December 24, 2012

Chocolate-hazelnut Christmas cake (200th post)

I'm calling this my Christmas cake for 2012.  It's a fairly simple chocolate hazelnut cake or torte, a recipe from the folks at America's Test Kitchen.  Despite plenty of Christmas cookies and treats, I still wanted a cake to serve for dessert at my usual family Christmas party so this is what we had last night.  There's something special about bringing a cake to the table and passing the slices around.
I had actually intended to make a roll cake.  Specifically, I was going to tackle that heavenly roll cake from Smitten Kitchen, which I've made a couple of times in cake form (it's delicious).  But when I looked at all the things I needed to cook for the party (trying to figure out how to juggle the timing with one oven), the roll cake wasn't an experiment I wanted to try that day.  So I changed gears and went with something simpler.  Truth be told, after a big holiday meal, there's not too much room for dessert.

As you can see, I went a little kitsch with some plastic tree decorations and a dusting of confectioners' sugar "snow" over the cake.  I was inspired by Nigella Lawson, whose cooking shows I love to watch and who I've seen decorate her Christmas cakes this way more than once.  Had they not been out of stock, there would've been little plastic deer among the trees for even more of a winter woodland scene!
As for the taste of this cake, it's not too sweet, not very rich.  The interior is moist and studded with plenty of toasted ground hazelnuts.  I think it made a nice dessert for the grownups alongside our coffee cups and other Christmas treats (the holidays are about abundance and feasting, afterall).  The kids enjoyed ice cream and sugar cookies
Regardless of what you eat, I think it's the togetherness that makes the holidays special.  I am so lucky and happy to be able to gather around with my family as we approach another Christmas.  This is the time of year when we should be reminded of goodness, family, and giving; I am focusing on those things.

Incidentally, this is my 200th post on this here little blog!  I can hardly believe it.  And I must indeed have a "thing" for chocolate and hazelnuts.  I just realized that I made a hazelnut cake with praline and milk chocolate buttercream for my 100th post, a chocolate-hazelnut meringue cake for the blog's one-year anniversary, and now this!!  I guess I really am a creature of habit...

This cake is fairly straightforward, with the only part that surprised me being whipping egg whites separately to fold into the batter.

I started with melting 6 ounces of semisweet chocolate.  The other star of the show is a generous 1 1/3 cups of toasted hazelnuts, which get ground up in a food processor.  The nuts gives this single-layer cake the nuttiness and grittiness of texture.
Six egg yolks are incorporated into the cake with a stick of butter.  The part I didn't expect was separating whipping 3 egg whites and folding that into the dense batter to lighten/aerate it.
The finished cake batter is still fairly dense.  Spread it evenly in the cake pan and bake until the center is still moist.
The cake will rise during baking and fall once it cools so expect a bit of a crack on the surface.  It kind of looks like a smiley face to me. 
It just begs for a dusting of confectioners' sugar once completely cooled.  Christmas trees and other decorations are completely optional though...


Chocolate-Hazelnut Cake
From America's Test Kitchen

- One 9-inch cake -

6 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 1/3 cups hazelnuts, toasted, skinned, and toasted again
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
6 large egg yolks plus 3 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting the finished cooled cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9-inch springform pan.  I lined the bottom with a round of parchment so I could more easily remove the base before serving.

In a food processor, pulse nuts, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and flour until finely ground.

Using the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Gradually add he remaining 3/4 cup sugar, beating until creamy, 2-3 minutes.  Add egg yolks, one at a time, incorporating each into the butter mixture.  Add the room temperature chocolate and beat until just combined.  Stir in the ground hazelnuts.

Fit the whisk attachment into the stand mixer.  In another dry, clean bowl, whip egg whites with salt on medium speed until stiff peaks form.  Using a rubber spatula, fold one-third of the whites into the chocolate-nut mixture.  Fold in the remaining whites in 2 more batches, trying not to deflate the batter.  Spread batter evenly into the prepared cake pan.

Bake until toothpick inserted halfway between center and outer rim of the cake comes out clean, about 45-50 minutes (check early; mine was done by 40 minutes).  Remove pan from the oven and let cake cool completely on wire rack, about 3 hours.  Remove the cake from the springform pan and dust with confectioners' sugar.


  1. Merry Christmas! I made this a while back. It was pretty tasty. Happy 200 posts, too. :)

  2. Merry Christmas to you too, Alyssa! Hope it's a very happy and peaceful New Year!

  3. Those cutie Christmas trees! I love them already! I want to make such cake. I felt in love with this look. I saw a lot different Christmas decorations, but many of them are too 'heavy'. And this one is perfect. It's like thesis writing mistakes which were deleted at once)



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