Scribbled on sheets of faded lined paper, buried within a plain-faced notebook, lists of all imaginable contents rattle on and on, marching down the pages with numbers or bullet marks leading the way. If not for these lists, I could very well lose my marbles- How else could I remember all of the hundreds of things I want to do, make, and see, from short term goals to future plans? If ideas were butterflies, this notebook would be my net, preventing those gems from slipping through my fingers. You may have already guessed it, but one of these lengthy outlines is headed with the title “Dream Pastry Challenges,” penned with excitable, sloppy print. From St. Honore to Sans Rival, difficult desserts are often added to the growing tally, but rarely checked off. Between recipe development, everyday cooking, and working in a restaurant, who has time for even more extracurricular baking?
Imagine my delight, then, when it was announced that August’s Daring Baking Challenge would be one of those formidable sweets I had scrawled on my list so long ago: The Dobos Torte.
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.
Now that it had been officially assigned, however, there was no way I could just make the traditional chocolate-and-vanilla, round cake. But what could be changed, while maintaining the integrity of this torte? How could I make it more interesting? As the reveal date drew nearer and still no Dobos had emerged from my kitchen, I grew downright panicky. Quickly, something, anything, had to be done! Inverting the flavors with a dark chocolate cake and white chocolate frosting, it seemed sufficiently modified at the time of brainstorming, especially when presented in individual rectangles.
But alas, the manifestation of this concept was considerably less impressive and graceful than it had been in my head. Like they say in Italian, “Brutti ma bouni” (Good but ugly.)
For days I stewed, contemplating trashing the whole challenge, burning time that could have been used to rectify the situation. Finally, with one day remaining, it became clear that there was only one option: Start from scratch. No way could I let this one slip by, not when it had been on my list for so long, and not when I’ve gone almost two years as a Daring Baker without missing a single challenge.
Gathering my enthusiasm, it was back to the drawing board. Perhaps the flavor needed more attention, I conceded. Why I suddenly decided that a pepper cake would be just the ticket, I still couldn’t say for sure.
But am I ever thankful I ran with it. Five 6-inch round layers of sweet roasted red pepper cake stack up beneath a coating of Mexican chocolate frosting. Crowned with a hollow sphere of pure dark chocolate and a disk of cayenne caramel, it’s a decidedly different, more modern take on this classic cake.
Since the nasturtium growing in the garden have been so hot and peppery this year, it seemed only appropriate that they too should be invited to the party. It all makes for one sensational sweet-savory-salty-spicy dessert!
Seeing it come together so beautifully in the end, despite the initial failure, was a huge relief. At this moment, there is nothing more gratifying than being able to check this one off my list.