Thursday, August 27, 2009

Daring Bakers: Dobos Torte Or, Why Toddlers Should Nap

My feet hurt.

This was the wrong day for my Small Girl to decide she didn't need a nap. I had a lot to do. Pizza to make (using a new baking technique that finally gave me the crust I long for). A big fat torte to finish. A (soon-to-be) new house to ponder. Six weeks of pre-move activities to plan. It's been a rough week and today kicked me to the curb and back.

But it's over and despite everything, I managed to make the deadline for this month's Daring Bakers challenge.

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.


I had good intentions this month. I was mentally prepared to make this lovely layered cake days and days ago, but I forgot my shopping list when we went to town last week and, in trying to recreate it, managed to forget all the things I needed for this month's challenge. I had less than half a cup of sugar in the house. Less than a cup of flour. It was pitiful that I didn't recognize that there were no back-up bags of either one. So the torte had to wait.

Using a template for cutting the layers.

Yesterday, I noticed that there were only two days left until the Daring Bakers reveal. That's some serious motivation. I had all (well, the store I shopped at on Monday didn't have hazelnuts, so technically, I didn't really have all the ingredients) the ingredients. I had a little bit of time. I had a relatively cool day. So I made the chocolate buttercream frosting. There are only three of us eating, so a half recipe seemed like plenty and that's what I did. The recipe yielded up a gorgeously light, smooth frosting and I checked that off the mental list.

This morning, I weighed out all the dry ingredients for the sponge cake layers and took out three eggs to come up to room temperature. I read through the instructions again. I prepared for battle. It was fine. Small Girl was fascinated by the changes the egg whites went through on their way to shiny, stiff peaks. Everything came together well. I had decided on a rectangular cake, so I was making two sheet pans of cake to cut into the layers.

The first sheet pan came out of the oven after it's allotted five minutes. It looked good. I inverted it, as directed, and then tried the next step: Sliding it back onto the parchment paper. It wasn't sliding. It wasn't moving. It was well and truly stuck and nothing was going to get it to budge. After three minutes of trying to gently scrape it, I realized that it was more important to make sure this didn't happen to the second -- and last -- cake, which would be emerging from the oven in two minutes. Scrape like mad. Wash. Pull another parchment sheet and dust it liberally with cocoa. Just in time! I inverted the second -- now only -- cake onto the prepared parchment and, with a little work, was able to slide it around. Whew!

The four-layer cake with it's crumb coat of frosting.

I wanted to get as many layers as I could without making a silly-looking cake in terms of proportions, so I measured, made a template, and cut four long rectangles. When they were completely cool, I brought out the buttercream and frosted. I've never owned an off-set spatula before. Don't know why, but I didn't. I bought one for this challenge because it was needed for smoothing the cake batter. But let me tell you how much easier it is to frost a cake with an off-set than a knife, my normal tool. I'm still not a great cake-decorator, but it's a big step up.


The Dobos torte traditionally has a toffee-coated cake layer arranged decoratively on top of the cake. It does look beautiful when done correctly, but the concept of a soft sponge layer coated with toffee leaves me a bit cold, so I thought I'd take the spirit of that element and do something I know and like: brittle. I made a big pan of toasted almond brittle and broke it up into small pieces for the top and sides of the cake. I had hoped to make the brittle early enough that I could crush some and put a layer inside the cake, too, but given Small Girl's anti-nap stance, it wasn't to be.

The joy of this torte is supposed to be the multiple, alternating layers of cake and frosting. Other Daring Bakers have been achieving heights of twelve layers! I have four. Four nicely-flavored layers, to be sure, but it's not quite the slice of sedimentary history that it's supposed to be. If I had a sleeping toddler, I probably would have made another half-batch of cake and gone to greater heights. But I didn't, so I couldn't, and it's all good.

19 comments:

  1. I like the idea of brittle :) Your Dobos - even if it's 'only' 4 layers - looks delicious :)

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  2. Your dobos looks so yummy, especially with the caramel brittle! Off-set spatulas are so helpful in cake decorating--I totally agree! :)

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  3. Great job in spite of all your challenges. Sometimes life gets in the way of our Daring Baker desires. Love the brittle.

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  4. Love the topping!
    I had my brand new off set spatula in drawer, had been there for a month or so and it was my first time with it, too: I'll never look back, and I'm going to buy a little one, too!

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  5. I think you're basically a hero for doing this with a toddler! :) It looks great!

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  6. My first layer stayed stuck to the parchment too - it's like making crepes, the first one is usually ruined! Your brittle looks delicious.

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  7. What a gorgeous cake! Beautiful presentation with your brittle! Well done!

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  8. Almond Brittle! Sounds Fantastic. Great job on the challenge! :)

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  9. Your brittle reminds me of a candy mosaic... I love the rich color contrast with the chocolate frosting. Looks gorgeous and delicious!

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  10. Great idea with the brittle! Your torte looks amazing =D. Wonderful job with this challenge!

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  11. I like the rectangle look! If you were local, I'd keep you updated for any more of our Ming appearances. I don't suppose you're anywhere near Boston? :)

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  12. I literally had an illumination when I saw the word "brittle" in your post. Of course! A nut brittle would be perfect for this torte! Fabulous idea! And a very nice-looking torte!

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  13. Thanks, as always, for the kind comments and the motivation to keep going! A mosaic of brittle was my original plan and then I thought about trying to cut through it and decided to just do the small chunks.

    My off-set was a small one -- the only one in the shop -- and I'd love a bigger one so I could sweep the whole top in one go for a smoother finish.

    (And no, unfortunately, I live near the other ocean -- soon to be just a mile from it, as a matter of fact!)

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  14. Angela. that is one gorgeous Dobos Torte!! I love the almond brittle 'mosaic' pattern around and on the cake..tastier than plain caramel, and brilliant! Also, an offset spatula is always your best friend when frosting a cake. I think I have 20 of them, in all different sizes and shapes..LOL

    All in all, beautiful job on the challenge! You rocked it!

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  15. Yum i love your brittle!! fab dobo's

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  16. What a good idea to make brittle for the top. Ingenious! Great job.

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  18. Love the idea of the brittle. Great job on the challenge, the torte looks absolutely divine!

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  19. I think 4 layers is plenty impressive! what a lovely cake, and the brittle looks delish

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