Thursday, September 13, 2007

Chocolate-Hazelnut Cake

I took it upon myself to volunteer to make a dear friend's 30th birthday cake for tomorrow evening. I love baking, especially baking cakes, but when you are baking THE cake for THE big 3-0, the stress begins to mount.

So I poured over my various cookbooks, asking my husband which cake sounded best, going over fillings and icings and ganaches as though I was preparing for a final exam. Finally, I let the ingredients I had on hand decide what I would make: hazelnuts, chocolate and buttermilk. I found a great recipe for Chocolate-Hazelnut Cake in the 50th Anniversary Bon Appetit cookbook. A book which, by the way, has never failed me. I hope it won't fail me now.

This recipe makes a gorgeous cake: bittersweet chocolate cake filled with milk chocolate and hazelnut cream and topped with a bittersweet chocolate ganache. It's one of those cakes you feel like you can't eat because it is too pretty.

Be sure you have enough time on your hands, because there are quite a few steps involved to get it looking that good. It isn't necessarily a difficult recipe, but it takes time.

Filling: (If you like a lot of icing and filling in the center of the cake, I would double this recipe. What it made just BARELY covered the inside and outside of my cake, and I didn't use as much as I would have liked).

1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
8 ounces good quality (i.e. imported) milk chocolate (Lindt), finely chopped
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
2 teaspoons powdered sugar

1 cup sifted all purpose flour (sifted and then measured)
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 tablespoons hot water
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder or instant coffee powder
1/2 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs

6 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon light corn syrup

12 whole hazelnuts toasted and skinned

FOR FILLING: Bring cream and corn syrup to simmer in heavy small saucepan. Place chocolate in medium bowl. pour hot cream mixture over an dlet stand 1 minute. Whisk until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Set aside.

Blend hazelnuts and sugar in processor until paste forms, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Stir paste into chocolate mixture. Refrigerate filling until cool but still spreadable, about 1 hour.

For cake: Position rack in bottom third of oven an dpreheat to 350 F. Butter 9 inch diameter cake pan with 2 inch high sides. Line bottom with parchmetn round. Dust pan with flour and tap out excess. Sift flour and next 4 ingredients into medium bowl. Stir 1 1/2 tablespoons hot water and espresso powder in small bowl until powder dissolves. Mix in buttermilk. Using electric mixer, beat butter inlarge bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in sugar, then vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in flour mixture alternately with buttermilk mixture in 2 additions each.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 4 minutes. Cool cake in pan on rack 5 minutes. Turn cake out onto rack. Peel off parchment. Turn right side up onto another rack and cool.

Using a wooden spoon, beat filling until slightly softened and lightened in color, about 30 seconds (if not soft enough, either let it sit out at room temperature or zap it in the microwave for 10 seconds). Cut cake horizontally in half. Place 1 layer cut side up on platter. SLide waxed paper strips under edges of cake. Spread half of filling over cake. Top with second layer, cut side down. Spread remaining filling over sides and top of cake. Refrigerate 10 minutes.
Prepare glaze: Combine chocolate, butter and corn syrup in top of double boiler set over simmeringn water. Stir until smooth. Remove from over water and cool to lukewarm, stirring occasionally.
Pour glaze in a pool over the center of cake. Using icing spatula, spread over top and sides of cake. Arrange 12 nuts around the top edge of cake. Remove waxed paper.

This cake can be prepared one day ahead. Cover with cake dome and refrigerate. Let stand one hour at room temperature before serving.

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