Of all the recipes I’ve found for Dobos Torte (and there are a lot of them out there), this one from Maida Heatter is the one that strikes me as the best blend of original intent and modern taste. For more rationale on that, see this week’s posts. For now suffice to say I think it’s a winner, even though it doesn’t include the caramel top (I plan on adding that, just because I think it’s nifty — sorry Maida!).
For the cake:
7 eggs, separated
3 egg yolks
1 pound (3 1/2) cups confectioners’ sugar
4 ounces (3/4 cup) all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
For the filling and frosting:
10.5 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
10.5 ounces (2 sticks, 5 tablespoons) butter
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 egg yolks
3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
For the caramel layer:
5.25 ounces (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
16-20 peeled hazelnuts
Start by cutting seven pieces of aluminum foil or parchment paper, each about 11 inches square. Using a cardboard cake circle, pan lid or plate that’s 9 inches across, draw circles in the middle of the squares. Flip the sheets over, grease the area of the circle plus about another half inch all the way around for safety. Lay the parchment pieces out and sift powdered sugar over them. Tilt the sheets to get the excess off, and set them aside. (See, I told you this was going to take a lot of counter space).
Set a rack in the center of your oven and preheat it to 450. Sift the flour and salt together. In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the 10 egg yolks on high for a few minutes until they’re pale and lemon-colored. Reduce speed and gradually add the powdered sugar. Increase the speed to high again and beat for 5 minutes or until very thick. Reduce the speed to medium-low and gradually add the flour. Scrape the bowl, then once again increase the speed to high and beat for 5 minutes more, scraping once or twice. Stir in the lemon juice and remove the mixture to another bowl.
Clean the bowl and the beater. With the whisk attachment, whip the seven whites with the salt to the stiff peak stage. Stir a few spoonfuls of the whites into the yolk mixture to lighten it, then fold in the rest of the whites.
To bake, place two or three spoonfuls of the batter on each sheet, spreading the batter very thin with an icing spatula or the back of a spoon. Slowly rotate the sheet with one hand as you spread, being careful not to leave any holes. Using the edge of the counter, slip the sheets onto a cookie sheet and bake 5 to 7 minutes (or longer) until the layers are golden brown with dark brown spots. Remove the finished layers from the oven and, holding the corners of the sheets, invert them onto a rack. Peel off the paper and immediately invert the layer onto another rack or towel that’s been dusted with powdered sugar (otherwise the tops of the finished layers will stick to the rack). The fully cooled layers can be stored in a stack, provided they’re separated by sheets of powdered sugar-dusted wax paper. Trim the edges of each one up with a pizza cutter, using your original form (a cake circle or plate) as a guide.
For the filling/icing, chop the chocolate and melt it in the microwave using as many 10-second bursts of high heat as are needed (stir between each). Allow it to cool completely, though not to the point that it re-firms, obvioulsy. In the bowl of electric mixer fitted with the beater (paddle), cream the butter. Add the vanilla and egg yolks and beat well. Next add the sugar and the cooled chocolate and beat it all until thoroughly mixed (don’t forget to scrape!).
To assemble, choose a cake platter or build the cake on a cardboard cake circle. If you’re using a platter, lay down thin strips of parchment paper in a box roughly 9 inches square. These will serve as your drop cloth. Put a layer down on the plate and spread on a very thin layer of filling. Add another layer, making sure it’s placed in line with the one under it. Add another layer of filling. Continue on in this way until you’ve used all the layers, save one, if you’re planning on doing the caramel top. Otherwise spread the last of the filling over the outside of the torte.
For the caramel top, place the last cake layer on a sheet of parchment paper that’s been lightly greased with cooking spray or vegetable oil. Combine the caramel and water in a small pan and swirl over high heat until it turns amber. Very carefully, pour the caramel over the cake layer and promptly spread it with an icing spatula. Spread it right over the edges of the cake layer (you won’t use all of it). Again, quickly but carefully, cut all the way around the edge with a pizza cutter to make the caramel layer circular. Then, using a large chef’s knife, cut the cake layer into wedges (cutting across in half, then across into quarter, across into eighths and finally to sixteenths). Let cool completely.
To finish, arrange the caramel/cake wedges on the top of the cake, tipping the edge of each one up and propping it with a hazelnut to create a fan blade-type effect. Refrigerate the cake for at least several hours prior to serving to firm the icing. It will keep for a week in the refrigerator.