In bakeries in Hawaii you will often find Dobash cake in the display case. This Hawaii-born cake layers chocolate chiffon with a pudding-like frosting. It is a favorite in the islands, but many, including my co-worker, will be quick to tell you that despite its apperance a dobash cake is not chocolate cake.
What is a dobash cake?
It’s hard to find an exact historical reference for the origins of Hawaii’s dobash cake. There is the similarly named and pronounced dobos torte from Hungary which seems to be a far distant ancestor. It is vanilla sponge cake layered with chocolate buttercream and topped with caramel. And based on the dobos torte, a baker in New Orleans created the doberge cake – a cake with multiple thin layers of yellow cake and chocolate custard.
From what I read on the interwebs, the Hawaii dobash cake as we know it is credited to Robert Taira, the founder of King’s Bakery (more commonly known now as King’s Hawaiian). The Hawaii cake is lighter in texture than its Hungarian and New Orleans cousins and instead of a vanilla or yellow sponge, it is made of chocolate chiffon. Rather than eight or eleven thin layers of cake, the Hawaii dobash cake usually has only two layers. Finally, more similarly to the New Orleans doberge cake, the dobash foregoes buttercream and has a chocolate, pudding-like filling and frosting.
It is the flavor and texture of the cake itself that distinguishes the dobash from a standard chocolate cake. It trades richness for a lighter, more delicate crumb, gaining its decadence from the custardy frosting.
Taking advantage of grocery shortcuts
For home bakers, while this cake could be made as a layer cake it is more often made as a single layer 9″ x 13″ cake. It is still just as popular if not quite as elegant, and makes a great addition to a potluck. The light texture of the cake lends itself to incorporating some grocery store shortcuts, namely boxed devil’s food cake mix and instant chocolate pudding.
Whereas the cake has some shortcuts, the frosting is made entirely from scratch but nothing too complicated – cocoa powder, sugar, water, and a bit of butter and salt. It’s easy to pull together while the cupcakes bake.
Creating dobash cupcakes
Converting the recipe from a 9″ x 13″ cake to individual cupcakes wasn’t difficult. Maintaining the right balance of cake to frosting was the challenge. Unlike a buttercream that can be piped into lofty peaks, the dobash frosting is more like a ganache – too much frosting and the weight will cause it to drip down the sides.
The solution was to create a little pocket of frosting inside the cupcake. Who doesn’t love the surprise of a filled cupcake? I used the wider end of a piping tip but you could also use an apple corer or a paring knife. The trick is to not go too deep and to keep the sides in tact so the filling doesn’t ooze out.
The flatter surface of the frosted cupcake also provides a little canvas to showcase your creative side.Print
These chocolate cupcakes are topped and filled with a glossy, pudding-like chocolate frosting. They are based on a favorite cake found at many bakeries in Hawaii. The recipe takes advantage of boxed cake mix and pudding mix and is adapted from The Electric Kitchen on Hawaiian Electric’s website.
For the cupcakes
1 15 1/4–ounce package devil’s food cake mix
1 3 3/4–ounce package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional)
1 12–ounce can lemon lime soda
1/2 cup vegetable oil
For the dobash frosting
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons butter
Pinch of salt (about 1/8 teaspoon)
1/4 cup cornstarch
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
Sprinkles, sanding sugar, sugar pearls, or other decorations, optional
For the cupcakes
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Line muffin tin with cupcake liners.
Optional: dissolve espresso powder in 1 teaspoon water.
In large bowl of electric mixer, combine cake mix, pudding, soda, oil, eggs, and the optional espresso mixture. Mix for 2 minutes. This can also be done by hand.
Place 3 tablespoons of batter in each cupcake liner.
Bake the cupcakes for 15-19 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a cupcake comes out clean.
Place muffin pan on a rack and cool cupcakes completely.
For the dobash frosting
In a saucepan, combine sugar, ¾ cup water, butter, and salt. Bring to a boil.
In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch, the remaining ¾ cup water, and cocoa. Stir until smooth.
Add the chocolate mixture to the boiling sugar mixture, whisking constantly to prevent lumps from forming.
Cook on medium heat, whisking constantly, until smooth and thick.
Remove from heat and continue stirring until cool.
Using the wide end of a piping tip, an apple corer, or a paring knife, carefully remove a small portion of the center of each cupcake, being careful not to break through the sides or bottom of the cupcake.
Fill the center and frost the top of each cupcake with the cooled dobash frosting.
Decorate, if desired.
The recipe was originally made as a sheet cake in a 13″ x 9″ pan. If you make this as a cake, adjust the baking time to 30-35 minutes.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 19 minutes
- Category: Cakes, Cupcakes
- Cuisine: Hawaiian-American
- Serving Size: 1 cupcake
- Calories: 190.93
- Sugar: 15.94 g.
- Sodium: 227.79 g.
- Fat: 15.04 g.
- Saturated Fat: 1.94 g.
- Carbohydrates: 27.25 g.
- Fiber: 0.74 g.
- Protein: 2.38 g.
- Cholesterol: 31.35 g.
Keywords: chocolate, cake mix, pudding mix