And so begins my enchantment with multi-layered Hungarian desserts

We had an office team lunch last weekend and I promised to bring dessert.  In other words, I rashly pootled straight into a Saturday morning nightmare comprising chocolate, cream and eggs. Now those words are not usually associated with panic attacks, but if you find yourself struggling with millions of layers of the stickiest eggiest sponge cake (which you suspect is more reminiscent of omelets), along with streaks of melted chocolate on every visible surface (every pot and pan, the kitchen counter, the entire dining table, and your freshly showered self) you do check to see if you are on Elm Street.  You see I was going to make the Devil’s Food Cake, but it did not seem ‘challenging’ enough – so to make a bad idea worse, I decided to experiment with multiple layers of cake and ganache. And thus it happened, my fairly dubious dobos torte, which is by far the messiest dessert I have ever made and therefore, one of the funnest.

Dobos Tarte
Dobos Tarte

Before we dive into the recipe, a little about dobos torte. Dobos Torte “is a Hungarian cake named after its inventor, a well-known Hungarian confectioner, József C. Dobos in 1884. It is a five-layer sponge cake, layered with chocolate buttercream and topped with thin caramel slices. The sides of the cake are sometimes coated with ground hazelnuts, chestnuts, walnuts or almonds but the original cake is uncoated, since it was a slice of a big cake”

Smitten Kitchen, where I first read about this genius slice of confection, makes a twelve layer cake with chocolate frosting, topped with a caramel layer. Being a coward, I went with six layers and a chocolate ganache filling (not being a fan of raw egg yolks). Also I suck at math – I always knew it, but I realize it anew just now while re-reading Deb’s recipe. Erm, while I halved the cake recipe to make fewer layers, I incorrectly computed the cake pan proportions. So do check out the original recipe before you make this. And please, do make it – it really is simpler than it looks.

Cake layers

  • 4 eggs (separated).
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 227 gm icing sugar
  • 47 gm AP flour
  • ½ tbsp  lemon juice
  • A pinch of salt

Chocolate ganache (Joy of Baking recipe). You can get my write up of it here.

  • I started by separating all the eggs, straight out of the fridge, using my fancy-schmancy egg separator (I wait for opportunities to use it). Eggs are much easier to separate when cold. When you start, do this first, and they will come to room temperature by the time you get everything else lined up
  • Cut out two sheets (about 14” by 10”) of parchment paper and pencil a 12” by 8” rectangle in the middle of each (I erred and made 8” by 8” squares, resulting in tiny cake layers with too much chocolate. But then there is no such thing as too much chocolate). Flip over and grease and flour sheets and lay them down in cookie sheets
  • Next, I chopped all the chocolate – and this time around I used some awesome dark stuff (no chocolate compound!).  I think it was the one single decision which made all the difference in the taste. After melting it into the hot cream and butter, I let it come to room temperature. My filling had thickened a tad too much, when it came to spreading. Next time around, perhaps I shall use more cream/butter or use it while still slightly warm
  • To make the cake layers, whip the egg yolks (at high speed) for a couple of minutes till pale and fluffy.  Decrease the speed and slowly add the sugar – increase and beat till glossy.  At low speed, add the flour and salt in, and beat on high for 5 minutes. Finish with the lemon juice.  Keep scraping down the sides of the bowl while adding the ingredients. Transfer to a large bowl.  Whisk the egg whites (using the whisk attachment) till stiff peaks.  Add into egg yolk mixture, in three additions
  • Meanwhile, heat the oven to 220 degrees c. Spread out the cake batter in a thin layer onto your parchment sheets. Bake for 5 minutes till golden.  Since my layers were thicker (I know why now!), I had to reduce the heat and bake them for a couple of extra minutes.  Flip onto a tea towel dusted with icing sugar and gently peel back the parchment paper.  Flip onto some fresh parchment paper or another tea towel. Do not be aghast as to how sticky the cake becomes as it cools
  • Trim and cut the cake layers into thirds. On some parchment paper, alternately layer cake and chocolate ganache. End with the ganache layer. I confess, some of my layers did kind of disintegrate so I smooshed them together like a giant jigsaw puzzle
  • Chill in the refrigerator till serving

Given both the quantity and dubious quality, I carried some store bought ‘emergency’ dessert to lunch.  But all that chocolate goodness, when served with ice cream, resulted in suitably wide smiles. So all’s well that ends in chocolate smears.

I am determined to make this again, and do a neater and mathematically accurate job. And then one day – multiple layers of chocolate sponge cake, chocolate mousse, and chocolate glaze – the rigo jancsi 🙂

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