We are not as haughty as Marie Antoinette. At least we do not think so. We do like cake though. That is the only connection between the Duo and the bourgeois dauphine de France, and it is a very loose one. We’ve made a good number of cakes and sweets in our tiny corner of Los Scandalous, and this one was yet another attempt to flex the flavorful bicep of a collection of goodies in the pantry. A while back, we bought a big ‘ol Snuggie wearing, friar shaped bottle of Frangelico for a couple of desserts, and it’s been sitting in the cabinet awaiting its next application. When Frangelico shows up to the party, it never disappoints, and here it is again working its magic. If little Marie told us to go eat some cake, we’d ask her to serve a slice of this one.
This cake has a slight coffee kick to it that works with the chocolate and hazelnuts. Amir thought the coffee flavor was too pronounced, but Chrystal thought it was just right, so use that as your judgment scale if you choose to go the java route. Love love loooooved the frosting. It tastes like billowy marshmallows. Note: You’re supposed to use cream of tartar or corn syrup in the frosting, not both. Woops. If anyone else has made this frosting before, perhaps you can give us your feedback on which is better and why. We also used golden syrup instead of light corn syrup in our frosting. Just because. Oh, and this is a cake to start making the day before if you have time, so don’t get caught under the whistle of time constraints!
We are by no means cake masters, but here are a couple of things we’ve learned about cakes from research and trial and error. Now some of these things we did in this round, some we omitted. A few of the ones we omitted were things that we should’ve done, but hey, this is not a Food Network Challenge. We have room to make mistakes. Hopefully we will use more tools and tricks of the trade as we move further into the crazy domain of cake baking. Here are a few of them in a very abbreviated format. You can Google around and find many more specifics all over the wonderful world of net.
How to bake and frost a very awesome cake:
•Don’t overfill–Pour cake batter no higher than 1/2 to 2/3 of the way up the pan. A fluffy cake is great, but cleaning up burnt cake matter in an oven is not cool. We settled on the 2/3 level, and the height of the cake was just fine. Use extra batter to make cupcakes. We did!
•Even that baby out–Obviously you want to pour equal amounts of batter into all of your pans, but more than that, it’s important to let the batter settle before it goes in the oven. You can buy special tools or slightly bang the cake on the counter to get the bubbles out. We used the silicone baking pans, which is really impossible to bang on anything unless you want the thing to flip all over the place, so just do the best you can. We didn’t do our best due to the circumstances, and one of the cakes was an asymmetrical hot mess. Oh well.
•Cold as ice–Slight exaggeration, but the colder the better when it comes to leveling the cake. If you can, freeze the freshly baked (and completely cooled cake) before leveling or frosting. We didn’t have time for all of that, so we popped it in the fridge overnight covered with wax paper. The next day, it was much easier to scrape off the aforementioned asymmetrical hot mess pieces that had to go. And cold cake scraps were on the menu for breakfast. Yum.
•A level plane–We’ve already mentioned it, but leveling the cake off prior to frosting is really important. Having a dome on your cake is not the end of the world, but we’d all like to make at least one flat, bakery-style cake in our lifetimes, right? Cut off the extra hump with a large serrated knife or a a cake leveler. We had no cake leveler, so we went to town with a large bread knife and brushed the crumbs away with a pastry brush.
•Keep it clean–Line your serving platter with strips of wax paper or parchment paper in a rectangle or square formation (there should be a small space in the center). The strips should be wide enough to hang off all four sides of the platter. That way you can slop frosting, icing, sprinkles and any other doodads all over the place while you’re decorating and keep your platter immaculate. Just pull the strips out right before the grand presentation.
•Catch the crumbs–We mentioned crumbs briefly in the leveling blurb. Make sure you dust off surplus crumbs on the top levels of the cakes so you don’t have extra ‘debris’ should you have to layer in fillings, but that’s not as important as the crumbs that will pop up on the side of the cake. Start the cake off with a crumb coat, so to speak, of frosting. Swipe on a thin layer of your frosting all over the cake–top and sides–to catch all of the sneaky bits that would’ve otherwise been chillin’ in your frosting. Refrigerate the cake for at least 30 minutes to set. This is good to know for dark cakes with light frostings, which is why you don’t see any crumbs chillin’ in our frosting.
•Resist the urge to overstuff–Don’t put too much filling on the inside of your layers! It could be disastrous, causing spillage on the sides, layers to slide around, an uneven appearance in the cake, etc. Spread fillings no more than 1/2 inch from the edge of each layer and try to fill in a reasonable amount. Despite all of this, we used a bit too much filling and it went a-sliding out the sides. We were able to scrape some of the extra off before applying the crumb coat, but if we had heeded our own lesson, that could’ve been time saved.
•Wipe it down–Starting from the top to bottom, apply frosting on a completely cooled (or chilled) cake from the top down the sides using an offset spatula. They come in a couple of sizes, so you can easily frost any cake–large or small. Plus, the offset formation keeps your hand from accidentally bumping into the cake. We picked up one, but it was flat. Bummer. We had no hand-to-cake mishaps, but it could happen if you make a wee slip. Just lick it off if you do.
Now go forth and make awesome cakes!
Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Seven Minute Frosting – Serves 12 to 14
Cake (two 9-inch cakes)
Floured baking spray
3 tablespoons cocoa, for dusting pan
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
2 1/4 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons espresso
Toasted and chopped hazelnuts, for garnish
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
4 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup Frangelico liqueur
1 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped
3 egg whites, room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons golden syrup or corn syrup
7 1/2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray two 9-inch cake pans with floured baking spray. Dust bottom and sides of pans with cocoa, tapping out excess.
2. For the cake, in a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla. Pour into chocolate, and mix well.
3. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients alternately with buttermilk.
4. Stir espresso into boiling water until combined, then pour into cake batter. Stir until smooth. Evenly spread cake batter between both pans. Bang lightly on the counter to settle batter. Bake for 30 minutes, or until tester comes out clean, in a preheated oven at 350 degrees. Let cakes cool on a rack for at least an hour.
5. As cakes cool, move on to hazelnut pastry cream. Pour whipping cream in a sauce pan and scald (heat just before boiling). In a separate bowl, whisk egg yolks with sugar. Add flour and cornstarch. Whisk until smooth.
6. Use a ladle to scoop about a cup of the hot cream into the eggy sugar. Whisk immediately and quickly to combine. Pour remaining cream in with eggs and keep stirring. Return warm mixture to sauce pan. Continue to cook, whisking all the while, until thick.
7. Pour the mixture into a heat-safe bowl, and whisk in vanilla and Frangelico until smooth and creamy. Cover with plastic wrap directly touching the cream so a film will not form. Let the cream sit until it has reached room temperature. Cool completely in fridge.* Stir hazelnuts into cream once cold.
8. Level off both cooled cakes and slice each one in half, so there are four layers. Lay down one cake layer and smooth about a third of the hazelnut cream on top, spreading to about 1/2 inch from edge. Repeat with next two layers and top with last layer. Place cake in fridge to set while you make the frosting.
9. For the frosting, whisk all of the ingredients in a medium sized heat resistant bowl. Place bowl on top of a slightly larger pot with 1-2 inches of hot, simmering water. (Do not let water level reach the bottom part of the bowl.) With an electric mixer, beat egg white mixture for six minutes. Remove from heat and continue beating for another minute while adding the vanilla. Allow frosting to cool slightly (we put it in the fridge for about 10 minutes) before frosting cake. Top with extra hazelnuts.
*You can make the pastry cream 1-2 days ahead of time, which is exactly what we did. Do not stir in the hazelnuts until right before you plan to use it.
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