Dobos Torte

Cakes and Cupcakes

Yield: one 8-inch torte
Recipe: 120/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 168

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    This recipe is one that I have been avoiding for years. Every time I was looking for a beautiful and impressive dessert to make for a special occasion, I would look through the cookbook, come across the Dobos Torte and immediately think to myself that it looked way too complicated, so I would pass on it and do something else, something that was in my comfort zone. Again, looking for an elegant dessert, ideally a cake, to make for our New Year’s Eve party at friends’ place, I stumbled upon this recipe. This time, however, was different. I actually considered it. I pondered whether I could, this year, actually make the Dobos Torte. I read the recipe over twice, and decided that my accumulated skillset over the years should be sufficient to get me by. If not now, then when? The last day of the year, December 31st, 2019, was when I decided I was ready to finally make this beautiful cake.

   As Anna suggests for this recipe, definitely do leave yourself plenty of time to prepare, bake and assemble this cake. It takes much longer than you would think if you calculate how much time each component should take. Anna said it best: “As is the tradition with European tortes, they are as elaborate to make as they look.” I confess, this cake was not easy to do , but not impossible. It can be done! I had, however, a few obstacles and errors along the way, so I have added my own little faux-pas and tips to fix them in the recipe below. For example, you may notice that my cake has 7 layers instead of 9. That is essentially because I ran out of buttercream to coat the layers! And since the buttercream is more complex than a typical buttercream, I didn’t feel like and honestly did not have time to make another batch. Overall, the cake looked very pretty, except for the oversized caramel decorations that were too thick. The taste and textures of this cake were also very appealing: the chocolate and hazelnut blended together very well, and the fluffy and soft cake was a pleasure to eat, especially with the crunchy caramel hazelnut crumble. The buttercream was a little bit too salty in my opinion, but mixed in with the cake layers and the hazelnut crumble it was still very pleasant to eat. I am sure that using the Frangelico hazelnut liqueur would not only add a great hazelnut flavour, but also balance out the saltiness a bit better. I recommend this cake for special occasions, if and only if you have many hours ahead of you so that you do not feel rushed and make mistakes. I suggest reading the recipe a couple of times beforehand to make sure that you have everything you need and you can plan accordingly. Good luck, and enjoy!

Ingredients for cake:

Ingredients for caramel garnish:

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour the underside of three 8-inch cake pans, tapping off any excess flour.
    • I tried doing this for my first three layers and it did not work at all for me. Even though I greased and floured the pans very well, the cake layers stuck to the bottom of the pan and broke into several pieces when I tried to remove them. I found it easier to grease the bottom of the pan, add a piece of parchment paper cut into a circle the diameter of the pan, then grease and flour the parchment paper circle as you would normally. This resulted in thin cake layers that were easily removed from the pan without breaking. You can reuse the parchment paper for the other layers, simply grease it and flour it again.
  2. In a large bowl, whip the egg yolks with ½ cup of the sugar at high speed until they have doubled in volume and are thick and pale, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract.
  3. Sift in the flour and salt, then fold into the egg mixture. The batter will be thick.
  4. In a clean bowl and with a clean whip, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar until they are foamy, then slowly pour in the remaining 5 tablespoons of sugar. Continue whipping at high speed until the whites hold a medium peak when the beaters are lifted. Fold in the egg whites into the yolk mixture in two additions.
  5. Spoon a bit less than ½ cup of batter onto the bottom of each cake pan and  gently spread it to the edges, spreading it evenly as you do. Bake these layers for 7-10 minutes, until they turn a light golden brown. Let the cakes cool for about 5 minutes, then very gently remove them from the pan by carefully running a palette knife under the entire surface of the cake, working from the outside in. It’s okay if they have a few rough edges or a slight tear or crack, as they will all be covered in buttercream.
  6. Grease and re-flour the cake pans, and repeat Step 5 two more times for a total of 9 layers. Store the cake layers on a parchment-lined baking tray, separating them with parchment paper.
  7. To prepare the caramel garnish, place all but 8 of the hazelnuts onto a parchment-lined baking tray. Lightly grease a 6- or 8-inch cookie cutter (or the outside ring of an 8-inch fluted pan) and place on a second parchment-lined baking tray. Bring the sugar, lemon juice and water to a boil over high heat and boil, uncovered and occasionally brushing down the sides of the pot, until the mixture caramelizes, about 7 minutes. Carefully pour about half of the hot sugar into the centre of the cookie cutter, then pour the remaining sugar over the hazelnuts, and stir them to coat. Let the cookie-cutter ring set until almost cool, about 8 minutes, then remove the ring and with a greased chef’s knife, score the disc of sugar into 8 wedges. Cool completely. After the caramelized hazelnuts have cooled, pulse them into a food processor into a coarse crumble.
    • Make sure to use a cookie-cutter or fluted tart pan of a proper size. I think 6 inches would be better than 8, as it might be easier to create the fan pattern without all the pieces overlapping in the middle. I made a mistake and used a 9-inch fluted tart pan, thinking that it was 8 inches, and so the pieces were too big and I had difficulty creating the pattern.
    • Removing the cookie cutter or fluted tart outer ring from the almost-cooled caramel was easier to do than I anticipated. To score the caramel garnish, simply press down the knife to make an indentation, but not so deep that you cut the caramel. You must score it before it has cooled down completely, or it will break. I found the suggested 8 minutes to be a perfect time to do this.
  8. To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on a platter and cover it with a thin layer of buttercream, then top it with a second layer. Repeat this process until all 9 cake layers are used. Frost the top and sides of the cake, and press the caramelized hazelnut crumble onto the side of the cake. Arrange the 8 hazelnuts in a circle around the outside edge of the top of the cake, equally spaced apart. Carefully break apart the 8 scored caramel wedges, and rest each wedge on a hazelnut, angling them in the same direction so as to create a fan pattern. Chill the cake completely before slicing to serve.
    • I sadly ran out of buttercream for the assembly. I spread what I thought was a thin layer of buttercream between each layer, but at my 7th layer I had barely any left, so I stopped adding layers and instead attempted to cover the sides of the cake with buttercream as best I could to make sure that the crumble would adhere. I had to really scrape the last bit of buttercream to make sure that I had enough. To prevent this, I would advise making 1.5x the Chocolate Hazelnut Buttercream recipe so that you don’t have to struggle with it. It is sometimes hard to see how thick of a layer of buttercream you are spreading, so this would give you more wiggle room.

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* Tips from Anna:

  • To be considered a Dobos torte, a Hungarian dessert, it must have a minimum of 5 layers, a chocolate buttercream and a layer of caramelized sugar on top.
  • Give yourself ample time to make this torte. More than you think you need.

* Notes:

  • I really did not have enough buttercream, even though I don’t think I slathered it on too thick between the layers. I had to reduce my cake to 7 layers because I did not have enough buttercream for the final two layers. Even doing so, I barely had enough to cover the sides of the cake to press the caramel hazelnut crumble into. To make sure you don’t run out of frosting for the very last steps of assembly after having spent hours making this cake, I would definitely multiply the Chocolate Hazelnut Buttercream recipe by 1.5x.
  • I prepared 1½ cups of toasted and peeled hazelnuts and had a large quantity leftover after decorating the cake. I suspect that 1 cup would be more than enough.

Valerie

Chocolate Hazelnut Buttercream

Frosting, sauces and garnishes

Yield: about 2 ½ cups buttercream
Recipe: 119/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 170

    For New Year’s Eve I offered to bring a dessert for our hosts since they were taking care of everything else. I wanted to make a beautiful-looking cake that would be tasty as well, and this is the chocolate hazelnut* buttercream required for the recipe. This is a more involved buttercream that requires more steps than simply whipping eggs with sugar and butter, but I enjoyed making it and the flavour was delicious. I did find however that it was too salty*, so I would recommend using ¼ teaspoon of salt instead. This may have something to do with the fact that I used whisky instead of the sweeter Frangelico liqueur or brandy though, so if using those you may want to start with ¼ teaspoon, taste it and add more salt if necessary.

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz (90 g) semisweet chocolate
  • 2 oz (60 g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 5 egg yolks
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons Frangelico or brandy *
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt *

Directions:

  1. In a glass or metal bowl, melt together the semisweet and bittersweet chocolate over a pot of barely simmering water, stirring until melted. Set aside. Note: If using a substitute for bittersweet chocolate, add the sugar and/or cocoa powder in this bowl.
  2. Using a hand or stand mixer ideally, mix the egg yolks with ¼ cup of sugar until they are pale and have doubled in volume, about 3 minutes.
  3. In a small saucepot, bring the remaining ¼ cup of sugar, water and lemon juice to a boil over high heat, and cook uncovered, occasionally brushing down the sides of the pot with water, until it reaches a temperature of 238°F (114°C).
  4. While beating at slow speed, carefully pour the hot sugar down the side of the bowl with the yolks. Once all of the sugar has been added, increase the speed to high and beat until cool, about 6 minutes.
  5. Beat in the melted chocolate, then beat in the butter a few pieces at a time.
  6. Beat in the Frangelico or brandy *, the vanilla and the salt.
  7. Use the buttercream at room temperature. It can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated. If doing so, just pull it out of the refrigerator to warm it up to room temperature and beat until it is smooth and spreadable.

* Notes:

  • I did not have bittersweet chocolate so used instead unsweetened chocolate. Semisweet chocolate could also be used as a substitute, provided that you add the appropriate amount of sugar and/or cocoa powder to compensate.
  • Frangelico is a hazelnut liqueur. Since I possessed neither Frangelico nor brandy, I used whisky instead. I do think it enhanced the flavor of the buttercream without being too much, but just keep in mind that if you do not use Frangelico it is no longer a chocolate hazelnut buttercream, but just a brandy- or whisky-flavored chocolate buttercream. Still tasty, but not quite the same I imagine.
  • I used the suggested ½ teaspoon of salt but the buttercream was too salty. Not so salty as to make it inedible, but almost. I would decrease this amount to ¼ teaspoon. I do however wonder if the choice of alcohol would affect the saltiness of the buttercream. Please keep this in mind when adding the salt at the very last step of making the buttercream.

Valerie

Hazelnut Ricotta Cake

Cakes and Cupcakes

Yield: one 8-inch round cake
Recipe: 61/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 132

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    After all the baking I did during the holidays, not many of which related to recipes from Anna’s cookbook, I figured it was time to get back in the game. I thus made this lovely hazelnut and ricotta cake. It is one of the easiest desserts I have made so far, mostly because we can do everything in the food processor, which by itself is an amazing feat. The cake is simple yet lovely. It is moist, has a pleasant hazelnut taste accompagnied by a discreet orange flavor from the zest. To complement the zest I added the candied orange that I made not too long ago. It was quite delicious indeed! 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole dry-roasted hazelnuts
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease an 8-inch round cake pan.
  2. Using a food processor, pulse the hazelnuts and sugar until the hazelnuts are finely ground.
  3. Add the oil, ricotta, eggs, vanilla extract and orange zest in the food processor and pulse to blend.
  4. Add the flour, baking powder and salt and pulse until just combined.
  5. Gently scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 35 minutes, until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool for 30 minutes before turning out to cool completely.

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Valerie

Coconut Hazelnut Biscotti

Cookies, Bars and Biscotti

Yield: about 3 dozen biscotti
Recipe: 21/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 40

   Another new type of dessert to be tried: biscotti! I had not eaten many biscotti in my life, much less make them. I now know that biscotti are twice-baked and are meant to be dry. Having a bunch of hazelnuts on hand that were begging to be used, I opted to try this coconut and hazelnut biscotti recipe. What a tremendous success! Although I did perhaps bake them a couple of minutes too long the second time around, the resulting biscotti were delicious! Delectable, I say. Best enjoyed with a hot mug of coffee or, in my case, hot chocolate, they make the perfect late-night snack. It took a while for me to put my finger on it, but the hazelnut pieces give these biscotti a Nutella (or Ferrero Rocher chocolates) undertone. The fennel seeds provide a minty aftertaste which is quite refreshing.  I will no doubt use this recipe time and time again!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup whole hazelnuts, toasted and peeled*
  • 1/2 cup sweetened, flaked coconut
  • 1 tablespoon whole fennel seeds or anise seeds
  • 1  1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1  1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For brushing:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. By hand or with electric beaters, whisk together the oil, sugar, egg, egg white, vanilla extract and almond extract together until homogeneously blended.
  3. Stir in the hazelnuts, coconut and fennel or anise seeds.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the egg mixture and mix well to combine. Note: the mixture will be sticky.
  5. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared trays. With lightly floured hands, shape the dough on each baking sheet into one log that is the length of the baking tray. For the egg wash, mix the egg and water together and brush on the surface of the dough.
  6. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the dough has evenly browned. Allow to cool for 15 minutes.
  7. Transfer the logs to a cutting board and, while still warm, slice the biscotti into 1/2 inch (1 cm) wide slices. Return them to the baking trays, laying them flat and close together.
  8. Return the biscotti to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until they begin to brown around the edges. Cool the biscotti on the trays and store in an airtight container.

Notes:

  • * To toast the hazelnuts, spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake them in the oven preheated to 325°F for 7 to 10 minutes. Shake the nuts once or twice during this period to ensure an even toast. When they are golden brown and cool enough to handle, take a handful at a time between a towel and rub vigorously. This will allow for an easy removal of the skin (it is normal for some skin to remain on the hazelnuts). You now have toasted and peeled hazelnut at your disposition.
  • Interesting fact: biscotti is the plural of biscotto, fact that I learned while writing this post.

Valerie