Monthly Feature
Carrie’s is at it again, bringing you another sweet dessert!

In the spirit of this month of love, I bring you my husband’s favorite dessert. This sinfully good cake is a labor of love. A bit time consuming, requiring use of multiple bowls, spoons, and kitchen appliances, the end result is well worth the effort. A great special occasion cake!

from Bon Appetit sometime in the ‘90s
Filling:
½ cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
**1 tablespoon hazelnut liquor (such as Frangelico), optional – not in the original recipe
8 ounces imported milk chocolate (such as Lindt), finely chopped
½ cup hazelnuts, toasted and husked (see tip below for toasting and husking nuts)
2 teaspoons powdered sugar

Place chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring cream, corn syrup and liquor to simmer in small heavy saucepan. Pour hot cream mixture over chocolate and let stand 1 minute. Stir until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Set aside.

Blend hazelnuts and sugar in food processor until paste forms, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides. Stir paste into chocolate mixture. Refrigerate until cool, but still spreadable.

Cake:
1 ½ tablespoons hot water
1 tablespoon instant espresso or coffee powder
½ cup buttermilk
1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs, room temperature

Position rack to lowest third of oven and preheat to 350°. Butter a 9-inch cake pan. Line bottom with parchment paper. Dust pan with flour and tap out excess.

In a small bowl, combine hot water and espresso powder until dissolved. Add buttermilk. Set aside. Sift first 5 ingredients into medium bowl. Set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar and vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Alternately beat in dry ingredients and buttermilk mixture in 2 additions each.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until tester comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool cake in pan on rack for 5 minutes. Turn out cake onto rack and peel off parchment. Turn right side up and cool completely.

Using a wooden spoon, beat filling until slightly softened and lightened in color, about 30 seconds (I added a little extra Frangelico here as well). Cut cake in half horizontally. Place first layer cut side up on platter and 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 top and sides of cake. Chill 10+ minutes. **If you have difficulty spreading the filling, run your metal knife under hot water, dry and then spread filling. The heat from the water will soften the filling just enough to make it easy to spread.

While cake is chilling, make glaze.

Glaze:
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
½ cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
12 whole hazelnuts, husked

Combine chocolate, butter and syrup over double boiler of simmering water. Stir until smooth. Remove from over water. Cool to lukewarm, stirring occasionally. Pour glaze in pool in center of cake. Using an icing spatula, spread over top and sides of cake. Arrange 12 nuts around top edge of cake. Remove waxed paper. Cover with cake dome and chill. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving. Can be made 1 day ahead. Serve with fresh whipped cream…yum!

The taste: This dessert is chocolaty goodness! The not too sweet cake combined with the Nutella-esque filling and the silky glaze is a winning combination.

The ease: This is not a difficult recipe, but as stated, it is time consuming. Don’t think you’re going to whip this one up an hour before your guests arrive. But, when you have the time, this really isn’t too bad.

The fat-asseness: Luckily, this is fairly rich, so you’re not tempted to eat the whole thing. Well, I won’t lie, I’ve been tempted, but I’ve never done it! Butter, chocolate, whipping cream…if only we could choose where all of these calories would land…

The clean up: A royal pain! The food processor, the mixer, multiple bowls, the measuring cups and spoons, the baking pan and racks…lots of clean up!

The verdict: Despite the effort that this recipe takes in baking and clean up, it’s still one of my favorites. It really is a treat and all of the hard work is worth it in the end! And if you take your time and make this in stages, it is especially manageable.

The variation: Don’t like or are allergic to nuts? I’ve made this as a chocolate raspberry cake, and it was delicious. Substitute the hazelnut paste with ¾ to 1 cup of seedless raspberry jam and add 1 tablespoon of raspberry liquor (such as Chambord) for the hazelnut liquor. Place 12 fresh raspberries around the top in place of the hazelnuts.

The tip: The first time I made this I almost cried trying to remove the husks from the hazelnuts. The secret? Toast the hazelnuts at 350° for 10-15 minutes or until the skins are dark and you begin to smell the nuts. Pour onto a kitchen towel and let cool in the towel. Then, rub the hazelnuts in the towel and the skins come right off. They may not all come off perfectly, but don’t worry! Pick out the 12 best for the top, and don’t worry about removing the rest of the husk. They get all ground up and won’t affect the flavor.