Dobos Torte for the Daring Bakers August ‘09 challenge

by Sunita on August 27, 2009

It’s that time of the month again! Time to post the Daring Baker’s challenge for the month. It’s been an incredibly long journey for me with the DB…yes, I’ve completed 2 years with this amazing group. Actually I had completed my two years with the DB last month itself. When I joined, it was a much smaller group than it is now. Since then, it has grown in leaps and bounds. I have learnt such a great deal during this time. I first overcame my fear of yeast. I have baked innumerable things which I would probably never have tried. The learning still continues. Thanks to everyone in the group for the tremendous support throughout the month. I am proud to be amongst you all.

August, especially the end of it, is a very cakey month for us, with both Rengoni and Agastya’s birthday, just a week apart. The DB challenge reveal date falls just somewhere in between this week. Needless to say, by the time this month is over, we are all going to be on a sugar high !!

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 Dobos Torte is a five-layer sponge cake, filled with a rich chocolate buttercream and topped with thin wedges of caramel. (You may come across recipes which have anywhere between six and 12 layers of cake; there are numerous family variations!) It was invented in 1885 by József C. Dobos, a Hungarian baker, and it rapidly became famous throughout Europe for both its extraordinary taste and its keeping properties. The recipe was a secret until Dobos retired in 1906 and gave the recipe to the Budapest Confectioners’ and Gingerbread Makers’ Chamber of Industry, providing that every member of the chamber can use it freely.

We were given a recipe to follow , but variations such as shape, flavour and substitutions for dietary or financial reasons.


  • 2 baking sheets
  • 9” (23cm) spring form tin and 8” cake tin, for templates
  • mixing bowls (1 medium, 1 large)
  • a sieve
  • a double boiler (a large saucepan plus a large heat-proof mixing bowl which fits snugly over the top of the pan)
  • a small saucepan
  • a whisk (you could use a balloon whisk for the entire cake, but an electric hand whisk or stand mixer will make life much easier)
  • metal offset spatula
  • sharp knife
  • a 7 1/2” cardboard cake round, or just build cake on the base of a spring form tin.
  • piping bag and tip, optional

Prep times

  • Sponge layers 20 mins prep, 40 mins cooking total if baking each layer individually.
  • Buttercream: 20 mins cooking. Cooling time for buttercream: about 1 hour plus 10 minutes after this to beat and divide.
  • Caramel layer: 10-15 minutes.
  • Assembly of whole cake: 20 minutes

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

Chocolate Buttercream

  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) caster (ultrafine or superfine white) sugar
  • 4oz (110g) bakers chocolate or your favourite dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250g) unsalted butter, at room temperature.

Caramel topping

  • 1 cup (200g) caster (superfine or ultrafine white) sugar
  • 12 tablespoons (180 ml) water
  • 8 teaspoons (40 ml) lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed, rice bran, sunflower)

Finishing touches

  • a 7” cardboard round
  • 12 whole hazelnuts, peeled and toasted
  • ½ cup (50g) peeled and finely chopped hazelnuts

Directions for the sponge layers:

NB. 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.)
A baked layer.

Directions for the chocolate buttercream:

NB. This can be prepared in advance and kept chilled until required.

1.Prepare a double-boiler: quarter-fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil.
2.Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale and thickened, about five minutes. You can use a balloon whisk or electric hand mixer for this.
3.Fit bowl over the boiling water in the saucepan (water should not touch bowl) and lower the heat to a brisk simmer. Cook the egg mixture, whisking constantly, for 2-3 minutes until you see it starting to thicken a bit. Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate and cook, stirring, for a further 2-3 minutes.
4.Scrape the chocolate mixture into a medium bowl and leave to cool to room temperature. It should be quite thick and sticky in consistency.
5.When cool, beat in the soft butter, a small piece (about 2 tablespoons/30g) at a time. An electric hand mixer is great here, but it is possible to beat the butter in with a spatula if it is soft enough. You should end up with a thick, velvety chocolate buttercream. Chill while you make the caramel topping.

Lorraine’s note: If you’re in Winter just now your butter might not soften enough at room temperature, which leads to lumps forming in the buttercream. Male sure the butter is of a very soft texture I.e. running a knife through it will provide little resistance, before you try to beat it into the chocolate mixture. Also, if you beat the butter in while the chocolate mixture is hot you’ll end up with more of a ganache than a buttercream!

Directions for the caramel topping:

1.Choose the best-looking cake layer for the caramel top. To make the caramel topping: Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper and butter the paper. Place the reserved cake layer on the paper. Score the cake into 12 equal wedges. Lightly oil a thin, sharp knife and an offset metal spatula.
2.Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Once dissolved into a smooth syrup, turn the heat up to high and boil without stirring, swirling the pan by the handle occasionally and washing down any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan with a wet brush until the syrup has turned into an amber-coloured caramel.
3.The top layer is perhaps the hardest part of the whole cake so make sure you have a oiled, hot offset spatula ready. I also find it helps if the cake layer hasn’t just been taken out of the refrigerator. I made mine ahead of time and the cake layer was cold and the toffee set very, very quickly—too quickly for me to spread it. Immediately pour all of the hot caramel over the cake layer. You will have some leftover most probably but more is better than less and you can always make nice toffee pattern using the extra to decorate. Using the offset spatula, quickly spread the caramel evenly to the edge of the cake layer. Let cool until beginning to set, about 30 seconds. Using the tip of the hot oiled knife (keep re-oiling this with a pastry brush between cutting), cut through the scored marks to divide the caramel layer into 12 equal wedges. Cool another minute or so, then use the edge of the knife to completely cut and separate the wedges using one firm slice movement (rather than rocking back and forth which may produce toffee strands). Cool completely.

Angela’s note: I recommend cutting, rather than scoring, the cake layer into wedges before covering in caramel (reform them into a round). If you have an 8” silicon round form, then I highly recommend placing the wedges in that for easy removal later and it also ensures that the caramel stays on the cake layer. Once set, use a very sharp knife to separate the wedges.

Assembling the Dobos

1.Divide the buttercream into six equal parts.
2.Place a dab of chocolate buttercream on the middle of a 7 1/2” cardboard round and top with one cake layer. Spread the layer with one part of the chocolate icing. Repeat with 4 more cake layers. Spread the remaining icing on the sides of the cake.
3.Optional: press the finely chopped hazelnuts onto the sides of the cake.
4.Propping a hazelnut under each wedge so that it sits at an angle, arrange the wedges on top of the cake in a spoke pattern. If you have any leftover buttercream, you can pipe rosettes under each hazelnut or a large rosette in the centre of the cake. Refrigerate the cake under a cake dome until the icing is set, about 2 hours. Let slices come to room temperature for the best possible flavour.


I (Angela) am quite happy to store this cake at room temperature under a glass dome, but your mileage may vary. If you do decide to chill it, then I would advise also using a glass dome if you have done. I should also note that the cake will cut more cleanly when chilled.

What I did-

  • I followed the instructions and made a mini version of the cake.
  • I baked the sponges in ramekins.
  • Made the buttercream.
  • Covered the sides with some chopped nuts. Decorated the top with caramelly (?) wedges and some caramel patterns. The wedges were rested on nut pieces.

I had no problems with the sponges, and they were done in a jiffy. Regarding the taste of the sponges, I must admit that I have known better. My buttercream was not very thick. I had made very small cakes, and when I sandwiched them with the buttercream, they kept slipping. Probably I should have chilled them after adding each layer to hold all of them in place. Due to this, the shape had to be compromised. The five layers can hardly be seen . They are all in there somewhere, being pushed to one side by the loose buttercream. Other than the buttercream fiaso, the rest of the parts went quite well, without any hiccups.

The cake was loved by the kids ( what with all that chocolate in it). The buttercream, inspite of everything, tasted yum. I must have gained a few inches already! We did not fancy the caramel part on top though, and it was promptly discarded.

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nirmala August 27, 2009 at 3:15 pm

I was checking for this since a while! Thats a wonderful cake. The shape is reall good and it is a gorgeous cake. So Rengoni had it for her b’day?


2 Sunita August 27, 2009 at 3:22 pm

Thanks Nirmala. Rengoni’s b’day is on Saturday. As buttercream and myself are not the best of friends, I did not want to risk making it for a bigger cake-hence this mini one :-)


3 MandyM August 27, 2009 at 3:23 pm

Beautifully photographed!


4 Anula August 27, 2009 at 3:52 pm

Beautiful mini Dobos Torts! They lookd so pretty and so yummy! Can I have one? ;) Cheers!


5 allyall August 27, 2009 at 4:04 pm

Your cake is very artistic and lovely! What photography skills you have too! Congrats on a great challenge!


6 Parita August 27, 2009 at 4:37 pm

Ohh mini dobos look fantastic :)


7 Shirley August 27, 2009 at 4:54 pm

I had slippage problems too! It helped to insert a wooden skewer to keep them in place, like a temporary dowel. Yours looks great!


8 Sunita August 27, 2009 at 5:49 pm

Great tip Shirley…thanks :-)


9 Rosa August 27, 2009 at 5:30 pm

Your cakes look really pretty! I love the idea!




10 Lakshmi August 27, 2009 at 5:50 pm

never seen such a cake even in bakeries here. Gorgeous!
Congrats on completing 2 yrs with DB!


11 Meeta August 27, 2009 at 6:21 pm

i agree that the sponge cake did not have much flavor. i love your little minis! perfect! nice to have you back – you know that!!


12 Sunita August 27, 2009 at 6:40 pm

Oh yes, i do! Thanks Meeta :-)


13 Angela August 27, 2009 at 6:30 pm

Beautiful mini tortes! The sugar decorations are just gorgeous.


14 Hilda August 27, 2009 at 6:38 pm

Gosh Sunita, did you join the same month I did? So your first challenge was the mirror cake? DBs has really changed in that time hasn’t it. Well even though it sounded like you were having a little bit of a doozie, it turned out quite well didn’t it. I should have just stuck to dark chocolate and made really tiny ones instead of just small ones. Live and learn.


15 Sunita August 27, 2009 at 11:53 pm

Yup! The mirror cake it was! And yes, DB has changed so much since then.


16 Julie August 27, 2009 at 7:32 pm

Love your photos and mini-tortes! I shared your opinions on the buttercream AND on the caramel!


17 Lisa is Bossy August 27, 2009 at 7:35 pm

Your photography is so fantastic! Congratulations on 2 years with DB! And to think I was just patting myself on the back for surviving almost a year and a half. Haha! I too discarded my caramel and thought that buttercream was just too soft/slippery to be very helpful. So nice to see such similarities with everyone!


18 musical August 27, 2009 at 7:53 pm

Your cakes and bakes always leave me spellbound, Sunita!! Congratulations on two yummy years with Daring Bakers. Wish you many more creative and fun outings with them!


19 Elizabeth August 27, 2009 at 10:13 pm

Wow, 2 yrs, that’s great! Your Dobos torte look fantastic!


20 Soma August 27, 2009 at 10:52 pm

So pretty esp. with the caramel patterns.. yeah don’t know if i could take in so much caramel… loved your idea of doing the mini one.


21 Cheryl August 28, 2009 at 12:32 am

I love the size of your torta’s, and although you had trouble with the icing, we would have never known. The layers look even and the shape looks precises. I even love the nuts and your creative Carmel shapes!


22 maybelles mom August 28, 2009 at 1:09 am

I think the mini looks wonderful. good job.


23 sarah August 28, 2009 at 2:28 am

beautiful photos! i bet all the nuts on the outside gave it great texture.


24 sara August 28, 2009 at 2:34 am

So pretty! I love how you decorated these…they look really cool! :)


25 Aparna August 28, 2009 at 7:58 am

Belated birthday wishes to Agasthya and Rengoni. Mini cakes are a great way to go and yours look pretty.
August is celebration time in my home too. :)


26 Sunita August 28, 2009 at 2:07 pm

Thanks for your wishes Aparna. Rengoni’s b’day is tomorrow:-)


27 Kitchenlander August 28, 2009 at 9:48 am

Beautiful pictures and lovely topping!


28 Alka August 28, 2009 at 1:18 pm

If that’s kickstart a Friday, I don’t what will!! :) I keep telling myself to get over my fear of baking from scratch.. I should just bite the bullet and just do it rather than baking out of a box..


29 Simran August 28, 2009 at 5:52 pm

2 Years! WOW

And the cake looks so amazing.


30 Lauren August 28, 2009 at 6:30 pm

Congrats on your second year!! Wonderful job with this challenge – the torte looks amazing =D.


31 isa August 29, 2009 at 7:45 pm

What a beautiful cake – I love your presentation!
Congratulations on 2 years DB!


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