Dobos Torte (dough-bush tort-a)

Wikipedia says the Dobos Torte is a “five-layer sponge cake.”

That’s crap.

This is Exhibit A as to why professors do not consider Wikipedia a reputable source.

They are just blatantly wrong.

To be fair, I am sure there is some historical validity to the Wikipedia entry on the Dobos.  For this case, however, they have been seriously misinformed.

My mother acquired the recipe we use for the New Year’s Dobos from her Hungarian grandmother.  In all likelihood, she was taught by her grandmother, who was instructed by her grandmother, who watched her grandmother make it.

I don’t know how many generations this family recipe goes back, but you get the point.  It’s one old recipe.

In the Taylor/Takács household and history, the Dobos Torte is a 20-42 layer cake with paper-thin layers separated by super rich chocolate frosting.

And it is a bitch to make.

We only have to make the Dobos once a year to go on the New Year’s table.  It is a blessing because of the level of difficulty, but a disappointment when the cake has been devoured by ravenous, champagne-filled sharks at midnight.

Like the Dobos recipe, our family’s New Year’s Eve tradition dates back generations long before my sisters, cousins, and I were born.  It is a family-oriented, Hungarian-influenced, black-tie affair.

For the party, the dining room table is dubbed the “New Year’s table.”  There are many reasons for the items that are put on the table and the items that are missing.  No fowl:  your luck in the new year will fly away.  No fish:  your luck in the new year will swim away.  The only meat on the table are pork products:  a 30lb ham, sausage, salami, jellied pigs feet (nicknamed by the younger generation “choke-on-ya,” a play-on of the real Hungarian name).  Apparently you will be lucky if you stuff yourself like a pig, with pig.  Rrrrrrright.

The table is laden with unopened bottles of Hungarian jellies, liquors, marzipan in all shapes and kinds of animals, vinegars, nice sugars, breads, cakes, and a copy of the Bible.  Everyone who comes to the party puts pictures, money, notes, and whatever else moves them into the Bible for good luck in the New Year.  You are not allowed to touch the table or take anything from the table until after the midnight toast.  Want to take a guess as to why?  Bad luck.  Just don’t do it.

(Just because we can’t eat off the table doesn’t mean we starve ourselves for good luck before midnight.  There are usually any number of appetizers circling around and stationed in various locations throughout the house).

I really need to ask my mom why she, out of her cousins and siblings, inherited the recipe for the Dobos Torte.  Whatever the reason, she has been making it for as long as I can remember.  Then, one year, she bestowed the task upon Katelyn and me.  I make the layers while Katelyn assembles the layers with the frosting.

Even though the Dobos is in my culinary muscle memory, it never gets any easier to make.  Luckily, the end result is a divine work of art and those hours sweating it out in the kitchen certainly pay off.

This torte consists of paper-thin layers separated by super rich chocolate frosting.  There are only three ingredients to the batter:  flour, sugar, and eggs.  Seem simple enough?  Think again.  Because the main ingredient is egg, you have to make the layers on the back of a pan as quickly as you can to insure maximum yielding.  If you wait too long, the batter will fall and then you’re really out of luck.

After the first layer, I fall into a rhythm.  Butter pan.  Flour pan.  Ladle batter onto pan.  Spread batter evenly across pan.  Put pan in oven.  Set timer for 3 minutes, 20 seconds.  Wait.  Open oven.  Singe eyelashes.  Cut layer down the middle.  Take layer off pan without making holes.  Make a hole.  Scream a partially-censored expletive because of 10-year-old sister in the room.  Resist temptation to dramatically throw everything into the sink.  Put layer on cooling rack.  Take a yoga breath.

Repeat 12-15 times.

Marvel at your 22-layer work of art.


First leg of chocolate gone wrong. Frosting made of scrambled eggs, anyone?

Second try. Eggs, sugar, vanilla. 2 lbs of butter not photgraphed.

Delicious chocolate frosting

Note to self: do not attempt to whip super-chilled frosting. Your beaters will get stuck.

Super finicky, light, airy batter.

Back of the pan makes two layers. Getting them off is challenging and infuriating.

Katelyn hard at work assembling.

Just about finished....

The most beautiful torte in the world, topped with caramelized sugar.



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