FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Wanda A. Adams
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Valerie Coleman wrote to ask the origins of the Island favorite, Dobash cake, and it's taken me several months of circling the question to find the answer. My first hint came from Jonna Craft, a faithful reader, who said she'd heard that it was a Hungarian creation, but she didn't know any more than that.
She was right. What we call Dobash cake has its roots in Dobos torte, the invention of one of Hungary's most famous culinary figures, a chef, patissiere, specialty foods importer and flamboyant food marketer at a time when Hungary was considered one of Europe's capitals of cuisine. His name was Jozsef C. Dobos, and he introduced the self-named torte in 1887.
Years ago, a dear friend who had died left me her copy of the classic English-language cookbook on Hungarian food, "The Cuisine of Hungary" by George Lang (Bonanza Publishing, 1971). In it is the story of Dobos and his cake. The confection, which he shipped around Europe in packaging of his own design, became wildly popular, and much imitated. Miffed, Dobos bequeathed the authentic recipe to the Budapest Pastry and Honey-Bread Guild, so everyone could follow his lead and get it right. In 1962, with Dobos having died in 1924, the city of Budapest held a 75th anniversary celebration for the cake and its creator, and Pastry Guild members paraded a six-foot cake through the streets. There is actually a Dobos Gastronomy Museum in Budapest, honoring the man who was also the official baker to the Habsburg emperor.
The next hint about Dobosh and Hawai'i came from online reader Donna Tyler, of San Francisco. She wrote to say she grew up in Hilo, and she thinks the first Dobash cake in Hawai'i was made by Robert's Bakery in Hilo. She recalls her mom saying the baker had discovered the cake on a trip to Europe. She doesn't remember, though, if that person was Robert Taira, the original owner of the bakery and founder of King's Bakery, or a member of the Hatada family, who took over afterward. (It was probably Robert Taira, because the now-gone King's Bakery was famed for its Dobash cakes, iced and covered with chocolate cake crumbs.) Dobos torte ("doh-BOSH TOR-teh") became "Dobash cake" here and in the rest of the U.S.
The original Dobos torte and our local Dobash cakes are worlds apart. The true Dobos torte is made of layers (5 to 7, an issue hotly debated) of genoise (a sponge-like cake made with flour, egg, sugar and vanilla) with chocolate buttercream filling between each layer, and a caramel glaze topping.
In Hawai'i, though, Dobash means chocolate chiffon cake with a pudding-like chocolate icing/filling and/or Chantilly cream filling and perhaps a dusting of cake crumbs. Delicious, but I'm sure chef Dobos wouldn't approve.
Send recipes and queries to Wanda A. Adams, Food Editor, Honolulu Advertiser, P.O. Box 3110, Honolulu, HI 96802. Fax: 525-8055. E-mail: email@example.com.
For more information about our 150th anniversary cookbook, call 535-8189 (message phone; your call will be returned). You can order the cookbook online.
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