hot but not boiling. If you notice that it starts to simmer, remove the pot from the heat source and wait that it cools down a bit again. You should keep stirring during this time as well and turn on the heat again, if necessary, when the water stops simmering.
- The same procedure is necessary to melt the chocolate. Again, pay attention, the water in the double boiler should not boil at any time.
- When adding the egg-chocolate mixture to the butter make sure that they both are at room temperature.
- Add the chocolate to the butter one tablespoon at a time and mix thoroughly in between.
- If the buttercream curdles you can still fix it. You could either beat it for about 10-15 at high speed until it is smooth again or place it in the double boiler and heat it gently while beating it with the mixer until it is smooth again. Do not let it get too warm though, you do not want it to melt. However, my buttercream did not curdle at all, everything went perfectly fine, so I guess it should be ok for you as well.
- Use European style butter with 82% fat content.
- To make the caramel, you would normally only use sugar. However, the recipe that I followed uses 1 teaspoon vinegar and 20 g/ 1 ½ tablespoons butter as well. Apparently these additions will help the caramel remain elastic for a moment longer, which will give just a bit more time to cut the caramel wedges. However, this timeframe is very short as well, so use a very sharp, good knife and work quickly.
- You should sprinkle the sides of the cake with roasted almonds or hazelnut brittle, I should have done it, but I have completely forgotten it before taking the pictures of the cake.
And for some more delicious chocolate cakes, have a look here:
- For the batter:
- 6 eggs
- 100 g/ 3.5 oz/ 1 cup icing sugar, separated
- 30 g/ 1 oz/ 2 tablespoons butter
- 100 g/ 3.5 oz/ ¾ + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- For the buttercream:
- 4 eggs
- 200 g/ 7 oz/ 1 2/3 cups icing sugar
- a pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla sugar
- 200 g/ 7 oz bittersweet chocolate (at least 45% cocoa content)
- 270 g/ 9.5 oz/ 1 cup + 2 tablespoons butter (82% fat content)
- 35 g/ 1.2 oz/ 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- For the caramel glaze:
- 100 g/ 3.5 oz/ ½ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vinegar
- 20 g/ 0.7 oz/ 1 ½ tablespoons butter
- roasted almond flakes or hazelnut brittle to decorate the sides of the cake, optional
Draw 6 circles of 22 cm/ 10 inches diameter on baking paper. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius/ 320 degrees Fahrenheit.
To make the cake layers start by separating the eggs.
Beat the egg whites until stiff, add half (50 g/ 1.8 oz/ ½ cup) of the icing sugar and continue beating until the egg whites are stiff and glossy.
Melt the butter (30 g/ 1 oz/ 2 tablespoons) in a small pan and let cool until you beat the egg yolks.
In another bowl beat together the egg yolks and the remaining icing sugar. Give the egg whites to the egg yolks and incorporate carefully.
Add the melted and cooled butter to the mixture and incorporate.
Carefully fold in the flour.
Weigh the mixture into another bowl. Divide the quantity into 6 equal portions. You could do this only by estimating without the help of a scale, but I have never had good experiences with estimating, in the end there is always a layer that is thicker or thinner than the others. So I prefer to be exact and use a scale. It does mean an extra bowl to wash in the end, but that is less annoying than having weird looking cake layers.
Place one piece of baking paper with the circle on it on a baking tray. Spread one portion of the batter on the circle you draw on baking paper. Use a long batter spatula to do that and make sure that the batter layer is even. Bake for 10-11 minutes or until golden.
Repeat with the remaining 5 batter portions. Let cool all of them completely.
Take the butter out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature.
Beat the 4 eggs, the icing sugar, the vanilla sugar and the salt in a double boiler (bain-marie) until it thickens slightly. It took me about 13 minutes to achieve that stadium, but stand by and beat the mixture continuously until it thickens slightly. Do not let the water come to a boil at any time, that will make the eggs curdle. Take the mixture off the heat and continue beating it until it cools slightly. Set aside and leave it to cool a bit more. Stir from time to time.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler (bain-marie) as well. Let it cool slightly and add it to the egg mixture. Incorporate well. Leave the mixture to come to room temperature.
When the chocolate mixture has reached room temperature, give the butter (also at room temperature) to a bowl and beat it until creamy. Add the unsweetened cocoa powder and incorporate.
Add the chocolate mixture to the butter one tablespoon at a time and mix thoroughly in between, so that it doesn't curdle. The fact that both the chocolate mixture and the butter are at room temperature is very important as well. If their temperature is different, the buttercream will curdle.
If the buttercream curdles you can still fix it. You could either beat it for about 10-15 at high speed until it is smooth again or place it in the double boiler and heat it gently while beating it with the mixer until it is smooth again. Do not let it get too warm though, you do not want it to start melting. However, my buttercream did not curdle at all, everything went perfectly fine, so I guess it should be ok for you as well.
Before making the caramel, prepare the things needed to spread the caramel on the cake and to cut the caramel layer. The caramel hardens quickly, so you want to be very quick. Choose the nicest looking cake layer for the caramel and slightly butter the spatula you will use to spread the caramel and the knife you will use to cut the caramel cake layer. The knife should be a long, sturdy and sharp one.
Give the sugar, the vinegar and the butter to a pan. Let start caramelize and then start stirring gently. Be careful not the burn the sugar, it will taste bitter and you will have to start again. The right color should be a nice reddish brown, like amber.
Take the caramel off the heat and quickly spread it on the chosen cake layer using the long buttered spatula. Immediately start cutting the caramel cake layer into 12, 14 or 16 slices. The choice is yours, depends on how large the cake portions should be. Work quickly.
Assemble the Dobos Torte:
Keep some of the buttercream for covering the sides of the cake and for decorating the torte with rosettes.
Divide the rest into 5 equal portions and spread each portion evenly on each of the remaining 5 cake layers. Place the first cake layer on a nice cake platter and arrange the following cake layers on top of each other to form the torte.
Use some of the remaining buttercream to nicely cover the sides of the cake. Sprinkle the sides with toasted almond flakes or hazelnut brittle.
Give the remaining buttercream to a piping bag and pipe rosettes of the buttercream around the top edge of the cake. Pipe as many rosettes as you have caramel wedges.
Arrange the caramel wedges at an angle on top of the piped rosettes, like in the pictures above.
Chill the cake before serving.
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