Doberge cake is more than a layered dessert, it’s a New Orleans icon

When we think of New Orleans desserts, many treats come to mind: donuts, a Mardi Gras-inspired king cake, banana Fosters, etc. But what about doberge cake? This classic mid-century dessert has helped many NOLA natives celebrate their birthdays sweetly and carries with it a nostalgic reputation.

Yet doberge cake can mean something slightly different to each person who has tried it. For some, it’s a dessert combining layers of yellow cake, a chocolate pudding filling, and a ganache topping. For others, it’s a lemon layer cake with sunny yellow frosting. And for a few other Louisianans, it’s a cake that features both lemon and chocolate incarnations, split in half for the perfect half-and-half treat. All of these are considered true doberge cakes because they all share basic DNA with the original 6-tier cake invented by Beulah Ledner in the early 1900s. Her sweet creation changed the baking industry in New -Orléans, introducing an Old World cake with New World adaptations. So what’s the story behind New Orleanians’ favorite birthday cake order?

Read more: 30 Types of Cakes, Explained

The Hungarian roots of this Crescent City classic

Dobos Cake – Jana Milin/Shutterstock

In New Orleans, most of the city’s classic treats have French Acadian origins, but doberge cake often traces back to an Eastern European cousin, Dobos pie. First invented by pastry legend Jozsef Dobos in Budapest, Hungary, the dobos torte was a dizzying feat of cake, made with many layers of sponge cake, a delicate chocolate buttercream, and frosting with shimmering caramel. The caramel helped seal in the moisture in the cake layers, making it one of the first cakes to travel well. The cake would eventually travel to countries like Germany, where Beulah Ledner comes into the picture.

As the daughter of German immigrants who ran a successful bakery in her country, Ledner was familiar with Dobos pie and many other European classics. During the Great Depression, she would turn this baking expertise into a lucrative empire with her home bakery, Mrs. Charles Ledner’s Superior Home Baking. Although she had solid success with her lemon meringue pie, Ledner became particularly famous for her doberge cakes. The many layers of cake and chocolate-vanilla flavors were certainly inspired by the Dobos torte, although almost everything else makes for a delicious start. Thinking of Louisiana’s heat and humidity, she lightened up the original, swapping a sponge cake for a yellow butter cake, a chocolate buttercream for a custard filling, and sealing the cake with a layer of ganache rather than caramel. His latest twist? Adaptation of “Dobos” to the French-sounding name of “Doberge”.

Where to find your own Doberge cake

Dobergé Cake

Dobergé Cake – Instagram

Although Ledner made three kinds of doberge cakes: lemon, caramel and chocolate, lemon and chocolate reigned supreme as the signature flavors. She then sold her coveted recipes to Gambino’s Bakery in 1946, where the cake became associated with birthday celebrations. For the past 75 years, Gambino’s customers could purchase chocolate, lemon, caramel or half-and-half dobergine cakes, each using Ledner’s original recipe.

Of course, the cake’s popularity has also made it a traditional entrée at other Louisiana bakeries and restaurants. Mauritius French Pastries offers a five-layer doberge cake with classic flavors plus vanilla, Irish cream, amaretto and praline. Debbie Does Doberge is an online bakery specializing in the doberge formula of layers of buttery cake and custard, and giving it inventive flavors like the Red Velvet Elvis Doberge, which adds peanut butter, custard pudding banana and red velvet to the mixture. If you want a physical place to buy a Debbie Does Doberge cake, she supplies the Bakery Bar with all of her layered treats.

How to make your own Doberge cake

doberge cake

dobergé cake – johnlck/Shutterstock

For a more original approach, you can make your own doberge cake. Whether you choose to make it with chocolate or lemon, you’ll start with a basic yellow butter cake recipe. A yellow butter cake usually has an extra amount of egg yolks (hence the yellow tint) and lots of butter. You’ll be baking quite a bit of cake to reach those standard six layers. After preparing the cake, you will focus on preparing the custard filling. Although the fillings are often referred to by the general term custard, they are more accurately described as lemon curd and chocolate pudding. A lemon curd is a sharper, more acidic spread than pudding and cuts through the chocolate well. Both can be created entirely from scratch, but store-bought shortcuts shouldn’t hurt here.

For the outer buttercream layer, use a traditional American buttercream, adding a little cocoa powder to turn it chocolate or lemon zest to give it a citrus flavor. Next comes the hardest part: assembly. You will place a border of buttercream around each cake layer before pouring some pudding or curd on top. You will repeat this process until the final layer and apply a thin layer of crumb icing. Finally, a pour of chocolate ganache or lemon icing will seal in all these benefits. Whether you opt for lemon or chocolate, you’ll taste a New Orleans classic.

Read the original article on the tasting table.

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