Hazelnut Cake with Chocolate Ganache Buttercream

It’s like deconstructed Nutella in a cake form. Yes, you heard right. Hazelnut + Chocolate. One of my favorite classic combinations, along with bananas + peanut butter and iced coffee + soymilk. Some things are just made for each other, ya feel me?

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I made this cake for my mom’s birthday. For a long time she’s continuously spoken of this one hazelnut cake her aunt made. She said she would grate the hazelnuts by hand and make this nutty, slightly dry cake and serve it with whipped cream. Can you imagine grating that many hazelnuts? Me either. Thank goodness for food processors.

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Back to mom’s birthday: I wanted to make a cake because I love reasons to make a big cake and bake something that feels special that I normally wouldn’t make. I mean, I could bake big grand cakes all the time, but then I’d just constantly have giant cakes around they’d feel like special. Also, fancy baking ingredients like hazelnut and high quality baking chocolate can get expen$ive.

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So I love to pull them out for a special occasion, like Pita’s day of birth. I wanted the cake to be a surprise, but then she found hazelnut shells on the floor and knew what they were. Fail boat on my behalf. Also, epic nut shell identification skills on her end.

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I was a wee bit nervous about making this cake because I’ve never made it before and kind of made the recipe up as I went. Lucky for me, it turned out epicly. The cake is very nutty and has the slightest nutty grainy texture that works really with with the buttercream and ganache.

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The cake itself is not too sweet, and had a substantial texture that all worked well with the frosting. I choose chocolate frosting/filling because mommy loves chocolate and so do I. Duh. I actually used ganache for the filling instead of buttercream, but honestly it kind of got outshined by everything else. I’d skip this step and just use frosting for the middle layer if I made it again. But if you want ganache for the filling, I am not going to stop you.

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But truly, this frosting is kind of thick and really chocolately/rich/dense the way a ganache would be. Except it’s lighter and fluffier still, like buttacream. #bestofbothworld, always

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So here is the recipe. It’s perfect for a sophisticated Nutella lover or lover of anything chocolatey and nutty that tastes awesome. I included instructions/ingredients for both a vegan and non-vegan version. Make whichever you want. Both will be delicious.

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Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 20-25 minutes

Servings: 8-10 [2 layer cake with single layer filling and frosting]

Level: Medium

Ingredients – Cake:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter or butter substitute [Earth Balance or coconut oil] at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs or 2/3 cup applesauce, 1/2 cup soy yogurt and/or 3 tablespoons chia or flax + 1/2 cup non-dairy milk
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1 cup milk or non-dairy milk (i used almond)
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups hazelnuts
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Ingredients – Frosting:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter or butter substitute [Earth Balance or coconut oil] at room temperature
  • 8 ounces baker’s chocolate, melted and allowed to come to room temperature
  • 4-6 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup almond or regular milk (no exact measure – something you just gotta eyeball as you go until you get the consistency you want!)
  • 1 cup hazelnuts, chopped (for garnish)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place hazelnuts on a large baking sheet and toast 10-15 minutes until browned and fragrant. Transfer to a clean kitchen towel or paper towel and cover them for about a minute, allowing them to steam. Next, rub the skins of with the towel or your fingers. This is putsy and a bit messy. But just remember: cake is your reward.

2. Allow hazelnuts to cool. Meanwhile, place almond, soy, or regular milk in a cup with vinegar and allow to curdle for at least 10 minutes (it’ll be good to go by the time you’re ready to use it). This is your pseudo-buttermilk.

3. Cream room-temperature butter or butter substitute until fluffy, about 2-4 minutes. Slowly add sugar, about 1/2 cup at a time, scraping down the sides after each addition. Add eggs one at a time, or slowly add egg substitute [2/3 cup applesauce, 1/2 cup soy yogurt and/or 3 tablespoons chia or flax + 1/2 cup non-dairy milk]. Continue to beat until light and fluffy.

4. Place flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and whisk until well combine.

5. Place cooled shelled hazelnuts in a food processor and pulse until a semi-fine powder. It won’t be a super fine powder, so don’t aim for that. If you over-pulse, it will turn to nut butter, so use cation. Pulse slowly. If it gets nut-buttery, scoop out the nut-buttery bottom, and continue to pulse remaining nuts.

6. Add pulsed nuts (lol?) into the flour mixture and whisk until nut powder is evenly distributed. It will be a little grainy. That’s okay.

7. Add 1/3 the flour mixture to the butter/sugar mixture. Add half of the pseuedo-buttermilk. Mix gently with a spatula. Add another 1/3 of the flour mixture, and the rest of the buttermilk and mix again. Dump remaining 1/3rd of flour mixture into the bowl and continue to mix gently until just combined.

8. Pour batter into 2 greased round 9-inch cake pans. Pop into the oven on a middle shelf for 20-25 minutes, until slightly golden, fragrant, and a toothpick inserted into the center is clean upon removal.

9. Allow cakes to cool completely. Meanwhile, make your buttercream. Take 1 cup room temperature butter or butter substitute and beat with an electric mixer or kitchen-aide mixer until fluffy.

10. Chop baker’s chocolate and melt in the microwave in 30 second increments, stirring between each increment, until just melted. Pop into the fridge until cooled slightly, about 5 minutes.

11. Add 2 cups powdered sugar to the butter and whip until well combined. Add cocoa powder and a tablespoon or two of milk or milk substitute.

12. Once chocolate is no longer hot (lukewarm will work), add to the buttercream mixture and continue to mix. Add an additional 2 cups powdered sugar and continue to mix until well combined. From here, add up to 2 more cups powdered sugar and a few tablespoons milk as needed until desired consistency is reached.

13. Once cake has completely cooked, frost as desired. I placed a layer of frosting on one layer, placed the second on top of it, then frosted the whole top and sides.

14.  Chop hazelnuts and garnish as desired. I sprinkled allll over the top and sides because I love the added crunch of nuts on frosting. Yummies.

15. Enjoy !! (It’s impossible not to 😉 )

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3 thoughts on “Hazelnut Cake with Chocolate Ganache Buttercream

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