12 Layers: White Dobos Torte
I haven’t always been a contrary person, but when I saw the August challenge the Daring Bakers were to task themselves with smack in the middle of the dog days of summer, I knew I wanted to work with a light cake and feature some aspect of the summer fruit that is so plentiful at this time of the year. Of course, I’m a chocolate lover, but not so much in the summer. Bear in mind that not following the recipe in a Daring Baker Challenge is not in keeping with the spirit of the experience, but I’ve been doing this for a few years now, so know that rule. I couldn’t help myself. Besides, I could work with white chocolate instead, which isn’t always as forgiving as traditional chocolate, and then I would feel as if I was not quite avoiding my responsibility with the challenge. Add some homemade peach puree and put a cream cheese spin on the white chocolate buttercream, and a White Dobos Torte is born.
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 Caffes of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague. Many thanks to them both for providing the inspiration behind my torte. The original recipe can be found at either of their sites.
White Dobos Torte with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Buttercream and Peach Jam
For the sponge…
6 large eggs, separated, at room temp
1-1/3 c. confectioner’s sugar, divided
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. + 2 T sifted cake flour
pinch of salt
For the Peach Puree…
9 ripe peaches (about 5 c. sliced
1 T lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 tsp. almond extract
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
For the White Chocolate Cream Cheese Buttercream…
9 oz. fine-quality white chocolate
12 oz. cream cheese, room temp
3/4 c. unsalted butter, room temp
1-1/2 T lemon juice, freshly squeezed
For the Caramel Topping...
1 c. extra-fine sugar
12 T water
8 tsp. lemon juice
1 T vegetable oil
For the assembly…
Optional Peachtree Liquour and sliced almonds
Begin with the peach puree: Fill a large bowl with water and add enough ice cubes to chill the water. Submerge 1-2 peaches at a time into simmering water for about 30 seconds, then remove them to the ice bath and allow to cool. The skin should be loose. Remove the skin and the pit, then cut into wedges. Use a food processor to chop the peaches then run through a food mill or fine-meshed strainer. Add the lemon juice to the peach puree and cook over a medium heat until thickened and reduced to about 2 c. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Add the extracts when cool.
To make the sponge layers: Position the racks in the top and center thirds of the oven and heat to 400 degrees F. Cut twelve pieces of parchment using the base of a 6-inch diameter cake pan as your guide. Place 3 circles on each of 2 baking sheets and reserve the extras. You will be recycling the baking sheets as you work.
To make the batter, beat the egg yolks, 2/3 c. of the confectioner’s 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. A balloon whisk will work if you don’t have an electric mixer.
In another bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 2/3 c. of confectioner’s 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, repeat with the remaining flour.
Using a small offset spatula, spread about 1/4 c. of the batter in an even layer over each circle of parchment in an even layer. Bake on the top rack for 5 minutes until the cake springs back when pressed gently in the center and the edges are lightly browned. While this cake bakes, repeat the process on the second baking sheet placing it on the center 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 until ready for assembly.
To make the buttercream: Break the white chocolate into small pieces and place in a double boiler (or over an ultra low flame if you’re lucky enough to have one like I do on my Wolf). The temp should never rise above 160 degrees F. Once the chocolate begins to melt, remove it from the heat and begin to stir, returning it to the heat when necessary to continue melting it. You will need to do this many times until the chocolate is one smooth melted mass that is easily stirred. Allow it to cool completely at this point.
In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the cream cheese with the paddle attachment until smooth. Slowly add the cooled white chocolate until well combined. Add the butter in chunks and then the lemon juice. Beat briefly until smooth and set aside. If making ahead, refrigerate covered, then when ready to use, bring to room temperature and beat until smooth.
To make the caramel: Choose one of the best sponge layers 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. Scre 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 definitely the most challenging to make of the entire cake so make sure you have an oiled hot offset spatula ready. On a buttered piece of parchment, divide the cake layer into 8 equal pieces and spread them slightly apart. 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 patterns 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, cut through the pieces so that they’ll be easy to separate once the caramel is cooled. Cool completely.
Assembling the White Dobos Torte: On a serving place, place the first layer of sponge. Lightly dab on a bit of the Peachtree liquour if you’re using it, then carefully spread a thin layer of the peach puree next. Add a thin layer of the buttercream next. Repeat for the remaining layers, gently pressing each down as you go and making sure the layers are stacked evenly.
Spread buttercream around the sides and top thinly as a crumb coat first and place the cake in the fridge to set for about 15 minutes. Remove from the fridge and then continue to coat with buttercream until the cake is smoothly coated. Reserve some buttercream to pipe on the top of the cake to support the caramel layer pieces. Pipe one dollop for each of the 8 caramel coated wedges. Carefully position each wedge at a 45 degree angle supported by the dollop of buttercream to reconstruct the circle. Line sliced almonds around the base of the cake for decoration.
- I went with smaller cake pans because I wanted a taller cake. It worked perfectly.
- The peach puree is unsweetened, but remember that the buttercream and sponge are sweet and you don’t want to over-sweeten the cake. (Okay, so maybe you do, but I don’t.) The tartness is perfect for this combo.
- The peach liquour was pleasant. I’m not a fan of boozy cakes, but I’m even less of a fan of soggy cakes, so this was to help bolster the sponge since I was putting a layer of peach puree on it, too. I was worried about the sponge layers getting soggy because they were so thin, and that did happen to one. If you’re going to use the liquour, don’t brush it on until the sponge layer is on the stack. Brushing and moving is not a good idea!
- This buttercream recipe is AMAZING. I made it and let it sit at room temperature for quite a long time and just kept an eye on it. When it looked like it was beginning to break up a bit, I just took a whisk to it and all was good. Use very soft butter and add it only a tablespoon at a time, mixing it in completely before adding the next. Nice without that heavy over buttery taste some buttercreams have.
- I used Ghirardelli white chocolate for the buttercream. I have a tendency to be a chocolate snob, but I didn’t take the time to shop, so that’s what was available and it was wonderful. No white chocolate debacles at all.
- The caramel wedges were the worst aspect of this challenge for me. I buttered the parchment and took the advice to cut the layer first. I knew the caramel would spread and tried to pile it back onto the layer but what a mess — hot oiled offset spatula and knife or not. It was a bit annoying. I didn’t like the ugly look of the sponge layer through the caramel and wondered about a more creamy caramel on this instead. Fussy, fussy. A lot of work for comments garnered about helicopters on such an elegant cake. Whatever.
- The whole stone fruit (peaches) white chocolate and cream cheese plus almonds was perfect for this. We love it! I’d have loved it better with the caramel, but no one ate the “helicopter blades.”
- Many thanks to Rose Levy Beranbaum for her wonderful book The Cake Bible as it continues to educate me and provides much inspiration for creating interesting cakes.
Don’t forget to visit the million other Daring Bakers to see what they’ve conjured up this month!