There aren’t many cities in Europe I want to return to as badly as I do Budapest. From its Szécheyni Baths to its House of Terror Museum, from its goulash to its paprikash, and from its café culture to its running culture, Budapest has it all. 

Standing in hilly Buda, looking down the funicular railway to the Chain Bridge and over to pancake-flat Pest.

Café Gerbeaud—in operation since the mid 1800s—is the confectionary gemstone in Budapest’s crown.  The husband and I must not have known about Dobos Torte when we were there because he had brioche and I, a croissant.  They were delectable, of course, but next time I’m getting the Torte.

Dobos Torte

Recipe Adapted From: Martha Stewart’s Baking With CONVICTion Handbook

Level of Difficulty: moderate

Time Consumption: moderate to high—I’m not going to kid you, layer cakes from scratch are not quick, and this one is fussier than most.  Save making this for people you really like (or are desperate to impress).

Kitchen Destruction: moderate

Wow Factor: high—I mean, c’mon, nine layers. Of course that’ll wow ’em. Plus, the husband declares this cake’s frosting to cake ratio and buttercream distribution “perfect.”

Cake Ingredients:

  • 3 sticks (1½ C) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
  • 1½ C all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
  • 1½ C cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 1 TBS baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2¼ C sugar
  • 8 large egg whites plus 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 C milk
  • ½ C heavy cream
  • Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream (recipe follows)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter three 8×2″ round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.  Butter parchment and dust with flour, tapping out excess; set aside. Into a medium bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, and salt.

Reusable silicone cake rounds means I only butter the sides and corners – nothing else. And none of that flour dusting malarkey. Doesn’t Martha know we’re all trying to reduce carbs?!

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter and 2 cups sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes; scrape down sides of bowl as needed. Add egg yolks, one at a time, and beat to combine.

Egg-separating assembly line, with allowances for whites contaminated with bits of yolk, which cannot be used when whipping to peaks.
Contaminated whites are reserved for some other, as yet undetermined use (probably omelets). Spare yolks mean I’ll be making crème brûlée soon. Mais oui!

With mixer on low, add reserve flour mixture in three parts, alternating with milk and beginning and ending with the flour; scrape down sides of bowl as needed.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat egg whites until foamy.  Gradually sprinkle in the remaining ¼ cup of sugar and beat until soft peaks form.

Soft peaks

Add about 1/3 of the egg white mixture to the reserved batter and gently fold in with a rubber spatula.  Gently fold in remaining whites.

Folding in egg whites is an arm workout. Seriously. Make sure no white streaks remain.

Divide evenly among prepared pans; spread to smooth with an offset spatula.

I use a kitchen scale to make sure the pans are all the same weight – the mark of an anal precise baker. You can just eyeball it instead. (Then again, I never have one cake that’s taller than the others, so you might want to consider it.)

Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until cakes are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes.  Run a plastic knife or spatula around the edge of each pan, then invert cakes onto a wire rack and peel off parchment. 

I may or may not have scraped the cake remnants off the silicone liner for surreptitious consumption.

Reinvert cakes, then let them cool completely, top sides up.  Meanwhile, in a clean bowl with a clean whisk attachment, whip cream until soft peaks form.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Like, 3 things have to be whipped to peaks before this cake is ready to eat. Just one example of how this cake is fussy.

Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream Ingredients:

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 C sugar
  • 3 sticks (1½ C) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons
  • 8 oz melted bittersweet chocolate
More superfluous yolks. But hey, more crème brûlée…

Buttercream Directions:

In a heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine the egg whites and sugar.  Cook, whisking constantly, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch, about 160°F.

Not all buttercreams require a heating step. Like I said: fussy.

Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat the egg white mixture on high speed until it holds stiff (but not dry) peaks. (Honestly, I’ve never known what ‘dry’ peaks are . . . or how to prevent them.) Continue beating until mixture is fluffy and cooled, about 6 minutes.

Switch to the paddle attachment.  With mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter several tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition.  (If frosting appears to separate after all the butter is added, beat on medium-high speed until smooth again, 3-5 minutes more.)

Add slightly cooled chocolate to the buttercream. Beat on lowest speed to eliminate air bubbles, about 2 minutes.  Stir with rubber spatula until frosting is smooth and chocolate is fully incorporated.

So tempting.
Also tempting.
Bowl licked. Temptation quelled.
Buttercream can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 1 month. Before using, bring to room temp and beat with an electric mixer on lowest speed until smooth.

Place 2 cups Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream into a bowl (set aside the remaining buttercream). Fold refrigerated whipped cream into the 2 cups buttercream to lighten.

Assembly (this, folks, is where it gets fun):

You don’t have to have a cake cutter, but it makes it much easier. 1 Schnitt (cut), 3 Lagen (layers)!

Using a serrated knife (and your steadiest hand 😉 )—or a handy Tortenschneider—trim the tops of the cakes so surfaces are level, if necessary.  Slice each cake horizontally into three equal layers. 

Schneiddrähten (cutting wires) are adjustable.
Slick, huh?
Tools of the trade: offset spatulas, cake lifter, decorating turntable, cardboard cake round, cake pedestal

Place one layer on a cake stand or serving plate.  Spread 1/3 cup of the lightened buttercream in an even layer. Top with another cake layer and repeat.  Keep repeating until you are out of cake layers.  Do not frost top layer.

Stand back and admire your nearly finished 9-layer cake.  Pull out your Leaning Tower of Pisa pictures from your trip to Italy.  If your creation looks like the tower, gently press sides of cake to straighten.  Aim for the Colosseum.

I mean the Colosseum as it was . . .
. . . not as it is. That would be a bad cake.
When I look at this cake, I can almost hear the Gladiators screaming.

Spread a thin layer of reserved buttercream over the top and sides of cake to seal in the crumbs.  Refrigerate until frosting is firm, about 30 minutes.

The crumb coat. Don’t skip this step.

Spread cake with remaining buttercream, making smooth strokes with an offset spatula.

I decided to shave a little chocolate on top. Totally optional.

Confessions of an Imperfect Baker: I skipped two small directions when making this cake.  First, I didn’t sift the flour and other dry ingredients;  I just stirred them together.  I rarely sift.  If I can’t distinguish between the tastes of different grades of Chianti, I doubt I’d notice the textural difference between a sifted flour cake and a stirred flour cake. Second, I didn’t trim the tops of the cakes to make them level.  I rarely level my cakes because I’m not just an imperfect baker, I’m a lazy baker.

As a loyal blog reader and podcast listener, Jan got the biggest slice. She doesn’t care if it’s sifted or leveled.

Reluctant Admission:

According to my authoritative Kaffeehaus cookbook, which gives a pretty thorough history of Dobos Torte, Hungarian Jószef Dobos’ masterpiece is supposed to have “five thin layers (no more, no less) of . . . cake.” Worse still, “The layers must be baked individually, never sliced from one thick cake . . .” Oops.  I suppose this makes Martha’s version ersatz.  Oh well—I won’t tell if you won’t.

The authority on the matter
Real and genuine Dobos Torte

35 thoughts

  1. Baking with CONVICTion.

    😉

    – sent by phone

    On Fri, Sep 24, 2021, 4:32 AM The Travel Architect wrote:

    > The Travel Architect posted: “There aren’t many cities in Europe I want to > return to as badly as I do Budapest. From its Szécheyni Baths to its House > of Terror Museum, from its goulash to its paprikash, and from its café > culture to its running culture, Budapest has it all. Sta” >

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I went back and looked at the picture. I think on the right side of the cake the mirrored cake stand is making it look like a 6th layer, and on the left side those strange triangular decorations make it look like a sixth layer. Thanks for checking, though! 🙂

      Like

  2. I love that you included the level of kitchen destruction from baking. Whenever I spend a lot of time in the kitchen my and tidy husband comes in and reacts at the mess. We’ve developed a scoring system on mess level based on his reactions 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Having visited Hungary twice and eating my way through the country, I actually have not had Dobos Torte, which is a real shame. Thanks for sharing the recipe; it looks time-consuming, but really worth it in the end!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. As a person of Hungarian descent, Budapest is high on my list of must-see destinations. Tara and I are tentatively planning an Eastern European trip for our 10th anniversary in 2023 to include Budapest, Prague, and Croatia.

    The torte looks great, imperfect or not!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! It was delicious and I’m a little sad that it’s all gone ‘cuz I ain’t going through all that trouble again for a good long time.

      I haven’t been to Croatia, but I have the other two and you will love them. Be prepared to hear lots of suggestions from me about them this summer when we meet up in Rapid City on our way back from Colorado. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought about making something like an omelette and been like, “Meh… too much work. Cereal it is!” This is incredibly impressive. Ya got mad skills! (And if you ever need someone to take some leftovers off your hands, you just say the word! 😀)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Why thank you! I notice your route on your travel map has thus far bypassed Minnesota. Now you have a reason to visit (hint: avoid winter). Also, please give me plenty of warning. This cake, as you now know, doesn’t make itself. 🙂

      Like

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