I was just a few months into my hotel management training program in Doha, when the first Gulf War started. Fresh out of high school, A’ levels completed and the prospect of going to university and doing my practical training at the Doha Sheraton was what was driving me at the time.
My dad and I had to move into the hotel for safety reasons. As my dad was one of the Department Heads he had the extra “frill” of being allowed to move his family into the hotel “just in case”. The hotel had it’s own bunker!
The first year of my training was filled with Front Office regulations, Food & Beverage know- how, Sales and Marketing insights and evacuation drills! As the American Air Force fighters lifted off in sorties headed to Kuwait and Iraq, I was trying to learn the tricks of a trade I spent my whole life in, pretending the world outside was OK.
One of my stops in my two year training was the kitchen. On the said day, I was at the hotel’s patisserie at the time learning all about the different sweet treat specialties. My actual project was to make a Sacher Torte. It was looking good, albeit my crisp, clean white kitchen uniform covered in splotches of chocolate and my hands were dripping in the brown fluid. Right at that moment the sirens went off.
By this time I had become kind of aloof and a little unresponsive to the sirens. I was never sure if it was a drill or the real thing. Being consumed in the cake I did not realize that I was the last one in the pastry kitchen, until the pastry chef called out “Meeta, ma petite, lets go!” in his charming Swiss accent. I was rather peeved off to say the least – Saddam ruining my go at a Sacher torte – how dare he!
This week I was in the kitchen again with a few of the feelings from back then. It was my kitchen at home and I was making this month’s Daring Bakers challenge. My thoughts went back to that very day, when the sirens went off and I was so disappointed at not being able to complete my cake. This time however, I was actually hoping to hear some kind of sirens, somewhere, somehow - to take me away from having to make this cake!
It was to be yet another layer cake - given a very exquisite Dobos Torte, but still it was a layer cake. As we’ve had quite a few layer cakes in past challenges I was not too sure if I should be excited or lulled. It was a Dobos Torte after all – a classic and as it was Soeren’s birthday it would make a nice birthday cake.
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 paired up with my dear blog buddy Hilda of Saffron & Blueberry and her interpretation of the Dobos Torte looks amazing. We’d paired up once before back in 2007 for the Bûche de Noël and we had a ball. This time I knew it would be no different. So in between (virtual) martinis, gossip and cursing we managed to produce a halfway acceptable challenge this month.
I started with the sponge layer a day earlier and while I found the batter to be lovely and fluffy was slightly disappointed that they were not as puffy as the other sponge cakes I make.
Soeren had wished for chocolate and as the Dobos traditionally is a chocolate cake it worked well. I was just not keen on buttercream. As we were allowed to modify this aspect of the challenge, I gladly took the option and decided to make a lighter chocolate mousse filling using quark. I would have loved to use fruit in this too – but Soeren said “no fruit and no nuts”, knowing too well I tend to be sneaky and add some where ever I can. He loves fruit but for his birthday he just wanted chocolate!
Finally my downfall came with the caramel layer. I am not sure if it was the effect of the virtual martinis or the fact that I just wanted to be done with the cake, my concentration eluded me. The caramel was a perfect deep amber. I skipped the lemon because lemon and caramel does not appeal to me. Instead I added a bit of butter and all was well. Now here is where I screwed up – I decided I would be done quicker if I put the last layer on top of the cake and then pour a very thin layer on the cake. I had cut the wedges and place them nicely on the last mousse layer and carefully poured a bit of the caramel on the cake. It was not to be – my mousse became runny (obviously due to the hot caramel) and I had to quickly take the layer off, burning my finger on the hot caramel and ruining my last sponge layer in the process! Booo!
Hilda poured me a few more martinis!
But I do not give up that easily and decided to make another sponge layer and have another go at the caramel. I was pretty exhausted by now! This time I did not take a shortcut and went by the book. Placed the caramel layer on top of the cake and bunged the monster into the fridge. I was done! However, after taking a few pictures (taken in between baking muffins and brownies for the birthday party) I decided to do away with the caramel layer. It was a sticky mess and not adequate for a birthday party. Instead I decorated the last mousse layer together with Soeren with colorful sprinkles and shavings of dark chocolate.
Dobos Torte with a Quark Chocolate Mousse
[Printable version of recipe here]
Sponge Cake Layers
Quark Chocolate Mousse
- 6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
- 1 1/3 cups (162g) confectioner's (icing) sugar, divided
- 1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
- 95g plain flour + 17g cornflour (cornstarch) sifted together
- pinch of salt
- 200g dark chocolate, I used one with 75% cocoa solids, roughly chopped
- 150g quark, hung overnight
- 100g heavy cream, whipped to stiff peaks
- 1 tablespoon honey
Directions for the sponge layers:
- 1 cup (200g) caster (superfine or ultrafine white) sugar
- 12 tablespoons (180 ml) water
- 4 teaspoons soft butter
- 1 tablespoon neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed, rice bran, sunflower)
- Hazelnuts (optional)
The sponge layers can be prepared in advance and stored interleaved with parchment and well-wrapped in the fridge overnight.
Directions of Quark Chocolate Mousse filling:
- 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).
Directions for the caramel topping:
- Melt the chocolate and honey together over a water bath.
- Whisk in the quark and mix energetically until well incorporated.
- Using a rubber spatula gently fold in the whipped cream then place in the fridge for 2 hours to thicken.
Cut, rather than score the cake layer into wedges before covering in caramel (reform them into a round). If you have an 8” silicon round form, place the wedges in that for easy removal later. It also ensures that the caramel stays on the cake layer. Once set, use a very sharp knife to separate the wedges.
- 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 equal wedges (I got 8 wedges). Lightly oil a thin, sharp knife and an offset metal spatula.
- Stir the sugar and water 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. Take off heat and add butter. Swirl the saucepan gently to incorporate the butter.
- The top layer is perhaps the hardest part of the whole cake so make sure you have a oiled, hot offset spatula ready. It also helps if the cake layer has not just been taken out of the refrigerator if you made them ahead of time. The cake layer will be cold and the toffee might set very quickly, which may make it difficult to spread.
Immediately pour all of the hot caramel over the cake layer. 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 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
- Divide the mousse into six equal parts.
- Place a dab of the mousse 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 mousse. Repeat with 4 more cake layers. Spread the remaining mousse on 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. As an alternative you can just place the wedges flat on the cake and decorate.
- Refrigerate the cake under a cake dome until the icing is set, about 3 hours, preferably overnight. Let slices come to room temperature for the best possible flavor.
As the mousse needs to be kept cool for perfect texture and quality it is best to keep in the fridge, covered in the glass dome. It should keep for 2-3 days.
The sponge layers did not particularly have much flavor. There was something missing there. However the chocolate quark mousse was fluffy, airy and just too good. It really made the cake a huge hit with the kids and disappeared very quickly. Tom managed to grab the last piece and also found the the mousse was just perfect in this.
Would I make this again?
No – not in it’s original form and not using this sponge recipe. I have a wonderful German recipe for sponge cakes and it works every time, producing wonderful fluffy and moist sponge layers. I would definitely make the cake with this filling again though. In combination with a fluffier and more flavorful sponge this cake would work extremely well.
What did I learn from this challenge?
Patience. Even if you want to be done with a challenge it is better to keep the countenance and take no shortcuts. And … sirens cannot always rescue you!
Thank you to both Angela and Lorraine for selecting a classic cake!
This month my lovely guest hosts are the truly wonderful dynamic duo at Jugalbandi. They’ve come up with a really sensational theme this month and are pairing this event with their photography event Click.
Heirloom recipes are what you are required to create for this month’s challenge. Old vintage recipes that have endured the test of time. Head on over to Jugalbandi and get all the details. They’re even giving away a prize!
Deadline is September 20th.
You might like these Daring Bakers layer cakes from WFLH:
|Chocolate Crepe Cake||The Perfect Party Cake||Opera Cake|
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Back to School with Healthier Lunch Boxes written by Meeta
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