The Dobos or drum torte is a Hungarian desert named for its creator and pastry chef Jozsef C. Dobos who is believed to have first made the confection for the National General Exhibition of Budapest in 1885. A classic Dobos torte is a cake made with five to eight thin layers of biscuit or sponge cake and chocolate buttercream frosting topped with a triangle shaped pieces of caramel that help prevent the pastry from drying out. Other recipes call for the cake to be coated with ground nuts such as chestnuts, walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts but the classic version is without this addition.
Dobos was striving to make a pastry that would last a long time without the sophisticated refrigeration that is common today. Following the National General Exhibition, The Dobos torte was an immediate success throughout Europe and many attempted to imitate the Dobos recipe with varying degrees of success once royalty began ordering the cake for banquets and other celebrations.
Although buttercream frosting is common today, it was one of the Dobos torte’s innovations in the late 19th century when whipped cream and pastry cream were more typical. The lack of proper cooling technology meant that the usual creams and fillings did not last long after assembling a pastry or cake. Dobos created both the fine buttercream filling used in his torte as well as the cake batter, but the recipe was kept secret until his retirement in 1906 when he reveled his techniques to the Budapest Confectioners’ and Gingerbread Makers’ Chamber of Industry.
The classic Dobos torte is a simple yet elegant cake that can be challenging to make. The cake batter is usually made with eggs, flour, vanilla extract, sugar and butter that are combined and baked in five to eight cake pans to form the torte’s thin cake layers. The buttercream frosting ingredients include semisweet and unsweetened chocolate, butter, sugar that is melted together and then blended with eggs beaten until they are stiff. Finally, the caramel is made from sugar cooked until it is an amber color then poured over the top cake layer, allowed to cool and the cut into triangle shapes and arranged atop the torte.
There are many variations of Dobos torte, and the cake is commonly available throughout the Balkans. Instead of chocolate buttercream, chefs may experiment with vanilla, citrus or rum flavored fillings or coat the cake in a chocolate ganache or chopped nuts. In addition, the torte may be made round or square and topped with a smooth caramel coating instead of the solid triangular pieces of the original recipe or decorated on the sides with extra buttercream frosting.