It was my better half’s birthday last week, but being a weeknight, work night and school night, all we did was go out and enjoy a nice Indian meal. I don’t know if I mentioned anything about our monthly supper get together, but it fell on this past Sunday. We meet the 2nd sunday of the month for a dinner at my house with our friends Donna and Michael to ensure that we get to see each other no matter how busy the rest of the month is. Since I love to cook so much, this is really fun for me and our friends seem to enjoy it as well. Maybe it’s all the wine?… the menu this month was an arugula salad with shaved fennel and oranges finished with toasted pistachios and a meyer lemon vinaigrette. We followed this with saffron risotto with scallops and shrimp. To celebrate his birthday and to have some chocolate for valentine’s day, I made this decadent hazelnut cake. Please note that I made a six-inch cake. I find this the perfect amount for 6-8 people. I love my six-inch cake pans (it’s a good idea to have two of them) and believe they are a worthwhile investment for every baker.An 8 inch cake feeds 10-12 people, which I normally don’t have over at one time, so who ends up eating all that leftover cake? hint.. look at my butt. Anyway, don’t be put off by the length of this recipe. It’s actually just a bunch of steps and can be made in an afternoon. Read through the entire recipe before making this and it will be a breeze for you. I promise. Bake on!
Makes 1 two-layer 6 inch cake
3 Tablespoons instant espresso powder
1 Tablespoon Kahlua or water
1 1/4 Cups (225g) granulated sugar
1 Cup + 2 Tablespoons (250G) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (150G) all-purpose flour
1 Cup (100g) toasted, finely ground hazelnuts (or hazelnut meal if you can get it)
1/4 C (25g) Dutch cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 Cup (80g) sour cream
1 Cup (8 oz/250ml) heavy whipping cream
10 ounces (1 1/2 Cup, 300 G) Dark chocolate, finely chopped
3 Tablespoons Frangelico or Kahlua
1/2 Cup water
1/2 Cup (4 oz) granulated sugar
seeds from 1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp pure vanilla or 1 tablespoon Kalhua
Preheat your oven to 325F
Line the bottoms of two 6 inch cake pans with parchment paper and lightly spray with oil (such as PAM).
Mix the coffee powder and Kahlua into a small bowl and mix well. Set Aside. Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking powder;set aside.
Place the butter and 1 Cup sugar into the bowl of a standing mixer (fitted with the paddle attachment) and beat until light and fluffy. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, using a hand-held mixer, whip the eggs and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar until pale, about 4 minutes.
Pour the eggs into the butter and add the flour mixture, the ground hazelnuts, the coffee mixture and the sour cream and beat until just combined. Evenly divide the batter between the 2 cake pans and smooth out gently with an offset spatula. Bake for 1 hour or until cooked when tested with a skewer or knife tip (check after 50 minutes depending on your oven)
While the cake is baking, prepare the ganache:
Place the chopped chocolate into a medium-sized glass bowl. Heat the cream (either on the stove or in the microwave) until very hot, but not boiling. Pour over the chocolate and let it sit for 3 minutes. Whisk the chocolate and cream together until smooth and creamy (it will look curdled for a moment but just keep whisking). Stir in the Frangelico.
Cover with plastic wrap and let it cool, on the counter, until it is room temperature. Cooling it on the counter gives it time to set up properly. By the time the cake is out of the oven and cool your ganache will be ready to use.
Okay, now that your cake is in the oven and your ganache is made, let’s move onto the simple syrup. Are you ready to hear how hard it is to make? Well, here goes:
Place the equal amounts of sugar and water (1/2 cup each) into a pot and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and let cool.
Optional: stir in the seeds of one vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Whew!!! Aren’t you glad that part of the recipe is over? Now seriously, the reason for a simple syrup is just to ensure a moist cake. Sometimes cakes made with nut flour can be a little dry and I like to brush them with simple syrup before frosting them. I also do this with wedding cakes. This is a good trick if you are making a cake 1 or 2 days before you are serving it and want to keep it moist. It can also impart more flavor. you can add all sorts of flavorings to your simple syrup. If you toss in a few slices of fresh ginger before you bring it to a boil you now have ginger syrup. This is excellent brushed onto gingerbread cake before a cream cheese frosting. You get the idea? Anyway, I love to have simple syrup on hand since it is also very useful when making yummy cocktails! It will keep indefinitely in the fridge.
Back to the cake.
When the cake is done, take them out of the oven and let them cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before taking them out of the pan and cooling completely. (Now would be a good time to make yourself a yummy cocktail using a splash of the simple syrup. I love ginger syrup with Grey Goose Pear vodka and a bit of club soda…)
After the cakes are cooled, trim the tops of each so they are level. A long serrated bread knife works well for this. Take the bit that you just cut off, place onto a baking sheet, and pop back into the oven at 200F for 10 minutes to toast them up a bit. Place into a mini processor and whirl for a few seconds to make crumbs (or just use your clean hands).Set aside.
Take one cake and place it on a cake stand. Brush the top with simple syrup (you just want a thin layer- you are not trying to drown it!). Place about 1/2 cup of the ganache in the middle and using an offset spatula, spread evenly onto the top of the cake. Repeat with the second layer of cake, except don’t frost the top yet.Frost the sides of the cake leaving yourself some ganache to frost the top.
Place the reserved cake crumbs onto a large plate. Pick up the cake, and holding it on the unfrosted top and bottom with your fingertips, roll the sides in the cake crumbs to evenly coat it all around. Carefully place back on the cake stand. Frost the top with the last of the ganache and sprinkle with the balance of the cake crumbs.
Stand back and pat yourself on the back. Enjoy with friends!
Adapted from Donna Hay issue 59