Saturday, July 23, 2011

Susanna's Dobos Torte

My Grandma Susanna Breiner was a wonderful lady. She was born in Giulvaz, Romania. Her family and my Grandfather's family came to America to escape the Austro-Hungarian war. We referred to them as German, and that is the language they predominantly spoke, but I guess they were Romanian/Austro/Hungarian. Grandpa was born in Budapest and spoke many languages. My mother and her siblings understood German, but when Grandma and Grandpa wanted to be private, they spoke Hungarian. I have written about them and about Grandma's cooking and baking on The Abbey Farm blog., I promised to post her Dobos Torte recipe long ago. I recently baked it for Margaret's birthday. We remarked that it was more like a confection with a little bit of cake to change it's classification.

Grandma's was slightly different from the classic version of Josef Dobos, created a century ago. It did not have the  burnt sugar/caramel top, and it was infused with good strong coffee--reminiscent of a cross with Tiramisu. Also, instead of seven layers, Grandma made at least a dozen, depending on the freshness and temperature of the eggs. She had a large family to feed, so maybe a larger cake was necessary. It was impressive when cut, and it tasted heavenly. Grandma had only one cookbook that I know of. It was a compilation of recipes from the ladies of "The Dorcas Guild," of the "Magyar United Church of Christ, Evangelical and Reformed" in Elyria, Ohio. The cookbook is handbound and dedicated " our Hungarian Mothers," copyright 1960. My Aunt Irma said that it was Grandma's friend who inspired her to bake the Dobos Torte. Grandma wanted the recipe and this, I believe, is the one given to her. It is adapted. Grandma's pencil marks note changes on the recipe. Aunt Irma confirmed them for me recently (Thanks, Aunt Irm!!).

Important to note is that the cake layers are made in two half-batches. I have tried it all at once but by the time the last layers are made, the eggwhite has deflated and the spongecake is no longer springy. That is important, because the coffee in the chocolate buttercream leaks out into it and is soaked up, making it incredibly moist.

Dobos Torte

Cake: Make in two batches. Bake the cakes from the first batch, then make the next batch and bake more cakes.

6 room temperature eggs, separated
6 Tb powdered sugar
6 Tb sifted, all-purpose flour
1 Tb water

Cream yolks, sugar and water until thick. Sift flour into egg mixture and blend in well. Fold in firmly beaten egg whites. Here is another important part: in order to bake pancake-thin layers, I flip a cookie sheet over and mentally trace a 9" circle on it. Spray with Pam and spread about  1/2 cup of batter into that circle. It will not matter if it is exact, when assembling the cake there is much forgiveness. Bake each layer only about 5-8 minutes until set and only the slightest golden brown, if any, around the edge. I can do a couple layers at a time in the same oven. It is fast work. When out of the oven, while still hot, run a long, sharp knife under the cake carefully to remove the cake. Let cool on clean kitchen towels lined on the table. They can be overlapped slightly, but remember you'll have a dozen or so of them! Repeat with the second half of the batter.


While the cake layers cool, cook in a double boiler, stirring constantly until thick:

6 eggs
1 1/2 c powdered sugar
4 oz bittersweet chocolate

Cool. Cream together in separate bowl:

1 lb sweet butter
1/2 tsp salt 
1 tsp vanilla

Beat spoonfuls of butter mixture into cooled chocolate mixture. Gradually beat in:

1 c strong, cooled coffee

Beat well. It may seem as if the mixture just won't incorporate the coffee, but done slowly, it will. If it seems to separate, beat longer. What results is what dreams are made of!


This is a classic Hungarian Chocolate Frosting which uses raw egg. I have to recommend to exclude the egg. We have our own chickens and I know they are healthy, so I have no trouble beating one in. I can't recommend for you to do it, though. Safety reasons. But I will copy here the recipe from Grandma.

4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 lb (one stick) butter, softened
2-4 oz unsweetened chocolate (depending on your preference of chocolatiness--I like it dark!)
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg plus two yolks 
1-3 Tb milk or cream, if needed to make it spreadable

Cream half the powdered sugar with the softened butter, egg (if using) and vanilla. Beat in the rest of the powdered sugar until smooth, then the melted and cooled chocolate. Gradually beat in enough milk or cream to make it spreadable.


Place the first cake layer on a pretty plate. Top with about 1/3 cup filling and spread to edges. Repeat with remaining layers and filling until you've used up one or the other. Note: extra filling is wonderful from the spoon, extra cake layers are yummy rolled up with Nutella! You should have a 12-14 layer, impressive tower. Pop it in the refrigerator for an hour to set. Then frost the top and sides with the chocolate frosting. Grandma always ran fork tines around the outside as a decoration.

Refrigerate. The torte is best the next day, but we can never wait. You really want to cut thin layers like a slice of wedding cake, not the usual triangular cake slices. Serve with a great cup of tea or strong coffee and enjoy!

Margaret is happy to help with her Birthday Cake!

Two mixers are not essential, but do help

Spreading the batter thinly

Bottom of cookie sheet method

Make room for many layers!

Bittersweet chocolate-coffee buttercream

First layer

Keep going!

Almost there...

Yes, the fourteenth layer!

Ice the Torte with Hungarian Chocolate Frosting

Score outer edge of Torte with fork


Jo' e'tva'gyat!

The Abbey Farm Cooks