Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Chocolate-Hazelnut Cake

Guess what guys? It's my birthday! It's pretty awesome, if I may say so... I love birthdays! Birthdays are an awesome excuse to do all kinds of fun things, like drink gratuitous amounts of wine with your friends and have a nerf gun fight in your basement. And also cake. Birthdays are a great excuse to eat cake.

Everyone thought I was crazy for making my own birthday cake. In fact, everyone kept offering to buy me one, like it was sad that I had to make my own. But, sick as it sounds, I actually enjoy making my own birthday cake! If I make it myself I know I'll get exactly what I want... plus, in case you haven't noticed, I kind of like this whole cooking/baking thing.

For a while I was totally set on making a German chocolate cake, but then I ate a Ferrero Rocher truffle out of my Christmas stocking and I knew... this year's birthday cake had to involve chocolate and hazelnuts. I've always been a fan of the chocolate-nut combination, but hazelnuts and chocolate are simply irresistible. So I set out to find my perfect cake. I knew I wanted a rich, dense, chocolate cake with just a hint of hazelnut... check. And a creamy, chocolately frosting, heavy on the hazelnut flavor... check. The result was out of this world. Exactly what I wanted. And so good my friends were begging for the recipe the next day... you know, after they recovered from all the booze and nerf gun fighting.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Cake

Fudge Cake adapted from Sky High Cakes

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup milk
1 1/4 cups hot, strongly brewed coffee
2 eggs
1 cup regular mayonnaise (no low-fat or fat free versions please!)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons hazelnut extract
2 1/4 cups sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour the bottoms and sides of three 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper and butter the paper.
2. Into a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
3. Bring the milk to a simmer in a small saucepan. Place the chopped chocolate in a large heat-proof bowl, and pour the milk and hot coffee over the chocolate. Allow to stand for a minute, then whisk until smooth. Allow to cool slightly.
4. Place the eggs, mayonnaise, and vanilla into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until well-blended. Gradually beat in the sugar. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the mocha liquid in 2 or 3 additions, beating until smooth and well-blended. Divide the batter among the 3 prepared pans.
5. Bake for 25-28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Be sure to rotate the pans for even baking. Place the cakes, still in their pans, on wire racks and cool for 15 minutes. Carefully unmold the cakes onto the racks, and gently peel the paper off; cool completely (for at least 1 hour). If desired, the cakes can be baked 1 or 2 days ahead of time; wrap well and store in the refrigerator until ready to frost.

Hazelnut Swiss Buttercream from The Menu Mom

5 large egg whites, room temperature
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 sticks (1 pound) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup Nutella, room temperature

1. Place the egg whites and sugar in a heat-proof bowl, and whisk together over a pot of simmering water. (If the bowl of your stand mixer is heat-proof, this will work great.) Whisk constantly until the sugar is completely dissolved; you should not be able to feel any granules when you rub a small amount of the mixture between your fingers.
2. Transfer the mixture to a stand mixer, being careful not to get any water into the bowl. Beat at medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture is cool to the touch. Beat in the vanilla.
3. While the egg whites are beating, cut each stick of butter into 8 chunks. Once the egg whites have formed stiff peaks, reduce the mixer speed to medium. Add 1 chunk of butter at a time, allowing to completely incorporate before adding the next chunk. Continue until all of the butter is incorporated. *Note* Be aware that the mixture may at some point begin to look soupy and curdled - don't panic. Continue to beat the mixture until a nice smooth consistency is reached. Be patient! It may take up to 15 minutes to come together, but it will happen.
4. Once the frosting is smooth, gently fold in the Nutella until evenly combined. Move onto assembly.

Assembling the Cake
1. Place one layer of the cake onto a cake plate, cardboard cake round, or desired serving surface, flat side down. Scoop 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the frosting onto the top of the layer, and spread evenly to the edges. Repeat with the second layer. Add the third layer and coat the top and sides of the cake in a thin layer of frosting for the crumb coat. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. *Note* If planning to frost immediately, leave the buttercream at room temperature. If planning to frost later, cover the buttercream and refrigerate. Take the frosting out about an hour before using, and whip briefly to regain a nice smooth texture.
2. Once the crumb coat has set, frost the cake as desired. Leave at room temperature if planning to serve immediately, otherwise cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.


  1. This looks like the perfect celebration cake!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

  2. Happy Birthday, Jessica! I am totally with you on the whole making-my-own-birthday-cake thing :) I made my own this year ( you can see it on my blog ) and like you, I chose my favorite flavors! Your cake sounds delicious! I love chocolate and hazelnut combo :) Have a great day!

  3. I am so proud of you for making your birthday cake! Store bought cake = yuck, which everyone offers me too, so I usually end up birthday cake-less. I am taking the lead from you and Anna above and making my own darn cake this year too! This cake is gorgeous and you can never go wrong with hazelnuts and chocolate. Happy Birthday! And great to have "met" you!

  4. I love hazelnut in my baking - we had a hazelnut tree in our garden when I was growing up and would use the nuts for Christmas cookies. The cake looks amazing, love the chocolate frosting :)

  5. This is definitely a reminder that I need to make something out of that cookbook-it is on my shelf!
    Happy birthday Jessica! Your cake does look amazing and I am sure that it made your birthday extra special. Yes, we need more celebrations in our life so we can make and enjoy more cake. Have a great day!

  6. Loved the cake on saturday! Can't wait to make my own :)

  7. If that could be my birthday cake I'd make my own too. What a brilliant idea to get just what you want. My birthday is coming up and I've got the recipe now!

  8. First of all, Happy Birthday! I prefer to make my own cake too. It may sound arrogant, but I feel like what I make will be better than something from the grocery store bakery! Your cake looks TO DIE FOR. I love the combo of chocolate and hazelnuts. What a perfect treat to celebrate with!

  9. Happy Birthday. I don't know why but I always think it is a bit sad when we make our own birthday cakes.


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