A Taste of NOLA: Doberge Cake
When you want to visit a city with a flavor all its own, then set your sights on New Orleans. Visitors flock to the Big Easy every year to experience its vibrant ambiance, incredible music, and irresistible food. No matter where you turn, you’re sure to find a restaurant offering up some delectable dishes, from shrimp étouffée to crawfish gumbo and beyond. But, in NOLA, your meal doesn’t end with the main course. Tempting dessert menus abound, full of sweet treats, like beignets, bananas foster, and scrumptiously sinful Doberge cake.
Here’s a closer look at this delicious layered cake.
Doberge Cake Beginnings
Doberge cake didn’t come to New Orleans; it was born here. A local baker named Beulah Ledner created the layered masterpiece when she adapted a Hungarian dessert called Dobos Torte. The original Dobos Torte featured a thick buttercream and, over time, reached 12 layers of confection.
Ledner was intrigued with the dessert but knew it was too much for the hot NOLA summers. She swapped out the thick buttercream for a lighter custard, layering custard and sponge into 8 more manageable layers. She also elevated the cake by covering it in a layer of fondant and replacing the name with the more French-sounding doberge to help entice local clients drawn to French pastries.
Ledner sold her cakes, which became a favorite for birthday parties, out of her small home bakery, earning her the title, “The Doberge Queen of New Orleans,” until 1946 when Joe Gambino purchased the bakery and the Doberge Cake recipe. Eventually, Doberge Cake became a popular item on many dessert and bakery menus throughout the city. Expert confectioners strived to put their own spin on the sweet classic, creating numerous flavors and unique takes on the cake. But, even to this day, Gambino’s bakery ensures they bake each and every Doberge Cake by hand to the exact specifications of Ledner’s original recipe.
Ready to Make a Doberge Cake?
If you like creating quick and easy cakes, then you might just want to buy your Doberge because this recipe tends to take a lot of time (and a lot of bowls). But, if you love to don your baker’s hat, then roll up your sleeves and get to work on this recipe adapted from Southern Living. The result will be well worth your efforts.
For the Cake Layers
4 ½ cups of bleached cake flour
1 tablespoon of baking powder
¾ teaspoon of salt
1 ½ cups of unsalted butter, softened
2 cups of granulated sugar
5 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
1 ½ cups of whole milk
For the Buttercream Frosting
1 cup of unsalted butter, softened
5 cups of powdered sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon of salt
4 tablespoons of whole milk
1 lemon (you’ll need ½ tablespoon of lemon zest and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice)
1-2 drops of yellow food coloring
2 teaspoons of unsweetened cocoa
1 ounce of bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
For the Fillings
To save some time, instead of making your lemon curd or chocolate pudding, you can purchase these items prepared. You will need:
1 ⅔ cups of lemon curd
1 ⅔ cups of refrigerated chocolate pudding
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour three 9-inch cake pans. In a medium bowl, whisk together the baking powder, flour, and salt. In a separate bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy (about 5 minutes). Start to add in the eggs and yolks, one at a time, beating after you add each one. Finally, add in the vanilla.
Start to intermittently add the flour mixture and milk to the egg mixture. You’ll do five total additions, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Beat the batter on low speed after each addition, but don’t over mix.
Divide the batter evenly into the three prepared pans and bake for about 23 to 25 minutes.
Start on Your Buttercream
While the cakes bake, you can start on your buttercream. Use an electric mixer to beat the butter on medium speed till creamy, about three minutes. Turn the mixer to low speed and gradually add in the powdered sugar, beating until smooth.
Add the vanilla, salt, and 3 tablespoons of the milk, beating for about another minute. If you want a smoother consistency, add up to one more tablespoon of milk. Transfer one cup of frosting into a small bowl and divide the rest between two medium bowls.
In one medium bowl of frosting, stir in the lemon zest and juice and yellow food dye. In the other medium bowl, add the cocoa. In a small microwaveable bowl, stir together the chocolate and one tablespoon of milk, then microwave on HIGH for about 20 seconds, stirring halfway through. Let cool for five minutes, then stir into the chocolate frosting.
Putting It All Together
When the cakes are baked, use a toothpick to test for doneness and cool the pans on a rack for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, transfer the cakes from the pans directly onto the wire racks and cool for another 30 minutes.
After the cakes have cooled completely, slice each layer in half horizontally to create 6 thin layers. Place one layer on a plate and spread about ⅓ of a cup of lemon curd over half the layer. Over the other half, spread ⅓ cup of chocolate pudding. Stack four more layers, repeating the process with the curd and pudding. Place the top layer, then use the plain frosting to apply a thin crumb coat to the sides of the cake. Chill the cake for one hour.
Finally, spread lemon frosting over the top and sides of half of the cake, spreading the chocolate frosting over the other half. (Make sure to match your frosting to your filling - use a sticky note to remind you).
Where to Find the Best Doberge Cake in New Orleans
For a taste of the original Doberge Cake, head to Gambino’s Bakery in nearby Metairie; it’s the only place you’ll find it. You can also find some incredible Doberge at the Bakery Bar on Annunciation Street, which serves cakes created by Debbie Does Doberge that you can enjoy alongside a cocktail.
Whether you opt for chocolate, lemon, or a newly created flavor concoction, enjoying a slice of Doberge cake on a hot summer day in New Orleans is truly special. Grab your cake to-go and kick back in a swank room at the La Galerie Hotel; now, how’s that for something sweet?