The tasty history of Dobos Torte
I stood there and watched how she poured perfectly boiled caramel on top of the sponge. She waited for a while for the right temperature and made small cuts into the caramel, careful not to cut too deep or too shallow. A few more moments and Bam! – she sliced the caramel, cleaning the large knife like a palette with fingers. One by one she cut them horizontally, proving that there's nothing like a marble worktop, and it was ready.
She slid the halfs onto each other, making it all perfect. The sides got some makeup, and the cake was ready. The very special and famous Dobos Torte, looking like an amber stone. I could not wait for my first bite, as I had been waiting for that moment since November when I decided to travel to Hungary.
Dobos Torte, made with five layers of sponge and cacao buttercream (not chocolate), is a relatively simple cake if you don't add the caramel topping, but believe me, it is so beautiful when you do. As I found out, the story of Dobos Torte started around 1880 with none other than Jozsef Dobos, the most famous 19th century Austro-Hungarian confectioner and the 7th in the confectioner's dynasty. He knew his way around, but he was also a known gastronome with his little deli on Kecskeméti Street.
After participating in fairs, writing books, and selling more cakes than he could make, history tells that Jozsef himself was very proud with the appearance of the Dobos Torte in the 1885 National Exhibition. By the way, every dish has to have a legend, and this cake’s legend lies in the buttercream that was created in 1884 when he mixed salt with sugar in his deli. At that time butter, was conserved with salt, and the packs of butter had switched places and the apprentice poured sugar in with the salted butter. Not wanting to throw out the butter, Jozsef mixed it up and buttercream was born. In 1885, he decided to use buttercream to avoid spoilage of the whipped cream in the cake (that was the time when whipped cream was at its peak).
At the Exhibition, the cakes by other confectioners were like works of art – looking as of they were wrapped with lace. Jozsef’s cake was straightforward, one could say – minimalist.
The secret of the cake lies in a few things – good flour, exceptional butter, sugar, cacao, and technique. The cream is beaten over steam to get its light and fluffy marshmallow-like texture; enough sugar is added just to be sweet, but not overly sweet. But it is only now that we know that. After 1885, Dobos managed to keep this a secret until 1906 when he gave his recipe to the Hungarian Confectioner and Gingerbread Bakers’ Guild.
They say that today, no one makes the original Dobos Torte recipe because it has been adapted (such as Opera cake in France and many more around the globe). Dobos always believed that the best Dobos Torte is made at home, which might be true if you consider that it is a challenge to get good Dobos in the city and country, and only after a long search for the best Dobos, we found it in none other than Gerbeaud.
Thanks to the Gerbeaud team for spoiling us and most importantly showing the art of making Dobos Torte. And they do serve a fantastic Dobos. Amazing.
Traveling to Hungary in cooperation with Embassy of Hungary to Latvia
Story and pictures: Signe Meirane
Camera: Sony Alpha 7s