I’ve known my husband and his family for 30+ years and in all those decades there is a story about a cake that has been the heart of my career goals. Just to be clear, this is not the cake. This flourless chocolate hazelnut cake is AWESOME and I’m very pleased with it, but it’s not the cake my husband wistfully remembers from his childhood. I have never had the mythical cake, which is my excuse for not being able to recreate it. The joke in my house is that the day I am able to bake that one (hazelnut sponge with whipped cream and canned peaches) I can retire. So, maybe there is part of me that just isn’t ready to nail it.
Okay, let’s talk about this chocolate hazelnut cake. It was inspired by the aforementioned favorite of my husband and a flourless chocolate cake in the book, Bake from Scratch, by Brian Hart Hoffman. For those of you not familiar with this book or Brian, he is the talent behind @TheBakeFeed on Instagram. You should be following them and me, for that matter! You’ll find my feed at @zoebakes where you can keep up with what I am working on every day and watch my video stories, which is my newest playground.
This is like the most elegant brownie-cake you’ve ever had. That really doesn’t do it justice, but you know that fudge texture of a perfectly baked brownie, where the top has a nice crust and the inside is smooth and rich. This is that, but even better and somehow lighter. I gilded the lily with the candied hazelnuts, because it is my favorite man’s birthday and he deserves to have all the fancy bits.
Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Cake
- 3 ounces (85g) hazelnuts, toasted, skins removed, more for garnish
- 12 ounces (340g) bittersweet chocolate
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) (170g) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 6 extra large eggs, room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups (300g) sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract*
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- Cocoa powder for pan and dusting the top
- 12 hazelnuts
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tablespoon corn syrup
- Long wooden skewers
- To make the cake: Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter and line a 9-inch springform pan with buttered parchment.
- Pulverize the hazelnuts and 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a food processor until very fine.
- In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and butter until smooth, allow to cool for about 10 minutes.
- In a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk, beat the eggs, remaining sugar, vanilla and salt, until very thick and light in color, about 6-8 minutes.
- Slowly add the cooled chocolate to the egg mixture.
- Fold in the hazelnuts and quickly pour into the prepared pan.
- Bake for about 1 hour 15 minutes or until the top is crusty and the interior produces moist crumbs. Allow to cool in pan until room temperature.
- To make candied hazelnuts: You will need long wooden skewers and a heavy cutting board to weigh them down on the edge of your counter. Place parchment or newspaper on the floor below where the hazelnuts will be suspended to catch the caramel drips.
- Heat the hazelnuts in a pan for a minute or so to remove the skins more easily if yours are not blanched. Gently stick the skewer into the hazelnuts. Set aside.
- In a small saucepan combine the sugar, water and corn syrup and bring to a boil, without stirring. Once the mixture starts to caramelize remove from the stove and allow it to darken and thicken for about 10 minutes. Stirring on occasion so it won’t set up on the bottom of the pan.
- Once the caramel is thickened, dip the hazelnut into the caramel and lift it to see if the caramel is clinging. If the caramel just runs off then you may need to wait another minute and repeat.
- When the caramel is coating the hazelnut and dripping off in long strands then secure the skewer under the heavy cutting board, so the caramel can drip down.
- Let the hazelnuts sit until the caramel is well set, about 15 minutes. Break off the caramel strands at the length you want. Gently twist the hazelnuts from the skewers. Decorate the top of your cake with the points way up in the air.
- Once the cake is cool and cut the top with shatter and that is exactly what we're going for. The top is crisp which is a beautiful contrast to the silky interior.
*Make your own homemade vanilla extract