Hazelnut Praline CakeAugust 22, 2008 at 7:04 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, events, layer cakes, sweet things | 18 Comments
If you asked me “cake or pie?” I’d yell “cake” every time! That’s why event-mistress-extraordinaire Laurie’s newest play-along, Layers of Cake, sounded right up my alley. In a happy coincidence this month, I knew I would be making a cake for R’s birthday anyway. R picks his own cake every year, and then I whip up his request. A couple weeks ago, when he chose a Hazelnut Praline Cake from a gorgeous book called Crave: A Passion for Chocolate by Australian Maureen McKeon, I momentarily thought I’d landed in Bizarro World– hadn’t I made something sort of like this but a little different last month? No matter, it was his choice after all, and I knew it would be good.
This is not what I would think of as an “American-style” layer cake. It’s a flourless chocolate cake, with ground hazelnuts providing the structure and whipped eggs providing the lift. It has the dense but creamy texture I was expecting and hoping for. The frosting is a milk chocolate whipped ganache (oh my gosh, is it ever good!), and it’s sprinkled with as much homemade hazelnut praline as your heart desires. It’s really rich, but fantastic– definitley fit for a special occasion, and not bad with a nice (giant, as you can see above!) glass of Cookoothama Botrytis Semillon, either.
Hazelnut Praline Cake- makes 10-12 servings
adapted from Maureen McKeon’s Crave: A Passion for Chocolate
Note: I halved this recipe and baked it in two 6-inch rounds. Rather than cutting each round into layers, as the author suggests, I left mine as a two-layer cake.
-Make the hazelnut nut praline (recipe follows) and allow to cool. Then break some into shards to decorate and crush the rest.
-Bake the cake (recipe follows) and allow to cool completely.
-While the cake is baking, make the milk chocolate cream (recipe follows) and chill.
-Slice both of the 9-inch cakes horizontally into two layers, or the 10-inch cake into three layers. (If you halve the recipe, or if your baked cakes are simply thin, use your judgement here to decide if you want to slice them or not.) Put one layer on a cake board and spread with some of the whipped chocolate cream. You may need to dip the your icing spatula into hot water to aid in spreading. Sprinkle with some of the crushed praline, and top with the next cake layer. Repeat until all layers are used.
-Spread the remaining cream on the outside of the cake. Sprinkle with as much crushed praline as you’d like and decorate with the shards.
-Cover lightly and refrigerate until service.
Note: This may make more than you want to use on the cake. You can adjust the quantities accordingly, but extras save nicely for a couple weeks and can be used crushed over ice cream, etc.
235 g granulated sugar
pinch of salt
250 g skinned hazelnuts, warmed
-Line a baking tray (with sides) with a Silpat or parchment.
-Put the sugar, pinch of salt and 50 ml water into a heavy pot. Stir to combine and clean down and sugar crystals on the sides of the pot with a little water. Bring the sugar to a boil and cook until a light caramel color (do not stir).
-Add the nuts and stir over low heat with a wooden spoon. You will notice the sugar go chalky white, and as you stir it will slowly begin to re-caramelize. Increase the heat at this point and continue to cook until the mixture turns a deep honey color.
-Turn the caramel and nut mixture out onto the lined tray. Pat into a single layer with the back of your wooden spoon. Allow to cool completely, and it will harden.
-Once hard, break into shards or put in plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin.
-Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.
6 large eggs, separated
115 g plus 1 T granulated sugar
pinch of salt
185 g chopped dark chocolate, melted and cooled to tepid
185 g ground hazelnuts
-Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch or one 10-inch round cake pans and line with parchment.
-Using an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks and 115 g sugar on medium-high speed until thick and pale.
-Using clean beaters and bowl, beat the whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks. Add the 1 T sugar and beat until glossy.
-Mix the tepid chocolate with 3 T hot water and add to the egg yolk mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the ground hazelnuts. Then gently fold in the meringue in two stages.
-Divide the batter among the prepared pans. Bake in the middle of the oven for 30 to 35 minutes (maybe less if you halve the recipe), or until the top is firm to the touch.
-Allow to cool completely in the cake pans before turning out.
Milk Chocolate Cream
375 ml cream (35% fat)
pinch of salt
300 g chopped milk chocolate
60 g unsalted butter
-Bring the cream and pinch of salt to a boil in the saucepan and remove from the heat. Add the chocolate to the hot cream and allow it to stand for a minute or two. Stir until smooth; then stir in the butter. Cover and chill for two hours.
-Use a wooden spoon to beat the chilled ganache mixture until thickened and spreadable.