I first made the original version of this cake WAY back in 2009. It was a recipe on the cover of Bon Appetit magazine as a Peppermint Chocolate Cake (the photo is embarrassing but the cake is still SO good!). It was perfect for a Christmas dessert. As I shared in that post, it was the start of a special relationship with Abby Dodge; a creative and talented baker, yes, but an even better friend. Funny, we’ve never met but we have talked on the phone, tweeted like crazy and I worked with Abby last year to renovate her website. Lately I’ve been an ardent participant in her #baketogether series.
Inspired and led with a recipe from Abby, our group can modify, eliminate, add to or renovate as our heart desires from that starting point and through the month we all share our finished creations. It does build a connection and while not quite the same as being together in one kitchen, we are virtually together, supporting each other in our endeavors and building relationships over our mutual love of baking.
I’ve wanted to do this cake again ever since that first effort but as something less Christmas specific. I admit, I might have
asked begged Abby a bit to consider it for #baketogether because it’s just a fabulous dessert. It has several steps but nothing about it is hard; just give yourself two days and take your time; each individual step is easy. Abby and I talked back then about combining two of my favorite flavors, chocolate and hazelnut for a sophisticated version that could be served at any time of the year. What makes the finished result so special? Thin layers of a perfect chocolate sponge cake are layered with baked meringues; each layer of cake is soaked with Frangelico simple syrup and all layers are spread with a fabulous milk chocolate and Frangelico ganache. You can call it ganache Abby, I think I’ll just call it fudge! For this version I topped it with toasted hazelnuts. It was just the perfect finish for a lovely Christmas dinner of ham, macaroni and cheese, a squash casserole and my virgin experience with collard greens that I enjoyed on Christmas Day with friends.
As I contemplated exactly how to pull it together, I couldn’t help but think of the lovely candy I typically only buy over the holidays, sometimes just tucking a couple into the gift baskets I make each holiday season, the fabulous Ferrero Rocher hazelnut and milk chocolate candy wrapped in gold foil. As if meant to be, I also had just recently purchased some beautiful gold sugar crystals from King Arthur Flour…large enough to really make an impact if added to cookies or a cake and I thought the glittery gold crystals would be ‘the icing on the cake’ for this dessert, making it also perfect for a New Years Eve party for some special friends. Although we enjoyed this dessert on Christmas day I can see this cake on any holiday table.
It’s gorgeous, it tastes fabulous and it’s just perfect for a party. Or breakfast (oh yes I did!).
Want some more ideas for fabulous holiday desserts? These are two of my favorites:
- Red Wine Chocolate Cake with Sugared Cranberries
- Espresso Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting
Layers of sponge cake, liqueur, baked meringue and a chocolate ganache produce a beautiful and delicious cake.
For the Hazelnut Paste
- 1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts
- 1/2 large egg white
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1/4 tsp hazelnut liqueur (I used Frangelico)
For the Cake
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- 2 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 ozs of Hazelnut paste
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup chopped, toasted hazelnuts
For the Meringue Layers
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1/3 cup superfine sugar (I put regular sugar into Cuisinart for a minute)
- Pinch of salt
- 3 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 Tbsp Frangelico
For the Frangelico Glaze
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 Tbsp Frangelico liqueur
For the Buttercream Frosting (if not piping decorations)
- 24 ounces milk chocolate, chopped or milk chocolate chips
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 8 oz unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
- 3 Tbsp light corn syrup
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 Tbsp Frangelico
- Pinch table salt
For the Buttercream Frosting (if you want extra to pipe bottom and/or top edge
- 30 ounces milk chocolate, chopped or milk chocolate chips
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 10 oz unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces
- 1/4 cup light corn syrup
- 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 Tbsp Frangelico
- Pinch table salt
Make the Hazelnut Paste:
- Mix all ingredients together in a food processor until it becomes a semi smooth paste and set aside.
To Make the Cake:
- Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F.
- Lightly butter bottom and sides of 13x9x1-inch baking pan. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper.
- Lightly dust sides with flour.
- Sift 1/2 cup flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt into medium bowl.
- Using electric mixer, beat eggs and egg yolks in another medium bowl until pale and foamy, about 2 minutes. Add sugar and vanilla; beat until mixture is thick and ribbon forms when beaters are lifted, about 3 minutes.
- Mix in hazelnut paste gently.
- Sift flour mixture over egg mixture and gently fold in with rubber spatula just until incorporated.
- Transfer batter to baking pan; spread evenly to edges.
- Bake until top springs back when gently touched and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 15 minutes.
- Transfer baking pan to rack and cool cake 20 minutes. Run small knife around sides of cake to loosen.
- Invert cake onto parchment-lined work surface; gently peel off parchment. Cool completely.
- Using serrated knife, cut cake in half lengthwise, each half should be 12×4-inch rectangle; trim if necessary.
Make the Meringue Layers:
- Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 175°F. Using dark pen or pencil, trace two 12×4-inch rectangles on sheet of parchment paper; turn parchment over (rectangles will show through) and place on large rimmed baking sheet. Trace one 12×4-inch rectangle on second sheet of parchment paper; turn parchment over and place on second rimmed baking sheet.
- Sift powdered sugar, superfine sugar, and salt into medium bowl.
- Combine egg whites and cream of tartar in large bowl of heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with wire whisk; beat on medium-low speed until frothy.
- Increase speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form.
- Increase speed to high; gradually add sugar mixture and beat until stiff and glossy peaks form, about 3 minutes.
- Beat in vanilla and Frangelico.
- Divide meringue equally among prepared rectangles on parchment (about 1 1/3 cups for each); spread meringue evenly within traced lines.
- Bake meringues until dry and crisp but not browned, about 3 hours. Turn off oven and let meringues cool completely in oven.Carefully remove meringue rectangles from parchment.
- Make the Buttercream:
- Simmer cream, butter, and corn syrup in medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chocolate; whisk until smooth.
- Whisk in vanilla and salt. Let stand at room temperature until thick enough to spread, 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours.
- Make the Frangelico Syrup:
- Heat the water and sugar until it starts to boil and the sugar is dissolved. Cool
- Add 1 Tbsp of Frangelico to sugar water to make Frangelico Glaze.
- Assemble the Cake:
- Transfer 1/2 cup buttercream to pastry bag fitted with medium star tip; reserve for piping rosettes.
- Brush off any crumbs from meringue layers and cake layers. Place several small dabs of buttercream down center of 15-inch-long rectangular serving platter.
- Place 1 meringue layer, top side up, atop buttercream on platter, anchoring to platter.
- Using small offset spatula, spread 2/3 cup buttercream over meringue.
- Top with 1 cake layer, top side down, pressing gently to adhere. Brush cake layer with 1/3 cup of the Frangelico syrup (cake layer will be very moist). Spread 1/2 cup buttercream over the cake layer.
- Top with second meringue layer, top side up. Spread 1/2 cup buttercream over.
- Sprinkle 1/4 cup of toasted hazelnuts on top of buttercream.
- Cover with second cake layer, top side down. Brush with 1/3 cup Frangelico syrup and then spread layer with 1/2 cup buttercream.
- Top with third meringue layer, bottom flat side up. Spread thin layer of buttercream over top and sides of cake.
- Fill pastry bag fitted with medium star tip with remaining ganache. Pipe small rosettes around bottom and/or top of cake.
- Finish cake with remaining 1/4 cup of toasted hazelnuts and food glitter if desired.
- Chill cake at least 6 hours.
I made the cake first and the meringues next so that I could put them in the oven and forget them. I turned the oven to 175 degrees and set the oven timer for 2 hours and 45 minutes and left the meringues in the oven overnight.
Prep time includes time to assemble the cake.