Light Hazelnut Cake – Two Ways

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This is a very light hazelnut cake.  I’m in love with this cake.  I’m very happy eating it plain and humble with no make-up, perfect for me with a cup of coffee, the nuttiness of hazelnut comes through with a lovely texture from the not-so-fine ground hazelnuts.  I’ve been wanting to experiment with a chestnut cake but somehow I ended up making a hazelnut cake instead…not sure how…seeing a pack of hazelnuts in the cupboard started me thinking…anyhow however I ended up making this I’m glad I did.  If you love hazelnuts you may very well fall for this cake.

Hazelnut Cake with Chocolate
If you spread the cake with chocolate covering it taste a little like a ferrero rocher should.  I know that sounds strange being that this is a cake but it was the first thing it occurred to me when I tried it, I don’t like ferrero rocher as I find them too sweet, this is my ideal of chocolate and hazelnuts.  The flavour of the toasted hazelnuts shines, together with texture and chocolate it all blends beautifully, hazel-nuttiness covered with good chocolate…they’re meant to be.

Hazelnut Cake with Hazelnut Praline and Mascarpone Frosting
After photographing this version I had absolutely no intention of eating that slice below….you see I was staying off cake until Christmas day….but I made the mistake of trying a tiny bit..and…and....before my eyes even had the chance to blink…my big mouth ate the whole slice, big mouth didn’t even have the discipline of waiting for my cup of coffee…it was that good! I dare you to stop at one bite!  It has become Bikerboy’s favourite cake, it knocked carrot cake out of its top spot.



Hazelnut Cake with Chocolate

Hazelnut Cake with Hazelnut Praline and Mascarpone Frosting

This was my first attempt at hazelnut cake and I would be very happy to eat it plain like this.

Skinning, Toasting & Grinding Hazelnuts

I hate skinning hazelnuts. Sometimes it’s not possible to buy them unskinned in which case put them on a baking tray and toast them in a medium oven for 5 minutes.  You are not allowed to leave the kitchen because they will go from not toasted to burnt in 30 seconds!  Even though I know this I managed to burn two batches..doh! While they are warm put them in a teatowel and rub them with your hands for a good couple of minutes…have a look and most of the skins should be off, you may have to use your nails with some of stuborn ones.

I’ve never come across  pre-ground hazelnuts and have to grind them myself.  It’s a must to toast the hazelnuts first because it will bring out the flavour, if you don’t they will taste bland.  The one problem with grinding them at home is that you can not get it to a very fine texture, there will be a point when carrying on with the food processor the nuts start to release their oil and clump together.

You can carry on grinding them after the photo below.

The grains of hazelnut will get to the size below, by this point the oil in the nut is being released and they start to clump together, this is as small as I can get it, gives a nice texture to the cake.

 

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Light Hazelnut Cake

Pre-heat oven 160C fan / 180 C / 355F / gas 4

Line the bottom and sides of a 20 cm (8″) round cake tin

  • 150 grms  skinned and toasted  ground hazelnuts, see note above
  • 200 grms of soft butter (left at warm room temperature). I use slightly salted butter if you use unsalted add large pinch of salt, important to balance sweetness
  • 150 grms sugar caster or granulated
  • 4 eggs separated
  • 160 grms of plain flour (all purpose)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder (baking soda)
  • 3-4 tablespoons of milk

Whisk the butter and sugar together for about a minute until it’s pale and looks light.  Add the egg yolks and 3 tablespoons of milk, blend it in followed by the flour, baking powder (soda) and ground hazelnuts.  If the cake mixture is too stiff add another tablespoon of milk.

Wash your whisks.  In a clean bowel whisk the egg whites until you start to see stiff peaks.

Mix one third of the egg whites into the hazelnut mixture and with a large spoon using a folding and cutting motion mix it in well.  Fold in another third of the egg white mixture and then the last remaining third, trying to use gentle motions so not to knock out all of the air out.  Make sure it’s well incorporated.

Put the cake mixture into the tin and bake for 35-45 mins.  Insert a cocktail stick into the middle and it should come out with no raw cake mixture.

Take it out of the oven leave it in the tin for 10 minutes and then turn it out and leave to cool on a wire rack.

Whisk the butter and sugar until well mixed, add the egg yolks and milk and whisk it just for a few seconds, it may appear as if it has curdle but that’s fine.  Add the flour, baking powder (soda) and ground hazelnuts.  If the mixture is very stiff add another tablespoon of milk.

Wash your whisk and in large bowl whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks, in a handheld whisk it takes about 2 minutes.  Add a third of the egg whites into the hazelnut mixture and fold it in with a large spoon, add the next third of egg whites and when mixed in follow it by the remainder.

Pour into the lined cake tin and bake.  Leave it plain or decorate it as below.

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Chocolate Covered Hazelnut Cake

  • 150 grms of your favourite chocolate, anything from 50% cocoa mass upwards…or if you love milk chocolate use a good quality one that doesn’t contain vegetable fat.
  • 1 tablespoon of butter

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a microwave or over a bain-marie.  Wait a few minutes until it has set a little so it doesn’t run off the cake but it needs to still be liquid.  Pour it over the cake and using a palette knife spread it.

Chocolate Ganache Covering

  • 150 grms double cream (heavy cream)
  • 100 grms chocolate broken into bits

Bring the double cream to the boil take off the heat add chocolate and stir until chocolate melted.  Let it cool down, leave it at room temperature, when cool but still liquid pour over cake.

To give this cake a real smooth surface I would have to make a second batch of chocolate covering but slightly thinner, pour the chocolate and letting it find it’s own level, like self-leveling cement.

Hazelnut Praline, Mascarpone & Creme Fraiche Frosting

You can change this mixture.  Swap the mascarpone for cream cheese.  You can leave the hazelnut praline out, the frosting still tastes delicious.

I mix creme fraiche with mascarpone to lighten it making easier to spread but also adds a nice flavour.  You can change from creme fraiche to fromage frais or whipped double cream, choice is yours.  I don’t like using the half fat creme fraiche, it has a slight odd flavour I can’t disguise.

  • 250 grms of mascarpone cheese or cream cheese
  • 4 tablespoons of creme fraiche
  • 1-2 tablespoon of caster sugar, or more if you have a sweet tooth.
  • 6-8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) hazelnut praline recipe here
  • 1/2 vanilla pod, seeds scraped into the cream – optional

Whisk the mascarpone cheese to loosen it a bit and add the creme fraiche, followed by the rest of the ingredients.