In New Orleans, we love our sweets. Perhaps it was because of the sugar that began flowing through our port so long ago, perhaps it is because of the French influence, and maybe it’s just something in the water that goes well with sweets. In any case, there is a long tradition of sweet treats here, and one of the most unique, as well as the most beloved, is the doberge cake.
The doberge cake is a relative newcomer to the dessert front in New Orleans, and it has a pedigree different from most sweets in the city as well. In 1933, Beulah Ledner created the Doberge cake, basing it on the Hungarian/Austrian Dobos torte, a creation with a bit of mystery as to who and when it was created.
Beulah Ledner enjoyed commercial success with her cake, and in 1946, sold her bakery, with the recipe to the Doberge cake, to Joseph Gambino. Beulah Ledner opened another bakery in Metairie in 1970, and ran it until she was 87 years old, when she sold it to Maurice’s French Pastries. Beulah Ledner’s Doberge cakes live on in memory still, and it isn’t uncommon to hear someone sigh as they reminisce about their delicious flavor and texture.
Like it’s ancestor, the Dobos Torte, the Doberge cake is multiple layers, usually five today, with custard or pudding between the layers. The thin layers are then coated with a layer of buttercream, and topped with a glaze as a final seal to hold in all of that wonderful flavor. I’ve been told of cakes with as many as 15 layers were once common.
Today, the Doberge cake is sold in a number of locations. Some grocery store bakeries offer it, and it can be mail ordered from some of the other bakeries in town, such as Gambino’s and Haydel’s. It isn’t your after school kind of cake, with Gambino’s listing the price for a half and half at $74.50, and Haydel’s sells a chocolate doberge (their only flavor) for $48.95, including shipping. Chocolate and lemon are considered “traditional” flavors, and Gambino’s offers it in those as well as caramel and strawberry, with half and half cakes in all possible combinations. Dorignac’s Food Center shows a “mini-doberge” on their website, although prices were not available.
Anytime you want to impress your guests, serving a doberge cake is sure to accomplish it. If you merely want to impress your taste buds, this cake will accomplish that too!