Baking with an Honorary Daring Baker – Mini Dobos Torte

August 27, 2009 at 12:01 am 29 comments

It’s a strange thing. I absolutely adore being in the kitchen, baking, fueling this blog with sugar and creativity. And it’s without a doubt that I’m a social person. I like being with other people and spending time with my friends. But put them together? It doesn’t always ensure a good time. The honest truth is, I rarely enjoy baking with other people.

I’m not sure why. I guess it’s a bunch of little things… other people don’t know where the pans are, the tools, the ingredients. I know, silly. And they don’t really get the baking techniques. While I don’t mind teaching people, you can only do it to a point before you feel condescending. I would rather do it alone than give people the clearly “easy and boring” jobs like stirring, making them feel useless.

My explanation sounds sort of unreasonable written out like that, but I’m happy to say I am proved wrong sometimes. Take earlier this week, when my friend T- came over for dinner and to work on my top secret Daring Baker’s challenge.

Maybe it worked because T- is such a great friend. This is the girl who bought me a vanilla bean for my birthday and was one of the first people to start reading 17 and Baking. She brought green plums her family picked and a really delicious orange-water flan. Even though this month’s challenge was pretty difficult, she was up for the challenge and we had a really great time!

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 really quite stunning. Five layers of super-thin sponge cake, dark chocolate buttercream, chopped hazelnuts, and a caramel-coated layer of cake. I was so intimidated by it that I waited until the last possible minute. When T- came over, we had the baking possibilities narrowed down to cake or breakfast pastry when T- said she was willing to tackle the Dobos Torte.

We pored over size, height, shape… T- saw firsthand just how crazy and stressed (the good kind) I get about my DB challenges. Finally we decided on 6″ rounds. We made the buttercream first, and it wasn’t as tricky as I was worried it would be. The result was smooth, rich, velvety chocolate frosting. After that we tacked the cake. It definitely wasn’t as easy. We cracked the eggs and weighed out the sugar, but without experience, we couldn’t get the batter just right. After baking, the rounds of cake were really eggy and did not want to come off the pan.

But we had a great dinner that night, sitting outside and talking until the mosquitos and flying ants/beetles showed up. After tackling the massive mountain of dishes, I took one look at our cake rounds and decided I’d just have to redo it.

As I started baking late on the 25th, I told myself I’d never wait this long to complete a challenge again. It’s incredible how the 27th of each month creeps up on you. My summer felt even shorter as I looked back on the milanos of the July challenge. I recracked the eggs and weighed out the sugar again, but this time the batter seemed better. I chose to make teeny 2″ cakes and ended up with a towering stack of matchstick-thin layers.

Using the successful buttercream that T- and I made, I assembled and frosted two tiny 10 layer cakes and topped them with whole hazelnuts. In my defense I did attempt the caramel topping (twice.) Since I read that nearly every Daring Baker had not liked the caramel-cake topping, I decided to make the caramel and pour it into designs instead. The first time I burned the caramel so badly, it poured out like blackest chocolate. The second time I didn’t heat the sugar hot enough and while it was a beautiful amber color, it was too flexible and stuck to the paper. I tried!

In the end, after so much trial and error, the cakes did taste good. It reminded me of a ferrero rocher candy. As I ate it I got the impression that a Dobos Torte baked by someone who really knew what they were doing would taste amazing. Mine tasted good, but not necessarily worth the effort. I think the buttercream is something I would make again because it was so simple.  As for the caramel, it’s something I know I’ll be trying again.

The final thing I’ll be sure to try again… baking with company. It was just too fun this time to write off!

It was the first DB challenge where I didn’t play with the flavors. I considered it briefly, but chocolate-hazelnut is such a great combination that I didn’t think another flavor profile would be as good. To make my tiny cakes, I only needed half of the cake recipe, 1/4 of the buttercream, and half of the caramel.

Sponge Cake

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

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 3/4cup 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.)

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.

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.

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)

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-coloured 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. 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.

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. Optionally, 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 flavour.

Printer Friendly Version – Mini Dobos Torte

As always I recommend all of you to check out the other DB torte creations… each one slightly unique and super delicious looking!

Entry filed under: Cake/Cupcakes, Daring Bakers. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

In the Kitchen with Dad Fall Leaves and New Love

29 Comments Add your own

  • 1. fillmyrumblingtummy  |  August 27, 2009 at 1:14 am

    Hey! I really hope that I’ll be the first one to comment:D
    Anyway, I love reading your blog. Your posts are so interesting! You write so fluently and you make even the most mundane things, like waking up in the morning sound so fascinating. Those cakes looks delicious! You’re seriously really amazing.

  • 2. Marian  |  August 27, 2009 at 3:24 am

    Mmm, looks delish!

  • 3. Julia @ Mélanger  |  August 27, 2009 at 4:10 am

    I’ve never baked with anyone else before. Would be an interesting experience. I hear you about how quickly the date rolls around. I only baked my torte a few days ago. Always leave it to the last minute! :)

  • 4. Angela  |  August 27, 2009 at 4:46 am

    Looks very cute and delicious! You think you left yours til late? My last layer has just come out of the oven… I hope I have enough buttercream, I keep going into the fridge for a spoonful!

  • 5. Meeta  |  August 27, 2009 at 4:59 am

    Just perfect – this really looks great. well done!

  • 6. Lucy  |  August 27, 2009 at 5:30 am

    The only thing I’ve baked with friends is sugar cookies – not the most complex, unlike this showstopper of a torte! It looks like something straight out a professional kitchen :)

  • 7. Charisse  |  August 27, 2009 at 5:39 am

    Your torte looks delicious. I am amazed by it. And I love the little tiny layers. Good job!!! I still have not had the nerve to join up with the daring bakers challenge. I want to, I so want to. But something always seems to get in the way. :-(

  • 8. Anita  |  August 27, 2009 at 5:59 am

    Oh – this is super cute!! I love all the layers. (I like having people to talk to when I’m cooking, but some people are best staying out of the kitchen when I’m there :)

  • 9. Lauren  |  August 27, 2009 at 7:05 am

    I’m glad you enjoyed baking with your friend (I did the same this month =D). Your torta looks amazing, and the photos are stunning!

  • 10. betchacanteatjustone  |  August 27, 2009 at 8:05 am

    The 27th crept on me way too soon and I have not completed this challenge :( I think your torte looks fantastic and I’m sure it tasted amazing too!

  • 11. Basht  |  August 27, 2009 at 9:29 am

    it looks really good, and yes, the time never seems to be enough.

  • 12. Kitchen Goddess  |  August 27, 2009 at 10:19 am

    I love the presentation style you used. It looks fabulous. Great photos too :)

  • 13. Jill  |  August 27, 2009 at 11:13 am

    I totally understand how fast time goes by–I made my torta on the 26th. :) I love the mini size tortas you made–so cute and great pictures!

  • 14. Hilary  |  August 27, 2009 at 11:26 am

    Well done. I didn’t even attempt this month’s challenge!

  • 15. Baking Monster  |  August 27, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Elissa the torte looks fanatastic. I’m way to scared to try something like that but looks like you did great. I usually have the same problem baking with others. I’m glad you had fun though.

  • 16. Tania  |  August 27, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    What an honor to (attempt to) bake with you!! I hope I wasn’t too much of a bother, but I certainly enjoyed it – though the cake part didn’t turn out so well the first time (:

    And these are amazing.. the layers are so thin, and I can’t believe the cakes themselves are so mini! certainly a challenge… maybe next time we should try something a little easier!

    Every time I browse through your posts/facebook album again… it makes me want to bake much more often!! You inspire me so much! I will learnnn to be almost as amazing as you!

  • 17. Aparna  |  August 28, 2009 at 12:17 am

    Looks beautiful and such perfectly thin layers too. Congratulations.

  • 18. Triumph  |  August 28, 2009 at 4:25 am

    Elissa the torte looks fanatastic. I'm way to scared to try something like that but looks like you did great. I usually have the same problem baking with others. I'm glad you had fun though.;. All the best!!

  • 19. Valérie  |  August 28, 2009 at 7:53 am

    Loved your post. I’m quite antisocial in the kitchen too, most of the time. Actually, it depends what I’m making. I get especially irritable when I’m cooking eggs, for some reason (especially poached ones). But it’s cool that you found someone you click with in the kitchen.

    The caramel was definitely tricky, and didn’t necessarily add to the cake – I undercooked mine too. Your mini torte looks adorable on the outside, and impressive on the inside, with all those layers!

  • 20. Yumi  |  August 28, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    Nah, it sounds perfectly reasonable. I love cooking and I love my friends, but unless they’re on the same (or better) cooking level as me, it’s not always a good match. For me it’s a little nerve-wracking because I’m a bit of a control freak and want to do everything myself to ensure it comes out right…a lot of times I feel compelled to give my friends pointers, which winds up sounding patronizing, and I’d prefer to avoid that so I shut up when they slice instead of dice and whatnot. I’m glad to hear this endeavor came out successfully! That cake looks ridiculously good–the idea of baking so many thin cakes makes me nervous.

    Every time I visit your blog I develop an intense craving for baked goods…

  • 21. Monica H  |  August 28, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    It’s so pretty and teeny. The perfect dessert.

    I don’t like baking with others either. That’s the time I spend doing what I love. It’s my time of clarity.

    PS. When I was little and wanted to help my aunt in the kitchen make cakes, all she would ever let me do was grease the pans. Things have changed a bit since then.

  • 22. Eliana  |  August 31, 2009 at 9:43 am

    This torte looks incredible. You did a fanstic job with it.

  • 23. fillmyrumblingtummy  |  August 31, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    Hey, this is so random but I tried basil ice cream and it was awesome! It was actually an accident as I added dried basil flakes instead of mint flakes. Luckily I did because it tasted really really good!

  • 24. Molly Jean  |  September 3, 2009 at 10:40 am

    Wow, that’s a beautiful presentation. What an intimidating recipe! You did fantastic.

  • 25. Natalie  |  September 3, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    I’m so glad it finally turned out just perfect.. Great job!
    I love the hazelnuts as decoration :)

  • 26. Sara@SproutedKitchen  |  September 22, 2009 at 9:30 am

    so gorgeous! You are excellent and what you do! I swoon for all things mini… this cake is adorable and surely tastes just as lovely.

  • […] The lavendar milanos that I made over and over before tasting success come to mind first, and the Dobos Torte that I had to attempt twice. When I saw the Daring Baker’s October challenge, I […]

  • 28. mimie  |  February 8, 2010 at 5:52 am

    It looks delicious! The first thing I thought when I saw the pictures was that it really needs caramel topping…and then I read on! You could try this recipe:

    Caramel sauce
    – 1 cup brown sugar
    – 300ml thickened cream
    – 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    – 60g butter, chopped

    Combine sugar, cream, vanilla and butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes or until boiling. Reduce heat to low. Simmer for 2 minutes. Drizzle over torte.

    The key to any caramel sauce is brown sugar!
    Hope it helps. :)

  • 29. Recipes to Try (Sweets/Desserts) | Schmelly Eats  |  August 26, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    […] Mini Dobos Torte From 17 and Baking (08/27/09) […]


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Elissa Bernstein

I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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