Some say that the Dobos Cake is the best Hungarian cake. It’s the perfect harmony of sponge, cocoa and caramelised sugar, without any fuss. The simple but irresistible dessert started its way towards conquering the world in the 1880s: from a pavilion in the City Park to the Austrian royal court. The Őseink Hagyatéka, Örökségük (The legacy of our ancestors, our inheritance) Facebook page presents the story of the rightly famous Dobos Cake.
The Dobos Cake is not a Hungaricum yet; however, it answers all criteria to be listed among the best performances of our nation. The chocolatey dessert is one of our gastronomic values that first come to foreigner’s minds when thinking about Hungary. You might not know that it wasn’t named after the drum-like (dob=drum) caramel topping, but after its creator, József Dobos. No one can doubt the Hungarian origin of the cake.
Who was József Dobos?
József Dobos was the most outstanding master confectioner of the 19th century, and not only in Hungary. Everyone knew his name in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. Theirs was a several generations old confectioner dynasty. Just like his antecedents, József Dobos wasn’t afraid to try out new things. While sticking to simple, unique Hungarian flavours, he frequently combined them with the delicacies of the French cuisine.
The master confectioner was much more than a confectioner. He was an outstanding gastronome of his time. József Dobos was taught by his father first and the Andrássy family later: how to set new flavours and fashion while following traditions. He had his own deli in the noble district of Budapest, in Kecskeméti Street, he had his own pavilions at the Hungarian General Exhibitions, and he also wrote books. His desserts have cost quite a lot but since it was chic to shop from Dobos his problem was more so the completion of all orders rather than struggling with the selling.
The story of the Dobos Cake
Although several delicacies, unique recipes and cook books can be connected to József Dobos, even he himself said that the peak of his life-work was the Dobos Cake. He was very proud of his dessert that he made for the 1885 National Exhibition, so he named it after himself. There’s no evidence whether or not the legend is true about the butter cream, which is the soul of the cake, being an accident. However, the legend joined with József Dobos’ story.
According to chronicles, in 1884, one year before the exhibiting of the cake Dobos’ apprentice accidentally mixed up salt and sugar in the Kecskeméti Street shop. In that time butter was conserved with salt. But the apprentice accidentally poured powdered loaf-sugar into the churn bowl. Instead of throwing it out, the master tasted the butter and found it to be very good. And this is how he created the butter cream, which he later flavoured with cocoa, coffee and fruits.
The page writes that he wanted to create a special cake for the 1885 National Exhibition which wasn’t only delicious and neat, but also longer-lasting than the whipped cream desserts that were fashionable back then. He experimented on a cream that could stay consumable and enjoyable for several days with the refrigerating techniques of the time.
The pavilions in the City Park were full of colourful, fancy delicacies. At the time, confectioners mostly competed in building the biggest and most decorated cakes. They filled the sponge layers with cooked cream and decorated it with whipped cream. The storied cakes looked like lace-wonders. On the other hand, Dobos’ pavilion welcomed visitors with an elegantly simple cake, and as the Hungarian saying goes: “less is sometimes more”. Legend has it that Emperor Franz Joseph and his charming wife, Queen Elizabeth were the firsts to try Dobos Cake.
The secret recipe
According to the confectioner’s memoir, the secret of the cake lies in the cocoa, chocolate and butter mixture, but in the end, the key is the whole of the cream made so fluffy by the eggs beaten over steam and the thin sponge layers. Many people tried to replicate it after taste, unsuccessfully. József Reidl was the only one who managed to come near the original flavours. The recipe was a secret. People bombarded the apprentices of the master confectioner with questions, but they never gave out the secret.
In 1906, József Dobos probably got fed up with the weak copies and gave the Hungarian Confectioner and Gingerbread Bakers Craftsmen Corporation his original recipe. He only had one condition: no one should buy the recipe, a single confectioner should never be the inclusive owner of the recipe, meaning that it had to be accessible for everyone.
Did you know that the Dobos Cakes sold in confectioneries are not made by the original recipe? The secret, the magical recipe was reinterpreted by many people. Today we can only find the original recipe in the Dobos Memoir. Even though the making of the cake is not easy and people tend to think that making it at home is impossible, this is a false belief. József Dobos thought that the homemade Dobos Cakes were the best. If you follow the master’s directions, stay away from margarine, and use quality cocoa, you can evoke the past and recreate the original masterpiece.
The original recipe
“You need 6 sponge layers for a 22 cm cake. For the sponge layers: you mix 6 egg yolks well with 3 lat (lat=half an ounce, 50 g) powdered sugar, whip up 6 egg whites to a hard mousse with 3 lat (50 g) powdered sugar, then mix the egg yolks with 6 lat (100 g) flour and 2 lat (35 g) melted butter. For the cream you need: 4 eggs, 12 lat (200 g) powdered sugar, 14 lat (235 g) butter, 2 lat (35 g) cocoa powder, 1 lat (17 g) vanilla sugar, 2 lat (35 g) cocoa butter and 1 bar (200 g) of chocolate. You beat the eggs with the sugar over gas until it heats up, you take it off the stove and mix it until it cools down. You cream the butter, add the vanilla sugar, the melted cocoa butter and the slightly heated, soft chocolate. Then you mix it with the cooled eggy mousse, fill in five sponge layers, pour caramelised sugar over the sixth layer and cut it into 20 pieces.”
Photos: www.facebook.com/oseinkhagyatekaioroksegunk, www.eletunk.com
Copy editor: bm