Daring Bakers:  Dobos Torte (and a Big Flop)

Thursday, August 27, 2009


I had planned to have this post ready to go earlier this morning. But, as it often happens, life got in my way!  Mini SGCC has been under the weather for several days. She informed me late last night that two of her good friends had been diagnosed with mono, and that she had recently shared her Chapstick with one of them, and a drink with the other.  Will they never learn!?!? So, instead of editing my photographs and writing up my post first thing this morning, I spent several hours with my daughter at the pediatrician’s office and at the lab getting her blood work done.  (Don’t even ASK me how THAT went!  Guess who is phobic about needles?)  Oy!

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.  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 was allowed to use it freely.


Instead of using an eight inch pan,  I downsized my torte a little and made it about six inches in diameter. I also did not follow the directions exactly for making the sponge cake.  It made no sense to me to go to all the hassle of cutting out parchment rounds, then spreading batter on them, only to have to trim them anyway after baking.  Instead, I spread all of my batter in a thin layer on a large baking sheet.  After the cake was baked and cooled, I just cut out the rounds from there.  With the scraps, I cut out little cake flowers to use for the caramel top.

When making the buttercream, I added some instant espresso powder to give it a slight suggestion of mocha.  I thought the sponge layers were a little dry, so I  brushed them with Chambord, a lovely black raspberry liqueur. I spread a thin coating of raspberry jam on top of each layer as well.

I had also planned to mix it up a little and make a  miniature  lemon, raspberry and white chocolate version of the torte.  The lemon and white chocolate buttercream was to die for!   The fresh raspberries were pretty awesome too.  Unfortunately, something went terribly wrong while it was setting up in the fridge, and…Well, you can see what happened for yourself…


Mr. SGCC is half-Hungarian, so I’ve learned to make many different Hungarian dishes over the years, including Dobos Torte.  I have never used this particular recipe before, and I’m sorry to say, I probably won’t again.  I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either.  It was just okay for me.  The only component of this torte that I really enjoyed was the chocolate buttercream.  But even dreamy, creamy, chocolate buttercream couldn’t disguise the tasteless, rubbery sponge cake and that odd, lemon-tainted caramel.   Who knows?  Maybe I royally screwed up the recipe?  It certainly has happened before (see above)!

Now, I understand that many of my fellow Daring Bakers really loved this Dobos Torte.  If you’d like to see their interpretations, check out the blogroll at The Daring Kitchen.


Dobos Torte
adapted from Exquisite Desserts by Rick Rodgers


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
1  7 1/2” cardboard cake round, or just build cake on the base of a springform 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
4 oz (110g) bakers chocolate or your favorite 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

1 7” cardboard round
12 whole hazelnuts, peeled and toasted
1/2 cup (50g) peeled and finely chopped hazelnuts

Directions for the sponge layers:

The sponge layers can be prepared in advance and stored interleaved with parchment and well-wrapped in the fridge overnight.

Position the racks in the top and centre thirds of the oven and heat to 400F (200C).

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.)

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.)

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.

Line one of the baking sheets with a circle-marked paper. Using a small offset spatula, spread about 3/4 cup 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:

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

Prepare a double-boiler: quarter-fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil.

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.

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.

Scrape the chocolate mixture into a medium bowl and leave to cool to room temperature. It should be quite thick and sticky in consistency.

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.

Directions for the caramel topping:

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.

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-colored caramel.

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.  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.

Assembling the Dobos Torte

Divide the buttercream into six equal parts.  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.

Optional: press the finely chopped hazelnuts onto the sides of the cake. 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 flavor.


60 responses to Daring Bakers:  Dobos Torte (and a Big Flop)

  1. On August 27, 2009 at 5:10pm, Deseree said...

    Your torte is beautiful! Nice job! I love the addition of the raspberries :)

  2. On August 27, 2009 at 5:18pm, City Girl said...

    I am actually half Hungarian and *horrors* never really loved the truly traditional Dobos torte. We visited Hungary yearly and I always much preferred Sacher Torte which, while Austrian, was always available in Hungary where Dobos Torte was available. In contrast, I always found the truly traditional Dobos to taste more like butter on dry sponge cake (which is why I suspect the recipe you used is the original one, or very close to it). I like your variation of it, with the jam (like a hybrid Sacher/Dobos LOL). There is a mocha variation of the Dobos with fewer layers that is not quite a buttery and more mocha-y and sugary. I only ever had it at Gerbeaud in Budapest, and I have a vague recollection it may have been called the Gerbeaud slice or something like that.

  3. On August 27, 2009 at 5:19pm, City Girl said...

    Also I hope mini SGCC is not with mono. I am sorry about your day.

  4. On August 27, 2009 at 5:22pm, Jen @ MaplenCornbread said...

    Silly little SGCC!! I hope she doesnt have mono! Your torte is stunning beautiful!!!! The lemon and white chocolate with raspberries sounds like the perfect ending to summer to me!

  5. On August 27, 2009 at 5:22pm, Fuji Mama said...

    Mono? Oh no! No fun!

    It is so fun to see how different everyone’s tortas are! I baked my sponge cake in sheets as well…so much easier that way! I love how you cut out a flour for the top of yours–that’s one of those ideas where you say, “Now why didn’t I think of that?!?!”

    I hope everyone gets better and healthy soon!

  6. On August 27, 2009 at 5:50pm, Rosa said...

    I’m so sorry to hear that… Anyway, your cake looks fabulous and I’m sure it was delicious!



  7. On August 27, 2009 at 5:50pm, Ciaochowlinda said...

    You really deserve a lot of credit for attempting this with a sick child. It looks pretty if it’s not what you had hoped for.

  8. On August 27, 2009 at 6:09pm, Judy said...

    I hop e she doesn’t have mono! When do you get the results? And you poor thing with that messed up torte. Your other one turned out beautifully. Too bad you didn’t like it much!

  9. On August 27, 2009 at 6:27pm, Cakelaw said...

    Your Dobos torte looks lovely – and the white chocolate and lemon one sounds as if it would have tasted amazing. Hope your daughter is OK.

  10. On August 27, 2009 at 6:43pm, Donna said...

    Sorry about mini SGCC & I hope she gets better really soon.. but that cake… wow weeeeee it looks so good!


  11. On August 27, 2009 at 6:53pm, The Duo Dishes said...

    Still looks pretty awesome. It’s intimidating enough to read all those directions, let alone imagine doing it! :)

  12. On August 27, 2009 at 7:39pm, Jennifer said...

    Your torte is absolutely lovely! It’s just STUNNING!!!!

  13. On August 27, 2009 at 8:09pm, sarah said...

    your torte looks great! i agree about the dry-ish sponge and yucky caramel. make your daughter rest if she has mono!!! i got it a few years ago and didn’t take the time off to get better and it progressed into chronic fatigue syndrome–i’ve been sick for 2 years! not fun at all!

  14. On August 27, 2009 at 8:33pm, Mary said...

    Oh Thank you! I thought I was the only one who felt that the buttercream was by far the best part about this cake! I was wondering what I did wrong! The lemon and white chocolate one sounds like it would be delicious though!

  15. On August 27, 2009 at 9:15pm, maybelles mom said...

    the buttercream was great. good job.

  16. On August 27, 2009 at 10:07pm, Claire said...

    I’d love to see your recipe some time. The sponge cake gave me fits! your torte is just beautiful!!! I wish I had remembered to use nuts!

  17. On August 27, 2009 at 10:46pm, ingrid said...

    Well, that stinks! All that work and you’d really like it! You’ll have to share the recipe that has worked for in the past as you’re not the only blog I read today that wasn’t thrilled with this cake.

    Hope your daughter’s okay. Believe me I completely understand. Mine DON’T learn at all. My one son was injuried to today at football practice (arm swollen and hand numb) so what’s he do when he gets home? Fool around (rough housing) with this twin brother. Yay, and then he’s asking why am I mad at him! Anyway hope it’s just the “back to school” cold.

  18. On August 27, 2009 at 11:20pm, Chez US said...

    Susan! Susan! Susan! Once again you have out done yourself, the photography is fantastic! I am loving and wanting to eat everything on your site. I love how dark your chocolate came out and the combination with raspberry is a favorite.

    Hope little SGCC does not get MONO …. not fun at the beginning of the school year.

    See ya soon.


  19. On August 27, 2009 at 11:27pm, nina said...

    Although the results were not up to scratch, I give you full marks for just attempting to make these difficult cakes!!! Hop mini is ok!

  20. On August 28, 2009 at 12:10am, Chaya said...

    Have wanted to tell you for quite a while how much I like your site. You always have something interesting and delightful on it. Thanks.

  21. On August 28, 2009 at 12:10am, Cristine said...

    Your torte looks beautiful. I agree with you on the taste, though. It just didn’t stand out for me.

  22. On August 28, 2009 at 12:48am, Mimi said...

    Hope that mini is on the mend.
    To me sponge cake alway is dry and chewy, hence the name. We made a simple syrup, flavored with orange zest and triple sec, and brushed each cake before adding the buttercream layer. It greatly improved the flavor and texture of the cake layers.

  23. On August 28, 2009 at 12:51am, Jill said...

    Love your lemon and white chocolate buttercream idea! Your torta looks great! :)

  24. On August 28, 2009 at 2:44am, Meeta said...

    first off let me tell you the cake looks awesome. lovely lovely! next i too was not impressed with this recipe. i did not do the buttercream but chocolate mousse and that was the best part LOL!

  25. On August 28, 2009 at 4:31am, Coleen said...

    You may not be happy with the final results, but you deserve a five star rating for those photographs. You can even see the little “hairs” on the raspberries!!! Yowza, girl, what kind of camera are you using??

  26. On August 28, 2009 at 5:35am, Lucy said...

    Crikey, I hope Mini SGCC is alright for the new school year. The cake still looks wonderful to me as your photography is fantastic! I love the white chocolate and raspberry idea – so decadent :)

  27. On August 28, 2009 at 7:58am, shelly (cookies and cups) said...

    WOW! I opted out of this months DB, and while you say it wasn’t super tasty, it IS gorgeous! Very pretty pictures!

  28. On August 28, 2009 at 8:16am, Joan Nova said...

    I don’t usually comment on dessert recipes since I don’t bake and really don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but this one compelled me to open my mouth (as I probably would have if presented with a piece). It’s so beautiful, you should try it again and adapt some of your own baking sensibilities to make it taste as good as it looks.

  29. On August 28, 2009 at 9:25am, Jennifer said...

    I was weirded out caramel too. I had never heard of this cake so I assumed it was normal. Your variation looks gorgeous (and super yummy).

  30. On August 28, 2009 at 10:03am, Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction said...

    Your Dobos Torte looks absolutely beautiful! I had the same feelings about the sponge cake and the caramel, though. I snapped a few pictures and ended up throwing away most of the cake.

  31. On August 28, 2009 at 12:02pm, Krystle said...

    Wow thats turned out beautiful! Hope your daughter doesnt have it, its no fun! I had it as a kid in high school when all my friend got it! Good luck

  32. On August 28, 2009 at 12:46pm, Lynn said...

    So sorry about the needles and the torte fail. The chocolate pics look stunning!

  33. On August 28, 2009 at 12:48pm, sarah said...

    Your photos look delicious! The fallen torte included!

  34. On August 28, 2009 at 3:42pm, Clabby said...

    The photos of your torte are fabulous – any tips? Even the fallen torte looks delish!

  35. On August 28, 2009 at 3:45pm, snooky doodle said...

    oh so delicious! awesome photos too!

  36. On August 28, 2009 at 5:32pm, Lucy said...

    This looks amazingly delicious! Reminds me of an old-fashioned 7-layer cake (on steroids).

  37. On August 28, 2009 at 5:34pm, Lena said...

    Oh my goodness, this looks wonderful. I found you on Foodgawker today and I think I have a new blog to follow!

  38. On August 28, 2009 at 8:57pm, Linda said...

    your photos are absolutely beautiful, hehhe your torte is too. I love the addition of the raspberries, I think it went very well with the super dooper creamy and rich buttercream. Great shot of the layers.

  39. On August 29, 2009 at 8:08am, Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

    It looks wonderful nevertheless and thankyou so much for participating! :) Ahh yes the buttercream! Angela chose that as she liked it and preferred it to the Rick Rogers recipe for buttercream. Love the flavours that you used :)

    • On September 02, 2009 at 8:24am, Susan said...

      Glad you liked it, Lorraine, and thanks for a “challenging” challenge! :)

  40. On August 29, 2009 at 2:11pm, anna said...

    I loved the chocolate buttercream, too. I also liked the cake layers but I’ve never had sponge cake before to my knowledge so I didn’t really have anything to compare it to. I found that it got better after a day or two in the fridge (and I had brushed my sponge with violet syrup which didn’t hurt). I didn’t make the lemony caramel, either.

    Your caramel cake flower is very cute!

  41. On August 29, 2009 at 4:27pm, kellypea said...

    So cool that you tried more than one type — I swear you must have amazing patience. If I had to pull just one more of those little layers off a piece of parchment, I would have gone stark raving mad! Gorgeous photos of a beautiful torte Susan! Good luck w/ your daughter’s blood tests : /

    • On September 02, 2009 at 8:23am, Susan said...

      Thanks, Kelly! I thought it was much easier to make one big sheet cake and cut the layers out with a small cake ring. Much less fuss.

  42. On August 29, 2009 at 9:28pm, Wendy said...

    Your torte looks fantastic. Even your ‘flop’–it’s like a delicious deconstruction.

    • On September 02, 2009 at 8:21am, Susan said...

      Lol! I thought about calling that one “Dobos Trifle”! 😉

  43. On August 30, 2009 at 8:46am, Bellini Valli said...

    My Hungarian boss has made this on special occasions for us. It is worht the effort. Great job!!!

  44. On August 31, 2009 at 7:43am, Avanika (Yumsilicious Bakes) said...

    So sorry about the flop! The chocolate one looks great, though! There have been real mixed feelings about this cake! I wonder whether I should try this recipe, or some other one, whenever I do plan on tackling this?

    • On September 02, 2009 at 8:21am, Susan said...

      Even though I didn’t think it was that special, some that I shared it with really loved it. The buttercream was awesome, but the cake was kind of “meh”.

  45. On August 31, 2009 at 3:31pm, Dee said...

    Oh delightful! I loved these tortes, especially if I am lucky enough to eat them in one of those fabulous coffee houses! This really is beautiful. Of note: my college age daughter told me how many people were sick at school & I am sad to say they still share cokes & chapsticks!! Will they ever learn is a very good question.

    • On September 02, 2009 at 8:18am, Susan said...

      So true. Even when they get sick, they still are not careful. Kids that age think they are invincible!

  46. On August 31, 2009 at 9:53pm, Veron said...

    Your tortes look wonderful, even the one that flopped looks appetizing.

  47. On August 31, 2009 at 9:56pm, Carol, Simply...Gluten-free said...

    Oh man, I hope little mini you does not have mono!!!! Beauty pix tho

  48. On September 01, 2009 at 8:29pm, HoneyB said...

    absolutely gorgeous!

  49. On September 01, 2009 at 9:46pm, Michelle said...

    It really says something when even the flop is pretty! :) Hope Mini SGCC comes up negative on the mono front!

    • On September 02, 2009 at 8:05am, Susan said...

      Aw, thanks! The mono test came back negative. Hopefully, it’s just a nasty virus.

  50. On September 02, 2009 at 11:40pm, maris said...

    I’m glad you at least liked the chocolate buttercream — for what it’s worth the torte LOOKS amazing!

  51. On September 07, 2009 at 3:42pm, Joy said...

    The cake at the top certainly didn’t look like a flop. I definitely agree with the tasteless sponge cake. I found it dry even with the buttercream. I’m keeping the buttercream to use in other cakes. :)

  52. On October 04, 2009 at 8:06pm, Kokken69 said...

    I just discovered your blog and am glad I have found it. Love your cake. I am relatively new to blogging and have just registered with Daring Bakers – hope to be able to participate in their challenge soon. Oh, and I love the design of your blog. Very girly and fun.

  53. On December 19, 2010 at 3:33pm, garry said...

    I have made the dobos torte before. The palinness of the sponge cake is to allow the focus on the buttercream, However the only way i have ever had a dobos torte was with a hard carmalized sugar topping. Makes a world of difference

  54. On October 22, 2014 at 5:16am, domain said...

    It’s difficult to find experienced people on this subject, but you sound like you
    know what you’re talking about! Thanks

1 pings to Daring Bakers:  Dobos Torte (and a Big Flop)

  1. On August 30, 2009 at 6:06pm, Feladat: dobostorta « Moksha pinged...

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Hello and welcome to SGCC! I’m Susan, a professional writer, food columnist, recipe developer, wife, mother, daughter and sister, who used to be a lawyer in a previous life. My love of food comes from a long line of wonderful and creative Italian home cooks who didn’t always have a lot, but knew how to make a lot out of what they had. I hope that you enjoy yourself while you’re here, and visit often! read more >>

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