Posted on 07 September 2009.
I dropped off the universe, didn’t I? And left you hanging about my Dobos Torte. It wasn’t intentional. I had just been busy with work, entertaining house guests, taxes (lovely), health issues, and catching up with friends. Sorry lovelies!
So finally, here’s a slice of the Dobos Torte shot to show off its fabulous layers. This gives me flashbacks (I almost said backflash…hmm) of the dreadful sinking feeling when I discovered that each layer will be baked individually. And in the process, perfect the technique to: quickly change the cookie sheets, run the hot one with cool water, wipe it dry, put new paper with the circular pattern to follow, and spread another layer of batter thinly…precisely. After baking the second layer in the oven, it began to feel like an assembly line and I was working in the kitchen from one counter to another in orchestrated moves. I really did not want it to end. But as with any Daring Bakers challenge, just when you start enjoying it, you move to the next one! Hey, I’m not complaining. I’m always relieved after I finish each challenge.
The Dobos Torta is a five-layer sponge cake, filled with a rich chocolate buttercream and topped with thin wedges of caramel, although you may find variations with 6 to 12 layers. József C. Dobos, a Hungarian baker, invented it in 1885 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.
The Dobos Torte or Torta entails baking the sponge sheets, making the caramel wedges, preparing the buttercream, and assembling the cake. As per the recipe and notes of our hosts, Lorraine and Angela, I heeded their advice to cool the layers in the fridge first, separated by parchment paper and well-wrapped. I made the buttercream while the layers were cooling, at three in the morning. That’s how I roll when I couldn’t sleep. Let’s make buttercream while the rest of the world is in deep sleep! As I said in my previous post, it was heavenly and I was pointing my toes as I walked in delight. I had to restrain myself from eating the bowl of buttercream. I wrapped the bowl and put it in the fridge before I could commit that sin.
The next evening, I took out the best sponge layer to create the caramel wedges. This part is tricky and requires that your mind isn’t sleeping: you pour caramel made of sugar and water, with lemon juice, over on sponge layer, let it cool for a bit, slice, and fully cool. I cut the sponge layer into 12 slices first before pouring the caramel. I think that saved me half a woe of cutting. After the caramel solidifies enough to be cut, you use a heated and well-oiled knife to cut through the caramel. I didn’t heat the knife because I couldn’t think of how to do so, but I oiled it before making my first attempt at cutting. After a few light strokes, it had become evident to me that it would not work out because not only was the caramel sticking, it was breaking and the sponge cake was tearing apart. Look at the center of my caramel layer on the right (iPhone shot!) and you will see the slight tear in the middle right there.
The knife just won’t cut it, no pun intended. I had to think of another way to cut it without breaking it. My next brilliant idea: use a pizza cutter. Oiled.
And it worked! The oiled pizza cutter made cutting these wedges a breeze, if I dare say so! I wiped it regularly with a paper towel that’s been well-dampened with oil and it was like magic. So there…that was my A-HA! moment with the caramel wedges.
Once the wedges were cut, I placed 12 toasted and peeled hazelnuts/filberts on the top of the cake for the wedges to lean on. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t perfect. I had to move them around several times.
Now onto the finished product.
You’ll notice from the first photo above that the butter cream looks shiny and gooey. I tried eating it cold (check out the cold cake with dull-looking buttercream) and at room temperature, and I’m all for the latter. It looks, tastes, and feels better in the mouth. The sponge layers are soft-er, and the flavor of the chocolate buttercream tastes like Christmas morning in your mouth: it will make you smile because it’s so smooth and rich. The chocolate layered with sponge cake creates a good balance of textures. The lemon-y caramel wedges were (I think) meant to counteract the sweet cake.
I have to say that the sponge layers were a bit dry. It could be my baking, the cooling, or something, but it lacked the softness and moisture that I wish was there. Even with the buttercream, it was lacking in overall cake moisture. The caramel wedges were a bit too tangy for me, but our house guests LOVED them. It was too strong of a contrast for me. Perhaps next time I make this (if I will), I will decrease the lemon juice, and add a dollop of crème fraîche when served. It’s already making me drool.
Somebody asked me how food on this site seem to look perfect, and if they are really perfect. The answer? They’re certainly not. The topmost picture? I didn’t even notice the dark spot behind the caramel wedge until I was resizing it. I did try to take a photo of the slice at another angle, but that didn’t turn out well because of the chocolate right here. Oops. But I’m showing it here to show you just one of the many food styling gaffs I make. When the chocolate softened, the wedge slipped and I had reposition it again and I didn’t even check the back. Hehe. I think I’ll have to check my camera in case I accidentally wiped chocolate on it!
Just like the headshots you see in magazines, these food photos are not as perfect in real life. I just try to emphasize the good features. :-)