Allow me to introduce myself. Kari Couture, self-proclaimed Best Friend of All Time to Chelsea Kelly (sorry other besties, it’s my 15 minutes of fame here!). I am guest blogging to bring you the story of the Birthday (Almost) Dobos Torte – which, come to find out, was not really an all the way Dobos Torte… but we’ll get to that in a sec!
You may think it cruel of me to let one of my best friends make her own birthday cake, but when someone loves baking the way Miss Kelly does, you would just never dream of getting in the way. AND, when I saw the cake she had her birthday sights set on, frankly, I was pretty sure that neither of us (especially me) could take on this endeavor alone without coming out a very bitter and beaten down cake-less creature.
So, in order to show my love and appreciation, I let Miss Kelly bake her own cake. But I separated ALL the whites from yokes, I chopped chocolate until there was (literally) no chocolate left, I kept the cats off the table (save for one tail in the icing), I swept the kitchen floor (I don’t even do that at my own house!) and I photographed the hell out of every single step of this cake – as evidenced in this post by the series of twelve photographs documenting each of the twelve layers. Just call me Kari Sue Chef-ture.
Here is the recipe that inspired and struck fear into us. And here is the recipe and blog that provided comic relief and many insights, albeit AFTER we baked the cake. We found out one of the characteristics that makes a Dobos Torte a Dobos Torte, is the caramel layer, which we did not do, hence the (Almost) in our Dobos Torte.
Both the cake batter and icing were mysteriously made of almost all egg. Do you have a dozen eggs in your refrigerator right now? Well if you do, that is not enough to make this cake, so go get more. 7 egg whites and 10 egg yolks, and that’s just the batter… more to come.
The consistency of this batter goes through change after weird change. From slimy to thick and dense to frothy but somehow also sticky. Pouring and spreading it out as thinly and evenly as possible was a bit tedious.
Watching it through the oven window, we saw it bubble and grow in places while it seemed to fall in others – reminding me of the eerie landscape of Yellowstone Park.
After the first one came out, although impressed with how thin and even it was, we were pretty underwhelmed. It smelled a bit like scrambled eggs and looked a little weird. There was some debate at this point as to whether we should even continue. Miss Kelly was ready to revert to a trusty old cupcake recipe. I admit, I almost gave in. But I just couldn’t let us turn back!
We found that baking the second one until it was golden with some brown spots made the cake smell, look and taste much better. It was spongey and sweet and the scraps went down easy.
Once both layers were baked and cooling, we started the icing. Chocolate and butter, a match made in heaven.
In case you all don’t know this about Miss Kelly, she hates eggs. In every form except baked into cookies, scones and cakes. So this cake already had her on edge. Then to make matters worse, the icing recipe called for raw eggs!! Her response: “EEEEWWWWW” accompanied by a shudder.
After presenting a lengthy argument for putting the raw eggs in the icing, she was still putting up a fight. (Her issues with raw eggs and eggs in general go way back to a childhood instilled with fear of Salmonella. Sort of like how my Grandmother told me you can bleed to death from your belly button and to this day I am convinced I should have some kind of protective cushion around my belly button, just in case she was right. And yes, belly button piercings horrify me.)
Much to Miss Kelly’s dismay, I went ahead and just put the egg yolks in. I compromised though and only used two when the recipe called for three. Thank goodness because that third egg MIGHT have been the one with Salmonella! (Later, she shared this link with me to add some evidence to my totally unsubstantiated claims that she will be FINE if she eats raw eggs.)
The quote of the baking day, “WHAT HAVE WE DONE!?” escaped from Miss Kelly’s mouth after sampling the icing. The uneasiness about eating raw eggs was quickly overshadowed by the mind-blowing chocolately, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth goodness that is this icing.
Cake – check. Icing – check. Now plating and layering. After much deliberation and sorting through the box cleverly labeled “Box” with miscellaneous kitchen stuff in it, we decided to make a square cake and the trusty round cake stand. Cutting our two 11×17 cakes into six pieces each… that’s where the twelve layers come in! Yup. TWELVE.
Our cake layers were a bit uneven. One 11×17 was nice and thin and one was a little on the thick side so we were careful to alternate. The icing layers got progressively thicker toward the top. A second batch of icing was needed. (In case you’re not keeping track, the egg count is now up to 14, or 16 for those of you not so afraid of raw eggs.)
So its wasn’t perfect. It didn’t quite look like Smitten Kitchen’s cake, but our cake had serious heart!
And last but not least, Miss Kelly sealed it into its cocoon of rich dark chocolate and sprinkled on some celebratory stars. Tiny, delicate and golden.
And then it was done. Twelve beautiful layers. Another baking challenge successfully conquered by this unstoppable duo.
What is the moral of the story of the Birthday (Almost) Dobos Torte? Just remember the three Ps. Persist despite your doubts (about the eggs). Persevere (through the HOURS this will take you). And Perfection… is overrated and always trumped by taste.
Your first bite will make it well worth the time. I promise you. But invite a lot of people to help you eat it. The cake continued to exert its power over us when we discovered how little we could eat in one sitting due to the overwhelmingly delicious richness. For me it was about 10 really, really good bites. The remainder of the piece of cake took me another couple of days to finish.
Without further ado… Miss Kelly’s rendition of the (Almost) Dobos Torte recipe. I hope you enjoy baking it as much as we did!
7 large eggs, separated
3 large egg yolks
3 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar, plus extra for dusting
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
Prepare an 11×17″ flat cookie sheet. Line carefully and exactly with parchment paper, evenly to edges. Sprinkle powdered sugar on top. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Get those eggs out and separate them. At the end of this process you should have two bowls: one holding 10 egg yolks and the other 7 egg whites. Beat the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks and set aside. (Feel free to use your electric mixer, but this is handiest if you have an extra bowl for it–otherwise you’ll have to change bowls and clean out your electric mixer bowl before doing the next step.)
In your electric mixer, beat together 10 egg yolks at high speed until pale yellow. Reduce speed and gradually add sugar until mixture becomes thick and glossy. Add the flour and salt, beat together, and watch as the batter becomes frighteningly paste-like. Gradually add the egg whites and beat on medium speed; they really will come together, although it seems impossible. Once all the egg whites are mixed in, you’ll have an oddly foamy batter. Trust. It will be okay.
Use a spatula to guide the batter as flat as you can, at about 1/4″ thick, in the prepared cake pan. You will use about half of the batter in this first baking step.
Bake the layer for 5-7 minutes. Err on the side of baking more than less. You want a sheet of cake that has medium-dark, golden brown spots; this might mean that the edges look a little crispy. You have taken it out too early if the cake seems more salmon-pink than golden, and it smells, as described above, like scrambled eggs. (If you take it out too early, it will taste just fine, but still. Fair warning.)
Let cool for about 5 minutes on a cooling rack, then it’s time to remove the sheet of cake. Sprinkle powdered sugar over the top of the cake (it will be sticky), then gently lay a sheet of parchment paper over it. Place another cooling rack upside-down over the top, then gently flip the whole contraption over so the bottom cooling rack is now upside-down on top. Remove top rack, remove pan, and gently peel off the sheet of parchment paper the cake baked on.
Re-prepare the 11×17 baking sheet (unless you have two 11x17s, in which case, lucky you!) with parchment paper lining, pour the rest of the batter into a thin 1/4″ layer, bake, cool, and flip out as described above.
Ridiculous chocolate frosting
1 lb of the fanciest bittersweet chocolate you can find (I suggest Callebaut, found at Whole Foods)
1 lb (4 sticks) European butter, such as Kerrygold, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
4 fresh large egg yolks
Melt chocolate until smooth (we used both the double boiler method and the microwave method and both worked just fine); cool to room temperature. Combine butter and chocolate until smooth; add vanilla and confectioner’s sugar, combine again; and finally add those egg yolks (cringe while you do it, but just do it). It should be velvety and smell amazing.
Then taste it. Seriously. Just do it. Lick the spoon. You won’t be sorry. Then take a deep breath ’cause it’s time to get down to business.
Assemble this crazy thing
Trim the 11×17 sheets into six squares each, so that you have 12 total squares. You’ll have some extra scraps.
Place the base layer onto your plate/cake stand, then slip some parchment paper under each side to catch crumbs and rogue frosting.
Frost each layer thinly, but evenly, until there are no more scraps left. If some squares break, don’t worry; just place them as closely together as you can–it’s so thin you won’t really be able to tell the difference once sliced. Obviously, finish the last layer with a thicker coat of icing.
Now ice a quick crumb coat around all four sides (a thin layer of frosting, so that your final layer doesn’t have cake crumbs in it). Then put the whole thing in the freezer for about 5 minutes to harden the crumb coat. Finally, ice that cake one last time and decorate as desired! YOU DID IT! Now party.