cake

Ice Cream Cupcakes

My sister Sarah is a Tetris addict. Something about spinning those awkwardly shaped blocks around and packing them together must release happy chemicals in her brain. It’s serious: she played Tetris in her wedding gown right before walking down the aisle, and she thinks this guy is totally hot.

I really can’t talk. I play real-life Tetris. All my errands have to be planned to ensure maximum efficiency: no driving out of my way or backtracking. My groceries are arranged on the checkout belt so that they fit together nicely. Periodically I’ll rearrange my fridge so that all the food is organized by shape (flat items on bottom, tall items shoved together in the back, and materials to make a quick dinner wrap all stacked together neatly for easy grabbing). But the fridge is nothing compared to the freezer.


Pistachio Ice Cream Cupcakes

My roommate and I are world champions at Freezer Tetris. We both overshop, and every now and then one of us will come home with a month’s worth of foodstuffs to shove into our already-full freezer (cue the excuses: “It was on sale! It’s cheaper when you buy in bulk!”). Let the games begin! We set to work emptying, rearranging, tossing, organizing, repackaging, and creatively stuffing until every last green pea has its own chilly little space in the freezer. There ought to be an international competition we can enter or something — why let all this talent go to waste?

I don’t know about other bakers, but the bulk of my freezer space is consumed by dessert scraps: leftover cake, extra frosting, the last piece of blueberry pie, curds, berries, ice creams, doughs. For someone who only eats dessert on the weekend, I have a lot of fixins! Well, my Freezer Tetris has served me well. This week I went out and bought some of my favorite ice cream flavors, grabbed out some of my scraps, and created Ice Cream Cupcakes. If you have sweet bits and pieces lying around your freezer, this is just the leftover makeover you need!


The Coffee Cupcake decided it was too sophisticated to be photographed with the others. Love that beautiful stamped mug as much as I do? It’s made by local artist Julie Payne. She also makes lovely clay pendants.

This post is actually more of a method than a recipe (as such, you’ll find detailed process photos below). You can use any ice creams, cakes, brownies, cookies, or creative add-ins that suit your fancy. The overall idea is to create a personal ice cream cupcake with three layers (two cake layers sandwiching a thick slab of ice cream), freezing the layers as you build. The whole thing is topped with icing and decorated before being stuck back in the freezer.


Clockwise from top: Cake Batter Ice Cream Cupcake, Cherry Garcia FroYo Cupcake, and Pistachio Ice Cream Cupcake.

Personally, I had some leftover chocolate sheet cake (the best cake in the world, and so easy!) and cream cheese frosting. I made four variations: Cake Batter Ice Cream Cupcakes (with and without toffee pieces added), Pistachio Ice Cream Cupcakes, Cherry Garcia FroYo Cupcakes, and Coffee Ice Cream Cupcakes (with and without Ferrero Rocher or toffee pieces added).


The ice cream line-up.

I can’t decide which was my favorite! The deep coffee flavor complemented the chocolate cake and Ferrero Rocher perfectly, creating a rich, indulgent cupcake. The cake batter cupcake tasted just like a big ice cream birthday cake. I think if forced to choose, though . . . I might have to go with the pistachio! Something about the sweet, otherworldly flavor of pistachio ice cream with toasted pistachios and chocolate cake just bowled me over. Speaking of bowls, that’s how we ate these: in a bowl with a spoon. No sticky fingers!


Shall we call this a Café au Lait Cupcake?

Grab a couple of pints of ice cream, some leftovers, and go wild! You could even whip up a small cake or some brownies just for the purpose of tearing it up and making some ice cream cupcakes! I won’t tell. What ice cream flavor would you pick for your cupcakes?

Ice Cream Cupcakes



Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking
Yields: Varies depending on amounts of ingredients

Ingredients:
Cake or brownie scraps, crumbled (I used Chocolate Sheet Cake)
Ice cream of your choice, softened slightly
Frosting of your choice (I used this delicious cream cheese frosting)
Add-ins (chocolate, peanut butter, cinnamon, or butterscotch chips; toffee; candy; nuts; frozen berries etc.)

Equipment:
muffin tin
plastic wrap
a glass with a bottom that fits into muffin wells
wax paper

Directions (also see process photos below):
1. Clean out some space in your freezer. You’ll need room for the muffin tins in addition to the container you’ll eventually store your cupcakes in. You don’t want to have to clear out space in the middle of the process while your cupcakes melt on the counter! Don’t ask me how I know this.

2. Line your muffin tins with plastic wrap, leaving an overhang. I did this by cutting a long sheet of plastic wrap in half lengthwise. I then used each long, thin strip to line one column of wells on my muffin tin — using 3 strips total.

3. Form the base cake layer: Place a heaping scoop of cake or brownie into each well. Lay a small square of wax paper over the wells one at a time, pressing on the cake with the bottom of the glass to flatten and pack it. Carefully peel wax paper away and continue until all wells have a base cake layer. You also might be able to put wax paper over all of the wells, press down with the bottom of another muffin pan, and pack cake into all the wells at once — but I didn’t try this.

4. Form the ice cream layer: Scoop a heaping spoonful of ice cream over the packed cake and level it with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle any add-ins over the ice cream layer. Try to leave some room at the top of the well for another cake layer!

5. Cover muffin tin with plastic wrap and freeze for a few hours.

6. Form final cake layer: Working quickly, scoop a final spoonful of cake over each well. Lay a small square of wax paper over the wells one at a time, pressing on the cake with the bottom of the glass to flatten and pack it. Carefully peel wax paper away and use a table knife to scrape away any uneven edges. Continue until all cupcakes have a top cake layer.

7. Cover muffin tin with plastic wrap and freeze for about an hour.

8. Frosting and decorating: Do this step in batches if possible! Things can get melty and messy if your cupcakes sit out too long waiting to be decorated. Don’t ask me how I know this. Pull 4 cupcakes out of your tin at a time using the plastic wrap overhang, keeping the rest of the cupcakes in the freezer. Place cupcakes carefully into cupcake papers if desired, or directly into storage container. Frost with a big star tip and decorate with sprinkles, nuts, or frozen berries as desired. Place finished cupcakes into your storage container and then into then freezer while you move on to the next batch. Keep cupcakes frozen until you’re ready to enjoy them (no need to soften before eating)!


Step 2: Cut long strips of plastic wrap to line columns of wells in your muffin tin.


Step 3: Spoon cake into the well, cover with a square of wax paper, and use the base of a glass to pack and flatten.


Step 4: This is a good time to add Ferrero Rocher halves! Add ice cream layer and freeze for a few hours.


Step 6 and final cupcakes! Pack another layer of cake on, cover and freeze, and then decorate!


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Ugly as Sin Coconut Cake

There’s this CAKE. This beautiful, gorgeous, dramatic, heart-stopper of a CAKE. I’ve been dreaming about making it for weeks (2 weeks and 2 days, to be exact): scanning the recipe online, pondering it on my drive home, lying in bed and imagining each step, right down to torching the meringue. I’ve been a little obsessed, but you’ll understand why when you see how lovely it is. Here it is in all its glory, over at Zoë Bakes. I KNOW, RIGHT?! It is stunning.

So this past Friday I gathered together all my ingredients, donned the adorable retro apron my mom made for me, and became one busy bumblebee. I left the sour cream out of the recipe accidentally, so that was my first mistake. Ever set your cake out to cool on a wire rack only to turn your head and notice an ingredient still sitting on the counter waiting to be used? Oops. It wasn’t a big deal, as it turns out, because the cake was delicious. The coconut milk added an absolutely heavenly flavor — making this one of the best white cakes I’ve ever tasted.

The filling was similarly amazing: creamy, thick coconut pastry cream folded with rich whipped cream. I knew when stacking this cake up with the delectable filling between each layer that, no matter what, I had a dessert champion on my hands.

That’s about where the success story ends. Well, maybe that’s a bit dramatic — the cake was delicious and we adored every bite. But as the title of this post suggests, my version of Zoë’s lovely cake was ugly as sin. Now, you might be thinking, “Aw, you’re being too hard on yourself; it wasn’t that ugly!” Let me clarify:

It was ugly! Lopsided, striped, U-G-L-Y-it-ain’t-got-no-alibi, UGLY. The real reason I made this cake was to achieve those beautiful burnt meringue curls that Zoë’s cake had. That clearly didn’t happen.

My meringue was runny. At first I blamed it on humidity: it rained for days in Charlotte and I was whisking the meringue up right above my steamy dishwasher. But I tried again the next day in a steam-free kitchen to no avail: same results. I’m relatively sure my bowl and whisk was free of fat or residue, so I don’t think that was a problem. My mom blames the fact that I have a hand mixer rather than a stand mixer. This could be the culprit, but I sure beat until my arm was about to fall off. Maybe the most likely possibility is that I overheated my egg white and sugar mixture. The target temperature is 110-120F, but I’m pretty sure mine was past that when I removed it to whip. I’ll have to give it another shot with a cooler mixture.

Oh well. I love pretty food, cute food, sophisticated food. Mostly, though, I love food that tastes good — and this tastes good. Fantastic, even! If you don’t want to tackle the meringue, it would even be delicious covered in some slightly sweetened whipped cream and coconut. But I hope you’ll grab your stand mixer and give the meringue a try — I know I’ll be trying it again! As you can see from Zoë’s version, it’s worth it.

Coconut Cream Cake with Toasted Meringue Frosting



Recipe by: Zoë Bakes (coconut pastry cream, Swiss meringue) and Fine Cooking (cake), adapted by Willow Bird Baking
Yields: 9-in. 4-layer cake

Cake Ingredients:
8 ounces (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
13 1/2 ounces (3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature (I left this out accidentally; still worked great)
6 large egg whites, at room temperature

Coconut Pastry Cream Ingredients:
1 can (14 fluid ounces) unsweetened coconut milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
pinch kosher salt
3 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons corn starch
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup whipping cream

Swiss Meringue Ingredients:
1 cup egg whites
2 cup sugar
pinch salt

Directions:
To bake the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in middle of the oven. Grease and line with parchment two 9×3-inch round cake pans. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside. Mix the coconut milk and vanilla, set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes (scrape down the bowl). Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition.

Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix on low speed until incorporated. Add half the coconut milk and mix thoroughly. Continue to add the flour and coconut alternately, ending with flour. Add sour cream and mix until incorporated. Set aside in a large bowl if you don’t have a spare bowl for your mixer.

Beat the egg whites in your stand mixer with the whisk attachment (if you are using the same bowl, be sure it is VERY CLEAN or the whites will not whip up. Any fat on the bowl will prevent the whites from foaming). Beat the whites on high speed for 2-3 minutes, until it forms soft peaks. Don’t overdo it or the whites will get too stiff and not fold into the batter smoothly. Stir 1/3 of the egg whites into the cake batter to lighten it. Gently fold the remaining whites into the batter.

Divide evenly in the prepared pans. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the tester comes out clean. Cool on rack in pan and then invert to use.

To make the coconut pastry cream: Heat the coconut milk, sugar, salt and vanilla bean in a medium saucepan over medium heat. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and corn starch. Once the cream is hot, remove the vanilla bean, scraping out any remaining seeds and returning them to the cream. Add 1/2 cup of the hot cream slowly to the yolks, whisking as you add. Then pour the yolk mixture into the pot of hot cream and whisk. Continue to whisk with heat on medium-high for 3 more minutes. The mixture will turn thick and bubble. You need to continue to whisk for the full 3 minutes or the pastry cream will separate once it is cool. After the 3 minutes, whisk in the butter. Add the coconut flakes. Pour into a shallow dish to cool.

Cover with plastic wrap pressed right against the pastry cream. This will prevent a thick skin from forming on the surface. Refrigerate for at least an hour or freeze for 30 minutes. Once it is cold, stir the pastry cream to loosen. Whip the 1/2 cup cream to medium peaks. Stir in 1/3 to the pastry cream to lighten. Fold in the remaining cream until the pastry cream is nice and light. Split the two cakes in half with a knife and add 1/3 of the filling to the first cake layer. Spread it out to the edge and repeat with the other layers.

To make the Swiss Meringue: Whisk together the egg whites, sugar and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer. Rest the bowl over a pot of simmering water to form a double boiler. Scrape down the sides of the bowl so that all the sugar is off the sides of the bowl. Continue to stir the mixture until all the sugar is melted into the eggs and you no longer feel any graininess when rubbed between your fingers, about 3-5 minutes.

Place the bowl onto your mixer and whisk on high speed until the meringue is thick and glossy and the bowl is just warmer than room temperature, about 8 minutes. Using a spatula, spread a nice thick layer of the meringue over the cake, make sure you have at least a cup of meringue left. Don’t worry about how it looks, you will be making spikes over the surface in a minute.

Take a glob of the meringue in your hand and press it against the meringue on the cake (Zoë has a great photo tutorial of this part on her blog). Pull that glob away from the cake and it will break off in a wispy curl. The more of a glob you lay down as a foundation on the cake, the bigger your curls will be. This may take a few times to get the hang of it, but then you’ll be off and running. Once you have the cake fully set with curls you will need a torch to toast the meringue. Hold the blow torch a ways from the cake and touch the flame down between the curls. The curls will set fire and you need to blow them out as you go. The burnt tips are lovely contrast and add a wonderful flavor.


Cake mixed, baked, and sliced into four layers.



Coconut pastry cream cooling and then spread onto a cake layer.



Cooking my Swiss meringue and preparing the cake for frosting!


Enjoy!

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Thanksgiving Recipe Ideas

The students have all closed their novels and packed up their supplies for Thanksgiving Break, so it’s time for me to take a deep breath and relax — until the baking begins tomorrow, of course! Because I enjoyed reading Jillicious‘s list of things she’s thankful for this year, here are a few of my own:

  1. Jesus, who made the greatest sacrifice for me.
  2. My family — they’re crazy, wonderful, and so supportive.
  3. Mike, who has never disliked anything I’ve ever cooked, whether overseasoned, underseasoned, burnt, or weird.
  4. Cake.
  5. Friends, for joining me in ridiculous escapades.
  6. My students, who make me laugh every day and (usually) make me feel like I’m making a difference through my teaching.
  7. Writing.
  8. Byrd and Squirt, my poodle and red-eared slider. One is fluffy and hyper, the other is scaly and . . . frowny; nevertheless, they’re both the sweetest pets anyone could ask for, and have made my little apartment a home.
  9. My snuggie. Shut up; it’s comfortable!
  10. Food, which is one language through which history, family, culture, and emotion has been communicated to me. I love joining the conversation.

On that note, here are some dishes that have warmed the pages of Willow Bird Baking in the past months that would be lovely on your Thanksgiving dinner table. May you enjoy the sharing of mirth, love, and calories with your family this year!



Mini-Pies: Pumpkin, Peach Crisp, and Sour Cream Apple — Add some variety to your Thanksgiving pie choices! Everyone gets to choose their own flavor. The pumpkin and peach pies are especially scrumptious.





Jack-O’-Lantern Whoopie Pies — These cakey cookies are hearty, moist, spicy, and addictive. Whoopie pies should be part of every family’s Thanksgiving tradition.







Peach Crisp Pie — Delicious, gooey peaches and crispy oats fill a tender, flaky crust. This is my favorite pie of all time!





Best Ever Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Easy Caramel Frosting and Spiced Apples — This moist, dense, finely-crumbed cake is heavenly with or without some spicy cinnamon apples on the side. “Best Ever” is not an exaggeration!



Chocolate Tart — Tired of pumpkin? If you’re a chocolate lover, this tart is a must-eat. Rich, indulgent chocolate fills the buttery tart crust, and a pile of freshly whipped cream accompanies each bite. This post also includes a bright and tangy Raspberry Cream Cheese Tart.


Overnight Yeast Rolls — These fluffy, delicious, buttery yeast rolls are part of my family’s annual Thanksgiving tradition. When I realized I was old enough to make them myself (and at any time of year, too), it was one ecstatic day in the kitchen!


Cardamom Pumpkin Macarons — Having an elegant Thanksgiving? These gluten-free cookies combine cardamom with traditional Thanksgiving pumpkin. Macarons are the perfect bite: crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside.



Barefoot Contessa’s Carrot Pineapple Cake — Looking for a big, beautiful cake to adorn your Thanksgiving table? Barefoot Contessa’s Carrot Pineapple Cake is brimming with hunks of pineapple, carrot, walnut, and raisin. With cream cheese frosting slathered on in a thick layer, it’s an elegant and decadent Thanksgiving dessert.

Green Chile TURKEY Enchiladas — Okay, these don’t quite fit on the Thanksgiving dinner table, but maybe you find yourself wondering what to do with all your juicy turkey leftovers? These Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas can be transformed into turkey-filled treats, and what a great way to spice up leftovers. The recipe is so seductive, yet very simple — it won’t take up all of your Black Friday!


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Gâteau aux Noix

Am I the only one who’s already drowning in holiday plans? I’ve got so many things up my sleeve that there’s no room for my arm in there. Warm, comforting things like grandmothers’ pies, flaky croissants, and freshly baked bread. Fun, festive things like visiting the Southern Christmas Show, trimming the tree, and popping the orange Chipmunks’ Christmas cassette tape into the player. Laborious, time-consuming things like catching up on grading my Mt. Everest of student work. My calendar is full of a variety of things, but what it comes down to is one word: BUSY.

Or maybe three words: BUSY BUSY BUSY.

All that BUSYness coming up is partly why this past weekend was so wonderful. Mike and I enjoyed our trip to Greensboro in our favorite way: with food! We hastily devoured McGriddles and Krispy Kremes, a delicious Thai lunch, and even a fancy dinner in downtown Greensboro. Obviously, we’re professionally trained to handle major consumption. Please don’t try this at home.


Hot doughnuts now! Two hot glazed originals, two raspberry filled, a pumpkin spice, and a chocolate custard-filled.


Sweet Mike before his test, and Thai food afterward!

We also got a chance to just relax. Well, okay, I relaxed. Mike practiced math, was tested on math, and then reflected/brooded about math. I felt a little guilty leisurely browsing the poetry section of a Borders bookstore while he took his math GRE a few blocks away! Thankfully, the test is over, and Mike can finally rest — until he gets his scores back and has to finish up grad school applications, that is. Eek, I’m getting stressed out again — back to this past weekend . . .

I browsed high and low to find the perfect cake for Mike and I to enjoy together on our trip. I wanted something hearty and rustic that could travel without much fuss. I also wanted something homey and special — something we’d remember a few months from now. When a friend sent me Molly of Orangette’s post about Gâteau aux Noix, it sounded perfect.

In fact, this very cake had made a warm home in Molly’s own travel memories — in her case, of visiting Les Eyzies-de-Tayac in southwestern France. The hotel baked these cakes and packaged slices in cellophane for them to eat during a long day outdoors. Since that trip, she’d been looking for a recipe to recreate the memory. After reading her recollections, I couldn’t wait to bake the “brown, humble, nutty” cake she described.

Indeed, she had described the gâteau aux noix perfectly. The cake retains the subtle, sophisticated flavor of dry white wine, while the nuts taste homey and familiar. It’s a simple cake that you can wrap up and cart about until you’re ready to enjoy it. I can also see this being an ideal pantry staple from which to swipe a hunk after each meal.

Mike and I first tried the cake with cinnamon whipped cream, but I decided that accompaniment eclipsed the gentle wine flavor. We then popped open a jar of pears in white grape juice (Trader Joe’s) to slice up with our cake instead. The flavors were perfect together. If you’re dying for creaminess, though, feel free to add a small dollop of whipped cream — just be sure it’s not heavy on the vanilla.

If you need a bit of simplicity in your life, then from my home to yours, here’s the cake for you!

Gâteau aux Noix, or French Walnut Cake



Recipe by: Orangette, adapted slightly from Saveur Cooks Authentic French
Yields: 1, 9-inch cake.

Ingredients:
½ cup chopped walnuts, or a touch more
3 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup walnut oil
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. Place walnuts in a small dry saucepan and toast over medium heat, shaking pan, until nuts are fragrant, 5-10 minutes. Set aside.

Beat eggs in a medium bowl with an electric mixer. Gradually add sugar and beat until mixture is pale yellow, light, and fluffy. Add walnut oil and wine and mix well.

Generously grease a 9” cake pan (I used an 8-inch with no problem, by the way; your cake will just be a bit thicker). Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together into a large bowl. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and mix with a wooden spoon until just combined. Gently fold in walnuts, and then pour batter into prepared pan. NOTE: Mixing a touch of the flour with the walnuts before folding them in may help evenly distribute them.

Bake cake until a toothpick can be inserted and pulled out clean, about 40 minutes (mine took only 30-35, however, and required a bit of tenting with foil for the last five). Remove from oven, cool for ten minutes, and then turn out onto a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely and serve in wedges. Loosely whipped cream would be a nice accompaniment, if possible.

NOTE: We served this with cinnamon whipped cream, which may have proven too bold a flavor for this subtle cake. We then switched to serving it with jarred pears in white grape juice (Trader Joe’s), which was a perfect complement!


Mixing up the batter.


Baking and fresh out of the oven!


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Dobos Torte

Mike’s a history buff in addition to being a math superhero. Every now and then he’ll be looking at photos of something like a spoon from Pompeii or a statue from Greece and geeking out over how neat it is. It’s thrilling to think of people centuries and millennia ago actually using the objects and living in the homes we now have as artifacts of their existence. Last summer he finally went on a trip to some of the places he’s always loved to read about: Rome, Greece, and Turkey. Looking through his pictures when he returned, it was so sweet to see him living one of his dreams.

 

I understand Mike’s excitement about the cultures of the past, and sometimes I feel it too, but it doesn’t come naturally to me. I usually have to sort of ponder artifacts and give my imagination a shove to really appreciate how neat they are. With this past Daring Bakers challenge, however, I finally got a taste of how Mike must feel. After reading through the recipe and researching the challenge, I realized that I was about to bake a piece of history: the Dobos Torte.

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 Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

Reading about the Dobos Torte gave me goosebumps. The torte is the namesake of József C. Dobos, its Hungarian creator. It was created with the intent of making a cake with a longer shelf life, and was debuted in 1885 at the National General Exhibition of Budapest. What really excited me was learning that Franz Joseph I and his wife, the Empress Elisabeth (also called Sisi), were among the first to taste the dessert! For those of you who don’t teach your 6th graders about the Russian Revolution like I do, I’ll fill you in. Franz Joseph I was the uncle of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who was assassinated by Serbian terrorists in 1914. This act effectively started World War I and contributed to the Russian Revolution. I won’t give you a full history lesson, but isn’t that amazing? This torte has such a rich history, and here I am baking it in my own kitchen!

Dobos kept the recipe for his torte a secret until his retirement in 1906, and since then, the popular dessert has been made around the world. The torte is comprised of multiple layers (anywhere from 6-12 is typical) of thin sponge cake, a thick American buttercream, and a slightly lemony caramel coating on the top layer. The recipe was quite intimidating at first, but I enjoyed the process and felt nudged out of my cupcake comfort zone, as all Daring Bakers should!

I chose to make my torte the classic size and shape, but did change a few things. I brushed each sponge layer with a simple syrup when assembling the torte to ensure that they’d stay moist. I also used macadamia nuts to prop up my caramel wedges instead of hazelnuts, but that wasn’t an artistic decision — I couldn’t find any whole hazelnuts at my grocery store.

If I could change a few things about the recipe, I’d add flavoring to my simple syrup and apply more of it to the sponge layers. I found my layers a bit dry (good thing they were smooshed between so much buttercream). I’d also nix the lemon from the caramel — it tasted a little odd — and use cream instead. Finally, I can attest that creating the perfect caramel texture is the hardest part of this cake. I took my sugar mixture off of the stove too soon and ended up with a sticky caramel that made my sponge cake layer a bit soggy. Using a candy thermometer might be a better idea than relying on your instincts (especially if you tend to be jumpy/hasty/caffeinated about your baking). For caramel, you’ll want the temperature of your sugar mixture between 320 to 350 degrees based on this handy chart.

One thing I’m glad I didn’t change was the frosting. I used unsweetened Belgian chocolate, and the result spread like a dream and tasted rich and indulgent. I can’t wait to make this chocolate buttercream again and slather it on — you guessed it — some cupcakes!

There are lots of opportunities for creative alterations with this torte. You can bake all the batter in sheet pans and cut it into as many rectangular layers as you’d like, or even use a cookie cutter to create some adventurously shaped layers. You could also use different nuts to decorate the cake (almonds, hazelnuts, cashews), different flavors of syrup on the sponge cake, and different flavors of buttercream to frost. One particularly daring baker brushed each sponge layer with a hazelnut liqueur and used Ferrero Rocher to prop up her caramel wedges! You know I love Ferrero Rocher, so I’m a fan of that idea!

I hope you’ll take the plunge and try making a Dobos Torte on your own. The recipe is a mile long, yes, but that’s partially because of the clear, thorough instructions. Angela has thoughtfully created a printable version of this recipe to make the process a bit easier! It was such a lovely achievement when all the work was finished, and I relished each bite thinking of the legacy I was eating!



Dobos Torte



Recipe by: Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague, by Rick Rodgers
Yield: about 11-12 pieces of torte

Equipment
2 baking sheets
9” (23cm) springform tin and 8” cake tin, for templates
mixing bowls (1 medium, 1 large)
a sieve
a double boiler (a large saucepan plus a large heat-proof mixing bowl which fits snugly over the top of the pan)
a small saucepan
a whisk (you could use a balloon whisk for the entire cake, but an electric hand whisk or stand mixer will make life much easier)
metal offset spatula
sharp knife
a 7 1/2” cardboard cake round (or just build cake on the base of a sprinfrom tin)
12 whole hazelnuts, peeled and toasted (I used macadamia nuts)
½ cup (50g) peeled and finely chopped hazelnuts
piping bag and tip, optional

Prep times
Sponge layers 20 mins prep, 40 mins cooking total if baking each layer individually.
Buttercream: 20 mins cooking. Cooling time for buttercream: about 1 hour plus 10 minutes after this to beat and divide.
Caramel layer: 10-15 minutes.
Assembly of whole cake: 20 minutes

Sponge Cake Ingredients
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups (162g) confectioner’s (icing) sugar, divided
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (112g) sifted cake flour
pinch of salt

Chocolate Buttercream Ingredients
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (200g) caster (ultrafine or superfine white) sugar
4oz (110g) bakers chocolate or your favourite dark chocolate, finely chopped (I used Belgian chocolate)
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250g) unsalted butter, at room temperature.

Caramel Topping Ingredients
1 cup (200g) caster (superfine or ultrafine white) sugar
12 tablespoons (180 ml) water
8 teaspoons (40 ml) lemon juice
1 tablespoon neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed, rice bran, sunflower)

Directions for the sponge layers:
NB. The sponge layers can be prepared in advance and stored interleaved with parchment and well-wrapped in the fridge overnight.

1. Position the racks in the top and centre thirds of the oven and heat to 400F (200C).
2. Cut six pieces of parchment paper to fit the baking sheets. Using the bottom of a 9″ (23cm) springform tin as a template and a dark pencil or a pen, trace a circle on each of the papers, and turn them over (the circle should be visible from the other side, so that the graphite or ink doesn’t touch the cake batter.)
3. Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 cup (81g) of the confectioner’s (icing) 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. (You can do this step with a balloon whisk if you don’t have a mixer.) Note: I leveled each sponge layer after baking per a great suggestion from other Daring Bakers. I did this by covering the layer with an oiled, cocoa powder dusted sheet of parchment paper and then pressing another sheet pan down on the layer to even it out.
4. In another bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 2/3 cup (81g) of confectioner’s (icing)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, leaving a few wisps of white visible. Combine the flour and salt. Sift half the flour over the eggs, and fold in; repeat with the remaining flour.
5. Line one of the baking sheets with a circle-marked paper. Using a small offset spatula, spread about 3/4cup of the batter in an even layer, filling in the traced circle on one baking sheet. Bake on the top rack for 5 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed gently in the centre and the edges are lightly browned. While this cake bakes, repeat the process on the other baking sheet, placing it on the centre 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. Using an 8″ springform pan bottom or plate as a template, trim each cake layer into a neat round. (A small serrated knife is best for this task.)


I love when I have two cookin’ buddies! Mike and Byrd cheer me on from the couch.

  
Drawing my circles, spreading my batter, and baking my layers. What sort of recipe requires artwork?

Directions for the chocolate buttercream:
NB. This can be prepared in advance and kept chilled until required.

1. Prepare a double-boiler: quarter-fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil.
2. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale and thickened, about five minutes. You can use a balloon whisk or electric hand mixer for this.
3. Fit bowl over the boiling water in the saucepan (water should not touch bowl) and lower the heat to a brisk simmer. Cook the egg mixture, whisking constantly, for 2-3 minutes until you see it starting to thicken a bit. Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate and cook, stirring, for a further 2-3 minutes.
4. Scrape the chocolate mixture into a medium bowl and leave to cool to room temperature. It should be quite thick and sticky in consistency.
5. When cool, beat in the soft butter, a small piece (about 2 tablespoons/30g) at a time. An electric hand mixer is great here, but it is possible to beat the butter in with a spatula if it is soft enough. You should end up with a thick, velvety chocolate buttercream. Chill while you make the caramel topping.

Lorraine’s note: If you’re in Winter just now your butter might not soften enough at room temperature, which leads to lumps forming in the buttercream. Male sure the butter is of a very soft texture I.e. running a knife through it will provide little resistance, before you try to beat it into the chocolate mixture. Also, if you beat the butter in while the chocolate mixture is hot you’ll end up with more of a ganache than a buttercream!


Frosting and decorating the torte.

Directions for the caramel topping:
1. Choose the best-looking cake layer 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. Score the cake into 12 equal wedges. Lightly oil a thin, sharp knife and an offset metal spatula.
2. 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-coloured caramel.
3. The top layer is perhaps the hardest part of the whole cake so make sure you have a oiled, hot offset spatula ready. I also find it helps if the cake layer hasn’t just been taken out of the refrigerator. I made mine ahead of time and the cake layer was cold and the toffee set very, very quickly—too quickly for me to spread it. 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 pattern 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 (keep re-oiling this with a pastry brush between cutting), cut through the scored marks to divide the caramel layer into 12 equal wedges. Cool another minute or so, then use the edge of the knife to completely cut and separate the wedges using one firm slice movement (rather than rocking back and forth which may produce toffee strands). Cool completely.

Angela’s note: I recommend cutting, rather than scoring, the cake layer into wedges before covering in caramel (reform them into a round). If you have an 8” silicon round form, then I highly recommend placing the wedges in that for easy removal later and it also ensures that the caramel stays on the cake layer. Once set, use a very sharp knife to separate the wedges.

Assembling the Dobos:
1. Divide the buttercream into six equal parts.
2. Place a dab of chocolate buttercream on the middle of a 7 1/2” cardboard round and top with one cake layer. Spread the layer with one part of the chocolate icing. Repeat with 4 more cake layers. Spread the remaining icing on the sides of the cake.
3. Optional: press the finely chopped hazelnuts onto the sides of the cake.
4. Propping a hazelnut under each wedge so that it sits at an angle, arrange the wedges on top of the cake in a spoke pattern. If you have any leftover buttercream, you can pipe rosettes under each hazelnut or a large rosette in the centre of the cake. Refrigerate the cake under a cake dome until the icing is set, about 2 hours. Let slices come to room temperature for the best possible flavour.


Don’t forget to visit other Daring Bakers and see the imaginative combinations and configurations of the Dobos Torte they created!

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