It was August 2006. We went there for the European Swimming Championships, to follow the steps of the Empress Sissi, to visit the spas, the Imperial palace and the zoo. We returned from Budapest totally in love, drunk with so many gold medals and fascinated by the Hungarian cuisine.
There are many moments carved in my heart from that holiday: beautiful gardens, elegant spas with affordable prices, friendly people, a well-organized subway with the longest and steepest escalator I’ve ever seen, the most hot fresh paprika salad (Laura still cries thinking back at that salad!), colorful markets overflowing with products, where we are also able to explain us with signs and buy three whistles to cheer at the competitions, breathtaking night views of the Danube.
Beside this, we lived the most exciting sport experience ever (obviously as spectators): gold medals won scream after scream, encouragement after encouragement, painted faces and posters designed with markers on the hostel floor. The stands were shaking beneath our jumps when we were singing out national anthem with tears in our eyes. We were suffering from supporter’s fever, and we did our best not to recover from it!
Perhaps for this reasons, or perhaps because of the special character of the city, Budapest conquered our hearts: Budapest is a city with a unique soul and an unmissable atmosphere, made up, in the same time, by many distinctly different neighbourhoods, on one hand narrow lanes, shadowed alleys and hidden courtyards, on the other hand monumental squares, magnificent palaces and ruins of a past characterized by a pattern of lights and shades.
Our guide was full of tabs and colourful slips of paper. A page was stressed more than the others and, at a closer look, you can still find a few crumbs. From the Budapest DeAgostini guide: on the north side of the Vorosmarty square there is the renowned pastry Gerbeaud, founded in the 1858 by Henrik Kugler, later acquired by the Swiss confectioner Emil Gerbeaud, to whom we owe the current interior decor. During the summer it is very pleasant to spent some time on the front terrace, sipping coffee and following the frenetic movement of the coloured square.
How could we miss such an opportunity to relax and recharge ourself before heading to the championship competition to support our heroes? There, at Gerbeaud, we met for the first time the Dobos Torte, the flagship of the Hungarian confectionery, a dessert invented by the confectioner József C. Dobos in 1884. He presented the Dobos Torte at the Budapest general exhibition in 1885. To add fame and prestige to an already excellent cake, we must remember that the first ones to taste the Dobos were the Emperor Franz Joseph and the Princess Sissi. The dessert soon became famous throughout Europe, partly because the pastry chef travelled far and wide to present his creation. The recipe was kept secret for ages until Dobos retired and gave the recipe to the Chamber of pastry in Budapest.
How to live again those emotions? A slice of Dobos Torte is all you need! Once again I must say thanks to Twitter, because through it I met Zita, a talented Hungarian foodblogger. From the Christmas holidays till today we have exchanged tweets and advices, both extremely curious about each other’s gastronomic culture, and not only. So today is a slightly special day because we are making a cross cultural recipe exchange, posting in the same time two recipes we picked to exchange, a way to learn something, having fun and crossing national borders.
She baked one of the most typical recipes of my country, Ricciarelli di Siena (almond cookies), while, on the other side, I could finally get my hands over the Dobos Torte, a demanding but extremely satisfying challenge. I made two attempts before reaching the desired result, which I’m publishing today, with the final amount of ingredients and procedure I followed to get to that idea of perfection that was impressed in my mind as one of the best desserts ever tried.
Five thin layers of sponge cake, spread with a chocolate buttercream, ending with a caramel coated layer of sponge cake, which protects and keeps the cake fresh for a long time. Elegant, refined, good of a full, round and delicious good, with the slightly bitter and crunchy caramel to complete a perfect harmony. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Dobos Torte!
- 9 eggs
- 220 g sugar
- 1 vanilla bean
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 240 g flour + some for dusting
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 240 g icing sugar
- 300 g butter at room temperatures
- 80 g cocoa powder
- 1 vanilla bean
- 2 tablespoons rum
- 150 g granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- crumbled sponge cake or ground walnut or almond or almond flakes
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Separate yolks and egg whites. Whip the yolks and the sugar together with the lemon juice and the scraped vanilla pod seeds using an electric mixer until they are light, white and creamy. Add the flour and the lemon zest and mix until thoroughly incorporated.
In another bowl whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in the whipped egg whites into the mixture. The final mixture should be light, white and very soft.
You need to bake now 6 circle sponge cakes: you can use a 25 cm diameter mould, previously greased and dusted with flour, dividing the batter into 6 parts and baking one cake after the other, or you can spread one sixth of the dough on a rectangular tin lined with parchment paper and then cut out a circle with a large mould.
Whatever method you choose, pour the batter onto the baking sheet and bake the 6 circles for 5-7 minutes until golden brown. As soon as it is ready, remove the cake from the oven, unmould or remove the parchment paper and place on a wire rack to cool. Set them aside, separated by parchment paper, and let them cool.
In a bowl whip together the butter, the icing sugar, the cocoa, the vanilla seeds and the rum. Mix everything together until combined.
Pick the best and most regular sponge cake. In a pan on medium heat caramelize the sugar with the lemon juice, stirring constantly. When it is very liquid and orange, pour it on the top of the sponge cake. With a buttered spatula spread and smooth the caramel on the cake. You need to work quickly not to let the caramel harden.
Perforate and cut the caramel coat into 12 slices (I used a buttered large knife, they have a very useful form that divides the cake into slices!).
Spread the chocolate buttercream on the sponge cakes, place them on top of each other. Spread the cream also on the side of the cake. Sprinkle the side of the cake with some crumbled leftover sponge cake or ground dried fruit. Place the caramel wedges on the top of the cake, placing each one of them on a piped dollop of chocolate buttercream to give them their classical slant. Before serving keep it in the fridge for at least 2 hours.