My very first post on this blog was about a Nutella cake. While baking that cake, I used a recipe from Nigella Lawson’s book, ‘How to Be a Domestic Goddess’, as a guide. I really liked that cake, as is evident from my post about it, but there was one thing about it that bothered me. I didn’t like the fact that the cake called for Nutella, which is after all a processed food from the supermarket. I’d rather make a cake from scratch, or as close to from scratch as is possible for someone who lives in a little apartment in a big city. That way, I have a little more control over what goes into it. Last week, I tried making a more ‘wholesome’ and ‘homemade’ option as it were, based off a recipe from ‘Baking Illustrated’.
How did it turn out you ask? Well see for yourself:
Truly, I liked the taste of this cake even better than my earlier attempt; the big bonus of this new recipe is that the cake turns out even more hazelnutty, which is GOOD, because hazelnuts are heavenly 🙂
If you want to make this cake too, here’s what you will need:
A 23 cm or 9 inch spring-form pan, two large bowls, two smaller bowls, a hand-held or stand-alone mixer or a whisk, a food-processor or mortar and pestle, and a tea towel.
For the Cake:
6 free range eggs (I insist on free-range after seeing some horrific videos of how chicks and hens are treated in “egg factories”.
A pinch of salt
1 stick of unsalted butter
200 g hazelnuts
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
175 g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)
For the Icing:
150 ml heavy cream or whipping cream
150 g good quality dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids), chopped
2-3 Tablespoons fo Frangelico
A pinch of Salt
2 handfuls of hazelnuts
A half cup or so of dark chocolate flakes (you can make these by using a paring knife or a vegetable peeler on some dark chocolate).
Preparing the Ingredients:
To begin with, I made sure to lay all the ingredients out on my dining table. When you’re baking, unless the recipe otherwise specifies, it is best to use all ingredients at room temperature. Next, I turned on the oven and preheated it to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Preparing the hazelnuts: I toasted the nuts (both those you need for the cake and those you need for decorating the top of the cake) in the oven at 350 Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes, tossing them once or twice in-between. Once they were lightly browned and I could smell the delicious hazelnutty aroma, I took them out of the oven and let them cool for a bit. Then, I placed them in a tea-towel and rubbed the nuts against each other until their skins peeled off.
Next, I put 200 g of the toasted and skinned nuts in a food processor, along with 2 tablespoons of flour and 1/4 cup of sugar and processed them till fine (you could also use a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle).
Preparing the chocolate: I melted the chocolate in a microwave, taking care to use a low heat setting, so as not to burn the chocolate.
Preparing the eggs: I separated the egg yolks from the whites, placing 5 egg whites in a large bowl and 6 egg yolks in a smaller bowl. (You can throw away the extra egg white or use it in a face or hair mask.)
Some people think separating the egg white and yolk and beating them separately is a waste of time, but it isn’t if your recipe does not call for baking powder/soda. This is because all the air in your cake will have to come from the egg whites, since there is no chemical raising agent added to the cake.
I was now ready to begin! What follows are step-by-step instructions to re-create the rich nutty cake I made today! Enjoy!
1. Place the butter in a large bowl and beat until fluffy. Next, add the remaining three-quarters of sugar, one-quarter at a time, until creamy and almost white. Now add the egg yolks two tablespoons at a time, beating well throughout. Next, add the melted chocolate (which would have cooled a bit by now) and beat the mixture until the chocolate is blended in. Then, gently stir in the hazelnut meal that you have already prepared in the food processor.
2. Now we beat the egg whites; this is the slightly tricky part of the recipe. Add a pinch of salt to the whites and then beat them until they are ‘stiff but not dry”. What this means is that you want to be able to make the foamy whites rise to a peak with your finger.
Another way to test this is to take a clean dry egg and try to float it on top of the egg-white foam. If it sinks you’re not done. If it floats completely you’ve overdone it. If it sinks just a quarter of an inch, well you’re egg-whites are perfect then! Make sure the bowl and the whisk you use are perfectly clean, i.e. they are free from oil and water.
3. Once the egg whites are ready, add a dollop of the egg-white-foam to the mixture from step 1 and mix it in. Next, very gently and with a light hand, fold in the rest of the foam. This is important; don’t be rough at this stage; because we want to preserve the airy-ness and lightness of the foam. Here is a video that shows you how to do it:
4. When you’re done folding the foam in, pour the batter in a greased and floured 9 inch or 23 cm springform pan.
5. Slide the pan into the oven and set the timer for 50 minutes. I would go and check on the cake toward the tail-end of this period, say around 45 minutes in. The cake is done when you can insert a tooth-pick gently into the cake, about halfway between the centre and the edge of the cake, and it comes out clean when you pull it out.
6. When it’s done, take the cake out and cool it on a cooling rack. Once it has cooled remove the sides of the pan.
(At this stage of the process, I already noticed one thing that was better about this cake when compared to my earlier Gianduja cake. The surface of this cake was smoother; there were no cracks on this cake at all. Also, it was more evenly baked. (The small nick visible in the picture was made by me with a knife, it wasn’t a crack on the surface.)
7. Now the cake is ready and it’s time to make the icing! Heat 150 ml of cream and 150 g of chopped chocolate in a saucepan over low heat. Once it’s melted, add a pinch of salt and the Frangelico. Mix and let the ganache sit on the counter and cool for a bit. In the meantime, take the 2 handfuls of hazelnuts you toasted earlier, and crush them in a mortar or pestle or processor. I like to crush them into small chunks, you can choose to crush them more finely, or coarsely, whatever works for you.
8. Once cooled a bit, pour the ganache over the cake and spread it evenly over it, using an icing spatula or a large, broad knife.
Next, garnish the cake with crushed hazelnuts and dark chocolate flakes and serve with a shot of Frangelico 🙂
Also, a little tip, if you’re going to store the cake for a while, make sure to heat it up quickly in the microwave when you take it out of the fridge. Just heat for 20-30 seconds on a low setting; both the cake and the icing taste waaay nicer that way.
Mmm this cake was utterly delicious, it’s totally worth the effort of baking it, I promise!