Thursday, March 5, 2009

chocolate hazelnut cake

I made this torta alla gianduia (chocolate hazelnut cake) for Dan's birthday as per his vague request for a dessert with chocolate, coffee, and hazelnuts in it. I presented him with this option or a coffee-butterscotch layer cake, also from Nigella Lawson's How To Be a Domestic Goddess cookbook (my go-to guide for birthday cakes and other special occasion desserts). He looked up briefly from the Knicks game and chose this one because it was flourless, so I could eat it too. (Aww.) Very sweet of him, but I probably would have given in and had a small slice of the other option. It was really calling my name with its drippy butterscotch and spongy layers. But it wasn't my birthday. And I shouldn't eat flour anyway.

When I originally skimmed this recipe, I assumed the Nutella that Nigella called for was for the thin layer of frosting on top. Only later did I realize that you add an ENTIRE JAR to the cake batter with, uh, a stick of butter, and then make a separate frosting to go on top. Good lord. I almost couldn't bear to do it—it just seemed so unnecessarily over-the-top, so...obscene. But Nigella would want me to, and all of her well-placed curves must come from eating Nutella, so I closed my eyes and dumped the whole jar in the bowl.

In the end, I'm not sure if the Nutella really made a huge difference. The cake was good, but something felt a little lacking to me. I was hoping for more of a pure chocolate flavor, like the flourless chocolate cake I made for Thanksgiving. I think next time I'd go halfway on the Nutella and add more melted dark chocolate to make up for it. Complaints aside, the cake was rich and moist and the ground hazelnuts added a nice texture. I guess I just imagined that Nigella would have helped me produce something more ridiculously decadent. You know, being so ridiculously decadent herself. Next time, I'm going for the butterscotch.

Torta alla gianduia
I made this a mocha cake by adding a ton of instant ground espresso, which you could skip entirely. I can't say the coffee flavor really came through in the cake, but it worked well in the frosting. Another tweak: if you don't like hazelnuts or don't want to pay for them, which I completely understand, I'm sure you could use almonds.
(Serves 6 to 8 people, generously)

For the cake:
6 large eggs, separated
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup soft unsalted butter
1 jar Nutella
1 Tbsp. Frangelico, rum, water, or coffee
1/2 cup ground hazelnuts
4 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted
3 Tbsp. instant espresso powder (if you want a mocha cake)

For the frosting:
4 oz. hazelnuts
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp. Frangelico rum, water, or coffee
4 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
1 Tbsp. instant ground espresso

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9-inch springform pan: grease and line with parchment or wax paper (I just greased my nonstick pan and it was fine).

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs whites and salt until stiff but not dry (this means that they will hold their peaks, yet still appear glossy and smooth). In a separate bowl, beat the butter and Nutella together, then add Frangelico (or what you have chosen to use), egg yolks, and ground hazelnuts. Fold in the cooled, melted chocolate, then lighten the mixture with a dollop of egg white, which you can beat in as roughly as you want, before gently folding the rest of them in a third at a time.

Pour into the prepared pan and cook for 40 minutes or until the cake's beginning to come away at the sides, then let cool on rack.

As the cake bakes, toast the hazelnuts in a dry frying pan until the nuts are golden brown in parts, shake the pan so they don't burn. Transfer to a plate and let cool completely. Make the frosting: in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan, add the cream, liquor or water, and chopped chocolate and heat gently. Once the chocolate's melted, take the pan off the heat and whisk until it reaches the right consistency to ice just the top of the cake. Unmold the cooled cake carefully, leaving it on the base as it will be too difficult to get such a damp cake off in one piece. Ice the top with the chocolate icing, and top with the whole, toasted hazelnuts. Serve with whipped cream.


Paulita said...

drooooooooooooool Lisa


Anonymous said...

Yuuum. Chocolate and hazelnuts are just about my favorite together. Chocolate hazelnut bread pudding is my above-all favorite but I HAVE to try this.

Daniel said...

Chocolate hazelnut bread pudding sounds awesome!

But it's hard for me to enjoy dessert when I can't share it with Lisa.

Damn you, conscience!

Dana B said...

When thinking of your chocolate/hazelnut/flourless challenge, I immediately thought of this, which is my baking Everest. But then I read the recipe and realized that crepes have flour! Still though... someday!

Lisa said...

OMG, Dana. Look at that thing! You are truly more ambitious than I am.

Dana B said...

I think it's actually a sickness. Lets just all be thankful that I don't have the proper kitchen facility to this on (for now). Even Martha kept screwing up her crepes in the demo.

Cold Cuts said...

le cake was so friggin yummy. Amazing that we all had room for it after the livers and the ribs and that yummy puree

Lisa said...

Yeah, it's amazing (and gross) how the human stomach can expand and expand to hold so much yummy goodness.

buy rift platinum said...

OMG! so much of the goodness in here. .drooling while looking at those pictures.=)


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