Early in the morning when dew is in transition from a crisp layer into drops of water, we loaded our car with containers of baked goods. Sticky gugelhopf. Kolache. Dainty Angel Wings. Little Bubs slept in his car seat, the aroma of cinnamon washing across his chubby cheeks. Sunlight is weak, breaking through the clouds and dim blue sky.
I can still feel the exhaustion knotted in my shoulders. Rolling out dough, patting in the flour and smearing spoonfuls of jam is meditation for the mind but hard on the body. A few weeks ago I found a grocery list, splattered with cake batter and swooshes of cocoa. The number of eggs and pounds of butter is laughable, staggering really. Where we stored it all I do not know.
At the beginning of the week we started the Dobos Torte. The largest bowl when stood upon the table was almost chest-level for me. Into it I cracked and separated countless eggs. The egg whites when whipped were mountains. I ladled the batter, tinges of golden yellow, with a soup ladle. The batter bakes quickly, only 6 or 7 minutes to really become golden, the edges very so slightly crisp.
We baked like this for the market, flour everywhere in our kitchen and the little people peeking in on the whole mess. Bubs was just a baby, 3 months old the first day we loaded our car and took all of those baked goods to the market. I wore him most of the day in the baby wrap, snuggled against my chest in the chill of the brewery market. The dynamics of the market are always interesting. We were the new ones, unknown in this familiar institution. The “meat ladies” with whom we traded table space for a bag of sugared Angel Wings and slices of Dobos, they became mother and daughter: Maureen and Claudia, also Tristan who still plays music at the market.
My kids run around the market, down the stairs straight to their favourite stand to buy sushi. They are too young but I know that if I let them go, they would instinctively navigate that market. When Mr and I sold at the market we made traditional dobos, full of butter and milk. I love butter. It makes rich desserts even richer and I certainly think that it is okay, it’s definitely part of baking. If I was baking for the market now I would redefine Dobos Torte and all of those European classics. I make food that my family can always eat. I would believe passionately in taking care of food allergies as well as eating well. Dobos is not necessarily healthy eating but it is a celebration, and when you eat wonderful food with loved ones, time and effort in every bite then you are eating well.
This is where we have dairy-free Dobos Torte. I used Earth Balance vegan spread because it is a hard enough margarine to hold up like a proper buttercream. Other vegan margarines will be too soft to firm up again, Dobos ends up being a tall cake you need it to have stability, the cakes are certainly too light for that.
I like to use a a julienne peeler for my lemon zest, it peels of thin strips of the lemon rind which I then finely mice. I get a higher yield and it’s also a brighter yellow because the blade does not dip into the pith like a grater. The flecks of lemon zest offer a stronger lemon flavour, a definite bonus to any baked good.
yield: 7 thin layers of cake (you get a cheat layer, use it wisely.)
9 egg white
one cup sugar
one vanilla bean
8 egg yolks
1/4 cup soy milk
one tablespoon lemon zest
*you will need additional vegan margarine and flour to coat the pans. This is important!
Preheat the oven to 400*.
1. In a metal bowl, whip the egg whites. Slowly add the cup of sugar.
2. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise, using the back of your paring knife, scoop out the seeds and add to the egg whites.
3. In another bowl, beat the egg yolks with the soymilk, lemon zest and salt until creamy.
4. Fold into the egg whites. Take it slow and gentle, you don’t want to deflate the whites.
5. Once completely mixed, sift the flour over the mix and fold in. Carefully, lovelies!
6. Prepare two cake pans of the same size with the shortening and a sheer covering of flour.*
7. Ladle enough in cake batter to cover the entire bottom of the pan with a 1/2 inch layer. Bake for 6 minutes or lightly golden.
8. Repeat until you use all of the batter. Store the cakes layered between wax paper sprinkled with flour (they’re sticky!) and chill for two hours.
The Mocha Buttercream
2 cups vegan margarine
1/2 vanilla bean
1/4 cup strong black coffee
4 cups icing sugar
12 ounces dark chocolate, melted
Note, the vegan margarine will loosen more than butter.
1. Cream the vegan margarine. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds out. Add to the margarine.
2. Alternate adding the coffee and icing sugar and whip until stiff (check the note).
3. Add the eggs one at a time. Continue to whip on medium speed.
4. Add the melted chocolate. Be sure to whip constantly so you do not cook the eggs. Store in the freezer for about 30 minutes to set the icing. When it comes out of the freezer, break it up with a fork so it is creamy.
I use square cake pans, not entirely authentic but then again, I don’t use butter, either.
Spread the buttercream evenly on one layer of cake. Watch the edges, it’s very easier to slope the icing down around the edge and then it won’t hold up properly. Press the next layer of cake on top. Repeat the icing.
The cake can be up to 12 layers tall depending on your dedication to chocolate. We’ve always made ours 6 layers. Spread a thin layer of the buttercream around the end and over the top to seal it,. Garnish with finely chopped dark chocolate or a drizzle. Some traditions hold that you add a thin layer of caramel to the top but the extra level of fastidiousness may just be too much after the rest of the cake, no?