Friday, March 11, 2011

Hazelnut Cake

I have a romantic fascination with hazelnuts because they remind me of the gorgeous Piemonte region of Italy where they are ground with chocolate to prepare the wonder that is gianduja. I love the way hazelnuts find their way into so many fabulous Italian desserts, most of which are nearly impossible to resist. Whether they’re in the form of luxurious ice cream and gelato, tortes, praline, cookies or cakes, hazelnut pastries are supremely delicious and go so very well with lots of different adornments. In the Unites States, hazelnuts are commercially produced in Oregon and Washington.

This is a very simple nut cake brimming with the taste of toasted hazelnuts that are finely ground with the flour. The texture is light with a bit of texture from the addition of some chopped hazelnuts in the batter. There is also a nice dose of orange zest to really perk up the flavor but otherwise it’s a pretty basic and delicious rendition of a nut cake. It’s very easy to make and would grace any table, be it a picnic or formal dinner.

One of the things I love about this cake is that it’s extremely versatile. It would be fantastic covered in a chocolate or mocha glaze or an espresso glaze. You can add your favorite spice. Serve with fresh blackberries or raspberries, figs baked in honey and balsamic, nectarines or peaches in a honey lemon syrup, poached pears, balsamic cherries, honeyed apricots, caramelized apples or a simple cluster of grapes. The cake would also be great with caramel or coffee ice cream. Or a simple dollop of whipped cream flavored with vanilla or brandy. And on and on, it’s a great canvas for your own best customization.

Bench notes:
- To toast hazelnuts, put them in a single layer on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for about 10 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned and the skins look cracked. Watch them carefully as hazelnuts can turn bitter if toasted too long. Remove from the oven and wrap the hazelnuts in a kitchen towel to let steam for a couple of minutes. Then rub them together to loosen and remove as much of the skin as possible. Cool completely.
- To cover the cake in chocolate glaze: gently heat 3/4 C heavy cream just to the boiling point and pour over finely chopped 5 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (or a combination of the two). Stir slowly until combined. Pour evenly over cake.

Hazelnut Cake
Serves 8 – 10

3/4 C flour
1 t baking powder
1/4 t + 1/8 t salt
3/4 C + 1/4 C toasted hazelnuts, divided
4 oz (8 T) butter @ room temperature
1/2 C sugar
2 eggs @ room temperature
1 egg yolk
1 t vanilla
zest of 1 small orange
1/4 C milk @ room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8 x 2 1/2” cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Place the flour, baking powder, salt and 3/4 C toasted hazelnuts in the bowl of a food processor. Process for a couple of minutes or until the hazelnuts are finely ground and you can smell their wonderful aroma. Pour into a bowl and set aside.

Finely chop the remaining 1/4 C hazelnuts and set aside.

Cream the butter and the sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 - 4 minutes.
Add eggs and egg yolk one at a time, fully incorporating each into the mixture and stopping to scrape down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and orange zest and combine. Scrape the bottom of the bowl.

Slowly add the flour in three additions, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour. Mix until the batter is just about completely combined. Take off the mixer and use a rubber spatula to finish mixing by hand and fold in the remaining 1/4 C chopped nuts.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly with a spatula.

Bake for about 28 – 30 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Let the cake rest for 10 minutes. Gently run a thin bladed knife around the edge of the pan and invert the cake onto a plate. Remove the parchment and cool completely. Dust with confectioner's sugar.


jodye @ 'scend food said...

This cake sounds so wonderful in its simplicity. I love the rich flavor of toasted hazelnuts. I'm sure the blackberries complement the cake beautifully

A Plum By Any Other Name said...

Oh yes. I have fond memories of hazelnuts too. I always have a hard time finding them though, they go rancid so quickly.

I'm so into cake right now. (Okay, I'm always into cake.) Happy eating!

pastry studio said...

Hello jodye!

Plum, you can store nuts in an airtight container in the freezer so they won't go rancid.

Foodiewife said...

My German background loves hazelnuts. I like the simplicity of this cake and taking the step of toasting the hazelnuts. Bookmarked!

Dee D. said...

Your cake looks so delicious and soft! I love hazelnuts, and might try this out :)

Catherine said...

Looks so delicious, I always think there's something so charming about this sort of plain, versatile, one-layer cake. I love orange in hazelnutty things. I'm starting to think about how I would customise this cake, I think I'd be tempted to go with a chocolate glaze with a bit of orange liqueur added into it, or maybe a sprinkle of cinnamon in the cake. I'm looking forward to trying the recipe out.

pastry studio said...

Hello everyone and thanks very much for your comments!

Catherine, those ideas sound great. Yes, absolutely don't leave out the orange zest! It really does add a nice and I think indispensable backnote.

American layer cakes are nice but I definitely favor this kind of simple cake that can be dressed up or down with additional flavors, textures and fruit compotes.

I hope you enjoy as much as I did.

Anonymous said...

Yay! First of all compliments to the wonderful idea to make a hazelnut cake and secondly to the great recipe! It tastes even better the next day!

I just ommitted the butter because I had none -I foamed the sugar and eggs together. It works really good, you get so much hazelnut flavor!

Bryan said...

Hi :PS,
made this cake yesterday too.
this one is tasty.
to play with its texture, i used all fine ground hazelnut meal for the total amount of nuts instead of adding the chopped nuts at the end.
turned out pretty well.

it's delicious eating out-of-hand but was better served with juicy sections of the blood orange i used for the zest.
it's a great pairing of flavors.

pastry studio said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed this cake. And pairing it with blood oranges sounds really wonderful! Thanks very much for the suggestion.

buy rift platinum said...

Great! looks so delicious. .gonna try this on a weekend.=)

Elly said...

I've just come back from Piemonte in Italy, and am longing to make this cake. Hazelnuts I think are one of my favourite nuts (particularly when in gianduja form!) I love the way the Italians find all sorts of inventive uses for this great ingredient - I had an unusual pasta sauce with it on my trip. Yum!

pastry studio said...

Elly, how wonderful to be just returning from Piemonte. Thanks for posting and for mention the pasta sauce, which has my imagination twirling!

Sell WoW Accounts said...

This looks so delicious. . wanna try this one.. thanks for posting the recipe.=)

RLS said...

I'm really looking forward to trying this recipe. In the UK should I use plain flour or self raising flour?

pastry studio said...

RLS, plain flour. It's what we call "all-purpose" in the United States.

Enjoy the cake!

RLS said...

Dear pastry studio,
Thank-you so much for your efficient response!

plasterer bristol said...

Yummy, this sounds delicious. going to make this today, thanks for sharing.


AnnMarie aka Vintage Junkie aka NaNa said...

Hazelnuts are one of my favorite nuts! I like that this is Italian and no chocolate :-)