Thursday, August 27, 2009

Do I dare?

Begin strange intro now:

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.

Explain strange intro now:

As Steve Martin so famously said, "I can do this act alone. I often do." But apparently, that doesn't have to be the case. All over the web, bloggers have bonded into net-wide coalitions, posting en masse in a frenzied outpouring of prose and photos and general togetherness on various topics. In the cooking world alone one could be busy almost daily, between Tuesdays with Dorie and Thursday's Barefoot Bloggers. I’m sure there’s Wolfgang Puck Wednesdays and a Morimoto Monday if I just looked hard enough. I have decided to dip my toe into this thing from the fringes of Cheesy Pennies Land by joining The Daring Bakers*. From what I can tell, it's a bit like Fight Club**.

1. There is an uber secret recipe challenge every month.
2. You must make the uber secret recipe in secret.
3. On a pre-determined day, everybody "reveals" the challenge and how it came out***.
4. If you don't keep the secret, I think something very bad happens****.

And so, with a big drum roll, here is my first production as a Daring Baker:

Pretty darn impressive, huh? (pause for applause)

But here's the thing. It was a lot of work. Totally doable, but a lot of work*****. I hand form thin layers of sponge cake. I whip up an intensely rich butter cream frosting. I decide the recipe's version is cloyingly sweet, and improvise by adding both a pinch of salt and some coffee for flavor. I rock! I make caramel. It's way too lemony for my taste or to suit the rest of the flavors in this cake, but there's no way to fix that. I add a pinch of salt anyway to make myself feel better. I coat a layer of cake with said caramel, and then swear a lot as I try to cut that sticky stuff into decorative wedges. I chop Marcona almonds and macadamia nuts. And then I'm still facing this step called "assembly"******.

But I did it, and the torte looked amazing. My sister and I cut into it with anticipation. And were underwhelmed. It tasted fine. Good even. But after all that? I wanted to be blown away. Only one part of this monumental effort did live up to the hype, and that was the frosting. That stuff was silky, smooth, buttery bliss on a spoon. Made the whole thing worth it, just to lick that mixing bowl.

Will I be baking again? I can't tell you, or I'd have to kill you.

Rich Mocha Buttercream
the best part of the Dobos Torte

4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup bakers sugar (superfine white sugar)
4oz bakers semi-sweet chocolate or your favorite dark chocolate, finely chopped (I used Trader Joe's Organic Dark Bars)
1 Tbs. finely ground (like to a powder) instant coffee
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature.

Note: This can be prepared in advance and kept chilled until required. Allow to come to room temp before using.
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. Add the coffee powder.
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) 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 mocha buttercream. It would be fantastic on cupcakes, chocolate cake, vanilla cake, or just by itself. DIG IN!
If anyone would like the full recipe, let me know and I'll pass it along!

* Main attractions: Monthly activity, not weekly. Involves baking.
** "The first rule of Fight Club is you don't talk about Fight Club."
*** I am so following these rules! Go me! For example, not only did I use the "club" intro text properly (I hope!) I actually wrote this post like a week ago, but kept it uber secret until today!
**** Just kidding. I think they just kick you out of the blogroll.
***** Perhaps a clue for me in the name "challenge."
****** If you haven't noticed, very few of the recipes I talk about have this as part of the process. Usually, it's straight from the oven to "dig in."


  1. Oh my lord, woman, you DO rock! I don't care that you were underwhelmed by the flavor - the fact that it came out looking this gorgeous is enough for me. Because I am that shallow.

  2. Welcome to the Daring Bakers! Well done on your first challenge! Your caramel decorations are so even and the perfect color! :)

  3. Wow what a great effort and on your 1st challenge very well done. And your torta looks so professional and yes you can't like everything but you find a buttercream now that you can use again and again. Kudos and bravo to you. And your caramel pieces look absolutely spot-on. Cheers from Audax in Australia

  4. Thanks so much for the encouraging words, Jill and Audax!

  5. Wow, it does look great, even if you didn't love the flavor. Great shots!