For Christmas this year, I really wanted to make a special kind of cake. Something that screamed celebration or occasion. I went back and forth over what to make. A Bouche de Noel? A fruit torte? An apple cinnamon spice cake with cream cheese icing? So many options, so few people (at least, at our holiday gathering) to feed.
Eventually, I settled upon the idea of a nut cake. I love a hearty, dense, nut-meal cake. It reminds me of holidays. Growing up I used to always go to my friend Michelle’s house and her mom would always have these delicious walnut cookies covered in powdered sugar and I could.not.get.enough. of them. I LOVE anything made with ground nuts.
I set out of to make a hazelnut cake with a the very clear idea in my mind that it would be a nut-meal cake. And to my surprise, recipes were hard to come by. I did some extensive googling and found many ‘hazelnut cakes’ made with hazelnut liqueur…not ground hazelnuts. Or regular cakes that had hazelnuts on top…or hazelnut liqueur in the frosting.
Those might be all fine and well and good but those were not what I had in mind for my holiday hazelnut cake. I very specifically wanted a cake that contained quite a bit of ground hazelnuts.
My mom also speaks highly and frequently of a hazelnut-meal cake her Italian great aunt used to make, the dense cake made from hazelnuts all grated by hand. That’s what I wanted. No regular cake with liqueur for this gal (also, I hate liqueur).
Lucky for me, hotforfood had a recipe that was sort of what I was looking for. I based the base of the cake loosely off her recipe, tweaking it to my liking and going a different direction with the frosting. Also lucky for me, food processors now exist and I didn’t have to grind hazelnuts by hand.
This cake turned out delicious. Rich, light, and dense, fluffy, sweet and nutty, all at once. The frosting pairs oh-so-perfectly with the cake.
This is not the fastest easiest cake you will ever make. It requires prep work and planning ahead, but I assure you it is worth it. The nutty hazelnut cake offers a rich hazelnut flavor, the dense texture of the nut meal lightened by the oat flour. The ultra-rich deeply chocolatey buttercream elevates the cake from special to spectacular, the flavors reminiscent of Nutella, with far more finesse.
This is most definitely a special occasion cake. It feels festive and delicious. The recipe below with give you two layers, and enough buttercream to cover them both. The photos you see are of a cake that only had one layer, made into two, due to a dropped cake incident and making do with what was available. Didn’t matter tho, still tasted delicious!
I hope you make this and I hope you love it. If you do give the recipe a whirl, be sure to take me on Insta (@katherinebaker4). I love seeing what y’all make!
Happy 2018 everyone!
Vegan Hazelnut Cake with Chocolate Buttercream
Prep Time: 1 hour
Bake Time: 20-30 minutes
Servings: 6-8 people
- 2 cups hazelnuts
- 2 cups oat flour (or sub all-purpose)
- 3 tablespoons flax
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
- 1/2 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
- aquafaba (liquid) from one can of chickpeas
- 1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract (sub additional vanilla if you don’t have it)
- 1 cup vegan butter, softened (I like Earth Balance baking sticks for frosting)
- 3/4 cup cocoa powder
- 3 cups powder sugar, more as needed
- 2-3 tablespoons non-dairy milk, as needed
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. If aquafaba is not cold, place in the fridge to chill.
- Spread hazelnuts on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a Silpat. Toast for 8-10 minutes until lightly toasted brown. Remove from oven and rub hazelnuts with a paper towel or clean towel to remove skins. If you can’t remove them all, that’s okay. Just do your best.
- Allow hazelnuts to cool completely. Meanwhile, lower oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans generously with oil or melted vegan butter.
- Combine oat flour, flax, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Once hazelnuts have cooled, pulse in a food processor until a flour/fine-ish meal forms. Some chunks are okay. It adds texture.
- Add hazelnut meal to dry mixture. Whisk well.
- Whip aquafaba with an electric mixture until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together oil, non-dairy milk, sugar, vanilla, and almond extract. Stir into dry ingredients until just combined.
- Fold aquafaba into mix until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pans. Place in the oven for 20-22 minutes until lightly golden browned and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean upon insertion and removal. Once baked, allow to cool completely.
- Meanwhile, prepare frosting: combine softened vegan butter with cocoa powder and powder sugar. Use an electric hand or stand mixer to beat until light and fluffy. Add non-dairy milk if a thinner texture is desired. Add more cocoa powder and/or powder sugar (up to 1 additional cup) if thicker texture is desired. Personally, I added no non-dairy milk because I wanted a super rich thick and fudgy icing. But if you want something a bit thinner and fluffier, add non-dairy milk, one tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is achieved.
- Frost cooled cake, top with hazelnuts, and serve!