Wednesday, January 7, 2009

New Orleans Doberge Cake

What is Doberge, you say? You look it up in a french dictionary and the word is not there. How do you pronounce it? (I say dough-bearj; some say dough-bosh or dough-boj.)

Doberge cake is an iconic staple of living in New Orleans. It is a yummy multi-layered cake with pastry cream inside and a poured glaze on the outside. You can order one for yourself here:

Traditional flavors are chocolate, lemon and caramel. But how did this deliciously delicate delight come to be? I did a little research and learned a few things myself.

Back in the 1930's there was a New Orleans woman named Beulah Ledner, who came from a baking family in Germany. She started baking during the Depression to supplement the income from her husband's furniture business. Experimenting in her kitchen, she came up with a variation on the famed Hungarian-Austrian dobos torta, which was thin layers of sponge cake filled with butter cream. She changed that to thin layers of butter cake with a custard filling, either chocolate or lemon.

This was a cake that was subtly rich and lighter than the original, and better suited to the New Orleans climate. But its inventor recognized that "dobos" wouldn't fly in New Orleans. She thought it should be "Frenchified" to fit the city's style. And so the name "doberge" was born.

The business was first known as Mrs. Charles Ledner Bakery and was based in her home. Eventually she moved to a store front. A heart attack caused Beulah Ledner to sell the bakery, the name and the recipes to the Joe Gambino family in 1946. The agreement forbade her from operating another bakery in Orleans Parish for five years. But she could not stay away, and 2 years later opened another business in a neighboring parish (ie county) called Beulah Ledner Bakery. Beulah Ledner worked until she was 87 and sold Beulah Ledner Bakery in 1981. She died at 93, her culinary legacy intact.

Gambino's Bakery is another icon of New Orleans, more famous for the doberge cake than Beulah. Many think that it originated there, but now we know better!

No one knows the original recipe except for Gambino's , but here is a recipe we found on the Internet that my best friend Heather has made with good success. The only difference is that an authentic doberge cake has a poured glaze icing, not a spread on one:



2 cups cake flour sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons butter
1-1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs separated whites beaten until stiff
1 cup buttermilk
2 squares unsweetened chocolate melted
1-1/4 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract


2-1/2 cups evaporated milk
2 squares semisweet chocolate
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
5 tablespoons flour
4 egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter
1-1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract


3 cups sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
2 ounces bittersweet or unsweetened chocolate
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla


Preheat oven to 300.
Grease and flour 2 round cake pans.
In a medium bowl sift flour, soda and salt 3 times.
Cream margarine and sugar in a large mixing bowl then add egg yolks one at a time.
Gradually alternate adding the flour mixture and buttermilk then add chocolate and mix well by beating about 3 minutes.
Fold in the three beaten egg whites, vanilla and almond extract.
Bake 45 minutes.
Allow cake to completely cool then split each layer into thirds to make six thin layers.
Put milk and chocolate in a saucepan and heat until chocolate is melted.
In a bowl combine sugar and flour.
Make a paste by adding hot milk chocolate by tablespoons to the sugar and flour and then return to saucepan.
Stir over medium heat until thick.
Add 4 egg yolks all at once and stir rapidly to completely blend.
Cook 3 minutes longer.
Remove from heat then and add butter, vanilla and almond extract.
Cool and spread on cake layering as you go.
Do not spread on top layer.
Combine sugar and milk in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil stirring constantly.
Reduce heat and simmer 6 minutes without stirring.
Remove from heat and blend in chocolate.
Add butter and vanilla and return to medium low heat cooking 2 minutes.
Place in refrigerator to cool.
Beat well and then spread on top and sides of the cake.


Now, we all know I am a fan of short cuts. Don't get me wrong, taste is critically important to me, but if I can find a way to get excellent results with a little less work, I am all over that. So in my laziness, um, I mean, thriftiness, I have created a "doctored" version that Heather teasingly calls my Faux-berge cake.

Sharon's Fauxberge Chocolate Cake

2 layers of your favorite doctored cake recipe in white or yellow
Jello pudding cups premade chocolate pudding
Chocolate buttercream icing
Chocolate ganache

Torte each cake layer into 3 thinner layers. Spread a thin layer of pudding in between each layer. (Premade cups have a better consistency than making the pudding in the box.) And it's easier!! MWAHAHAHA.

Here are the 6 layers of cake on a 1/2 inch fomecore board. You will need to cover the fomecore with something appropriate to make it food safe. This was for family so I threw caution to the wind.

Ice to the edge of the fomecore with a layer of chocolate buttercream and chill in fridge until firm.

Now this next step is NOT necessary and I usually do not do it. However, this puppy was a huge 15 inch cake and rather unstable. So I gave it a coating of thick ganache (made with a 2:1 ratio of chocolate to cream.) You let the ganache thicken to a paste consistency and ice the cake with your spatula and bench scraper just like you do for buttercream. It sets up nice and firm to give you a stable chocolate "shell" encasing the layers. That top ledge of chocolate you can see in the picture was removed with my palette knife after the cake was fully chilled, but before I poured the thinner ganache layer on top.

Wanna see something scary?.........................

Here is my ganache pouring set up. (Pretend you don't see that pile of laundry on the chair, kay?) From bottom to top: cookie sheet lined with foil, fondant bucket wrapped in plastic wrap for food safety, piece of non skid stuff, cooling rack, piece of non-skid, and chilled cake on its fomecore board. When the iced cake is fully chilled, then you pour the final ganache coating on. That's a LOT of ganache for this huge a$$ cake! My friend Jacque has a great tutorial on how to pour ganache on her fabulous blog Daisy Lane Cakes. Thanks Jacque, you rock!

OK, wanna see something even more scary?......................

Moving that huge cake with wet ganache into the lowest shelf of my fridge where it barely fits without messing it up! Stress! I need a drink.

I let that ganache firm up overnight. Next day I took it out the fridge (fairly easy now that it is firm) and placed it on the display board, piped a border and placed the edible photo on top. This was for my sister in law's dad's 85th birthday bash. Everyone went nuts over this cake, in both looks and taste. I was even told it was better than Gambino's! Shhh, don't tell I cheated.

And here is a picture of the cake after serving. This photo was taken with D's cell phone. Don't think we'll be getting any blog awards with this one! LOL

So there you have it, class. Your lesson on the New Orleans Doberge cake. Your assignment is to go make one of these beauties and tell me how you like it! Enjoy!



Snooky doodle said...

WOW WOW . Great post I enjoyed reading the history and watching the cake step by step. Thanks alot for sharing this amazing recipe :)
I m gonna try it when I have time


Anonymous said...

Sharon my fellow Louisiana native...I LOVE Gambino's. I'm always at their bakery when I'm home in Baton Rouge...Doberge cakes are the best, anyone who has yet to taste one...really needs to do so...u are seriously missing out of slices of heaven right here on Earth lol

d said...

How funny! Was just thinking about 2 weeks ago I needed to bug you and see if you had a doberge recipe! I always loved the one from Dorignac's. That was always my birthday cake of choice when I lived in NOLA! Thanks! :)dori

Anonymous said...

That cake looks so good! And of course you manage to have it look better than flawless! :) Thanks for the shortcut recipe...can't wait to try it!

dai said...

Another perfect cake! It looks sooooo good! I'm going to have to try this out sometime!

I'm getting addicted to your blog! :o)

Anonymous said...

I had a doberge cake for my bday for like 10 years in a row. Its been awhile now that I am all growed up...might just be making one come this June!!!
LOVE LOVE LOVE the shortcut and am sooo there!

Cara said...

So cool! :D

Cake Queen said...

Excellent post Sharon! I can't wait to try this.


Scarlett Wishes said...

Awesome :) Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful; how did you do the twisted rope frame?

Sharon you are so inventive!

Even though its not tradition, I think I am going to try this with strawberry cakeand vanilla pudding, iced in maybe champagne frosting for a breast cancer event. I love the 6 layer cake idea!

Scarlett Wishes said... think you could stack this cake, using your technique in your video?

Does it need to be refrigerated if I don't ganache on it? Because of the pudding.

SugarEd Productions said...

Thank you all! I hope you try it.

Scarlett, yes it is the pudding that requires the refrigeration.

I made the rope with a clay gun, shown here and then painted with gold highlighter dust mixed with vodka:

Scarlett Wishes said...

okay, more questions. If this is answered in your stacking or BC dvd... you can just tell me to watch them again. Or even in your fondant DVD! I just remembered thats in the mail!

I want to make the fauxberge cake, and you said it needs to be refridgerated because of the pudding, can I use a custard from my local cake supply store to avoid the refrigeration?

I am going to be making the cake and covering it BC... maybe fondant, but will also be airbrushing color and putting fondant ribbons and side decorations. I live in FL and there is tons of humidity! I just don't want the colors to run, or have to put a 3-4 teir cake in the fridge!

Anonymous said...

MOM! That is a perfectly good picture of your fauxberge, thank you very much!

SugarEd Productions said...

Hey Scarlett! Yes, if you use the sleeved custards that do not need refrigeration, and your cake nor icing doesn't either, you can leave it out of the fridge!

Hey D! My baby, that is the best fauxberge cell phone pic ever! Love you! Call me one day, will ya?

Unknown said...

Oh My Gaud! I live in Tennessee and called my Momma in Metairie for a Doberge recipe. "There are no recipes, only Gambino's & Haydel Bakeries can make them" she said. I am so excited to try your "easy" recipe. Can't wait to tell my Momma! Thx bunches!

Anonymous said...

I just want a plain cake, can I use your recipe & just leave out the chocolate?

Dawn C said...

Thank you for your post! I grew up in Nola and I always wanted doberge cake for my birthday and Gambino's has great ones! I recently had it as a grooms cake at my wedding! Now I live in Austin, Texas and am lost without my doberge! Thanks for the recipe!

dana said...

For the chocolate butter creme layer before pouring the thinner ganache what did you use to make the chocolate buttercreme? was it pre made store icing or did you use a recipe?

Ashley said...

Can you stack ganache covered tiers
fairly easily or is it not recommended?

Anonymous said...

yummm thank you very much i reall enjoyed this, it looks so delicious :D cant wait to try it <3thanx for sharing <3

Krissi said...

This looks amazing! Thanks for sharing. Does the ganache dry that smoothly all on it's own or do you have to do something special to it? I'm just learning to make and decorate cakes and didn't know if it would also require a fondant over top?! Also, is the piping you did around the edges also ganache? And one last question....if that is just the ganache that dried so beautifully at the end, could I put some fondant decor and a bow on it?

SugarEd Productions said...

It is a poured ganache, like a glaze. You pour it and leave it alone. It sets up in the fridge but any finger marks or blemishes will show and not be able to be repaired. The border is also chilled ganache piped. You could put a bow on the top, but it would be tricky to do so on the sides.

Kate said...

Thank you so much for such an incredible recipe! One quick question for you - what size round pans do you recommend using?

Anonymous said...

Hi, your 2:1 ratio of choc:cream is that by weight, volume etc. thanks

Anonymous said...

I made the fauxberge cake for a New Orleans themed charity dinner (well, I made the dessert). The hosts couldn't stop raving and I ended up with two catering job offers and a marriage proposal out of the deal. I haven't told my boss at the hospital (I'm a nurse) nor any of my prospective dates (I am single), but it was definitely some warm fuzzy. I guess they liked it!
Thanks for sharing your process!

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