Daring Bakers August Challenge- Dobos Torte

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.

Oh boy.

When I first heard of the Daring Bakers, I came across this Torte. Well maybe not this particular recipe, but something similar. And I've wanted to make one ever since.

As with every Challenge, first I gathered everything I thought I might need. Wait.. what's that? There, on the right....

Why, it's parchment paper! Looky! I actually remembered to get some! And not only that, but I remembered to get plastic wrap too! Oh joy!

Any way...

First I had to separate 6 large eggs. I did really well until that last one. That one insisted on breaking as I dropped the yolk in the bowl. Hmph. Stupid yolk.

Then, because I couldn't find actual cake flour readily, I had to sift together regular flour and cornstarch. Except... I needed that bowl to beat the egg yolks in, cause it's my mixer bowl. D'oh!
So I had to dump that stuffs into another bowl. Yeah, I went through a lot of dishes on this Challenge.}:/

After wiping the bowl out, I added the egg yolks and powdered sugar. Then I started it beating.

While the yolks and sugar were beating, I sprayed 2 cookie sheets with cooking spray (Pam Olive Oil Cooking Spray to be exact.) and lined them with the parchment paper. The quick spray of oil was to help keep the parchment from sliding around when I was ready to put the batter on them. Doing a traditional round Dobos Torte? Pffft. Puh-lease. Not me, nope, nu-uh. Ok, ok, I didn't have the time or the funds to go buy 4 more round cake pans and didn't feel like bothering with just the two I had. Satisfied? Sheesh.

So, beat the egg yolks and sugar until they were a nice pale yellow and created ribbons when the beaters were lifted. Purty.

While the eggs yolks were beating and after I lined the cookie sheets, I got to work hand beating the egg whites and the rest of the powdered sugar. And beating. And beating. And beating. We see where this is going, right? Yeah. I think it's time to invest in a back up hand mixer.

After what seemed like an eternity of hand beating, finally I achieved soft peaks and was able to gently fold 1/4 of the whites into the yolks. Then the rest was folded in. Gently mind you. I had to keep reminding myself to fold, not stir.

Then I had to do the same thing with the sifted flour, half at a time. Fold, not stir. Heh. It took a bit of doing, but I got it all mixed in. And it was still fluffy! Yay!

Then I took one of the parchment paper lined cookie sheets, and spread about half of the sponge cake batter on it. I repeated this with the other cookie sheet as well. I tried really hard to get them as evenly distributed as I could. I was moderately successful.

Each layer baked for roughly 6 minutes. Then, after they mostly cooled, I placed a sheet of parchment on them , and put them on top of each other, then weighted them down with a third cookie sheet and several plates to flatten them a bit more. It sort of worked.

Once they were cooled completely, I then removed the sheets of sponge cake from the cookie sheets. I carefully measured them out and cut them more or less equally into 6 sections, 5" wide by 8" long, with 2" pieces left for whatever decorations I planned. And I had plans for them pieces too. I placed each piece in a ziploc container with a piece of parchment between each, then stuck it in the fridge.

Next up was making the chocolate buttercream frosting.

Now, buttercream and I... we don't have a good track record. Failcakes, anyone? Yeah. So I didn't have high hopes for this particular buttercream either.

Beat the eggs and powdered sugar together and I cheated a bit.. and used Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa instead of grating chocolate to use in this. Dumped in roughly 1/4 cup at the start.

Then I, still dubious, put it over a pan of simmering water to thicken and slightly cook the eggs. I also added another 1/4 cup of cocoa at this point, as well as 1/2 teaspoon of Cardamom. Being skeptical, it didn't appear to be thickening to me. But I let it cook for the 2-3 minutes the recipe said and removed the bowl.

Set it on the table and walked away. It had to cool to room temp. That took awhile. Every so often I'd give it a good whip and a stir. It didn't look thick to me. I actually went to the store and BOUGHT, using mostly change no less, chocolate frosting, cause I just knew this was going to fail. I knew it.

Once the chocolate mixture was cooled, I poured it into the mixing bowl and turned the mixer on medium-high speed. Then I slowly added the unsalted butter, a piece at a time. I kept giving the hubby odd looks, which he totally missed, cause...

Umm... it worked. I actually made chocolate buttercream. O.O My mind, it is still boggled. So, I scooped it all into a bowl and quickly stuck it in the fridge until the next day.

The next day, I had to make the caramel layer. Well, those 2" wide pieces I had left? I cut 1" stars out of them and laid them on a piece of wax paper. Then, instead of lemon juice, I used vanilla extract in my caramel. And I added Cardamom. I like Cardamom, what can I say.

Pulled the sponge cake layers and the buttercream out of the fridge. Look! It's still buttercream frosting! Whee! The buttercream in particular needed to come back up to room temp so I could spread it easily.

Made the FIRST batch of caramel. Note I said FIRST. Poured it over the stars. Then tried to spread it around a bit to coat the stars more evenly and well, that didn't work very well. So I stuck the pan in the freezer and set about putting the Torte together.

I took a small metal pan, flipped it over, put a sheet of parchment on it, tucked the ends under. That was my base for building my Torte. I put a small dab of buttercream on the parchment to hold the first layer in place so it wouldn't slide around as I spread a thin layer of buttercream on it. That worked beautifully.

Rinse and repeat for all 6 layers, building the Torte as evenly as possible and creating a crumb coat on the outside to hide where one layer wasn't quite as wide as the one below, etc. Not that that was a huge issue, but one layer was a bit narrower. There weren't many crumbs either, luckily. Unfortunately, there was apparently some unmixed bits butter in my buttercream, but you know what?? I. Don't. Care. I made buttercream. That's all I cared about.}:P

Finally, all layers were on and I did a final coating of buttercream to even it all out and make it as smooth as possible.

For some strange reason, one corner dipped. Hrm. No idea why. Oh well. The Torte then was stuck in the fridge to set up firm and I checked on the stars in the freezer.

Umm... yeah. I couldn't get them off the stupid wax paper. So, they were tossed. I was now frustrated. I had to figure some sort of caramel layer decoration and all I had left was scraps. Well, I took the outline sections of the stars, trimmed them into rough squares and made a second batch of caramel. This time, I used lime juice and Cardamom. I also sprayed a cookie sheet AND a wire rack with oil and laid the squares on it, hoping THAT would work.

#$%%^&#@$@#* squares didn't get fully covered, so I made a THIRD batch of caramel. Then I flipped the wire rack over, cause, you KNOW the stupid squares were stuck to it, despite being sprayed with oil first.

At that point, I gave up. I waited until the caramel hardened and broke it up into pieces. THAT was what I ended up using.

I managed to get the Torte off the parchment paper and onto the plate. Then I decorated it with shards of caramel and a few pecan halves- I hate hazelnuts. The bottom edge was lined with pecans.

Other than the caramel layer/decoration, it was worth it. It was very good. Mark gave it 2 thumbs up approval. HOWEVER, I don't think I'll be making another anytime soon.}:P

Thanks Angela and Lorraine, for a definitely challenging Challenge!


So, what is the Dobos Torta (or Torte)?

The Dobos Torta 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.

Lorraine and I would like you to make this famous cake which we chose in the spirit of being Daring and Challenging us. Variations are discussed at the end of this post and as always, if you have to make substitutions for dietary or financial reasons, that is fine.


•2 baking sheets
•9” (23cm) springform 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 sprinfrom 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.)

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.


Shape: The traditional shape of a Dobos Torta is a circular cake, but you can vary the shape and size if you want. Sherry Yard in Desserts By The Yard makes a skyscraper Dobos by cutting a full-size cake into four wedges and stacking them to create a tall, sail-shaped cake. Mini Dobos would be very cute, and you could perch a little disc of caramel on top.

Flavour: While we both love the dark chocolate buttercream and this is traditional, we think it would be fun to see what fun buttercreams you all come up with! So, go wild! Or, you could brush each layer with a flavoured syrup if you just want a hint of a second flavour. Cointreau syrup would be divine!

Nuts: These are optional for decoration, so no worries if you're allergic to them. If you don't like hazelnuts, then substitute for another variety that you like.

Egg concerns

The cooking process for the buttercream will produce lightly cooked eggs. If you fall into a vulnerable health group then you may wish to use an egg-less buttercream.





Well done! What a lovely Torte you have here. I had the same problem with my caramel. Couldn't lift them off the paper. I had to throw them away and make some toffee patterns.
The caramel was so difficult, but I love the glassy look you ended up with!!
i also had an issue with the caramel but i did't care, i made it just once.

i think your cake turned out beautifully, the icing looks so smooth and divine.


I actually kind of love the caramel shards.. it's too bad they gave you such trouble.. but they turned out pretty awesome looking. I know I was pretty skeptical about the buttercream when making it too.. it just seemed too soft. But, dang it, it's good! Your cake looks very impressive. Great job on this challenge. ~ Cheri from Snippets


From the look of things, I think the caramel pieces were meant to be. They make your torte look even better.


Wonderful Work

Audax here - love all the step-by-step photos and your buttercream is one of the best I've seen so far excellent work on that. And the final torta looks superb. I actually love the look of the caramel glass. You got your buttercream so dark which looks so charming. And that plate is marvellous reminds of summer days on the beach. Cheers from Audax in Australia
Your cake turned out so gorgeous! The caramel shards are perfection, and the execution and stacking is beautiful. I think we all had a little trouble with the caramel at some point, since it's the dog days of August which equals humidity galore! Beautifully done!


You also made a little stars... shame they were so sticky ;)
Your Dobos looks great - very pretty and delicious! Cheers.


asti @ iceteasugarhigh.blogspot.com

Love your caramel decoration! stunning. I am envious on how sharp you manage to get your torte edges, I had a lot of difficulty with the buttercream to be able to get a sharp edges. Well done


Freakin' love the dark buttercream.. just fill a tub up with it and I'll dive right in, thankyouverymuch! I can't believe you did 3 batches of the caramel.. you, my dear, are truly DARING. God love ya. ;) I think I like the shards of caramel as decoration better than the covered cake layer, it's like lil pieces of stained glass on that gorgeous dark buttercream. *slurp*

Beautiful work!!