Some things are just made to go together: strawberries and cream, rhubarb and custard, cold beer and sunny afternoons, butter and pretty much anything. Then, of course, there is the age old power couple that is chocolate and nuts. Think of a box of those Guylain praline chocolate sea shells – you know, the ones that seemed like the height of chocolate sophistication for a 10 year old me perusing the shelves in Andover Woolworth’s – or even the humble Walnut Whip.
In honour of this culinary love affair, and mainly because it was my boyfriend’s birthday, I made a really quite delightful flourless chocolate and hazelnut butter cake. The great thing about this cake is that is has a rich, complex flavour and is not overly sweet, thanks to great quality cocoa powder, amazing unsweetened hazelnut butter and (somewhat obviously) a relatively sparing use of sugar. As a celebration cake it is pretty dreamy slathered in a Frangelico hazelnut liqueur laced icing (side note: i LOATH the word ‘frosting’) but if you want a more simple finish, or if you’re into keep it both gluten and dairy free, then a drizzle of melted dark chocolate and a scattering of crushed toasted hazelnuts would do nicely.
Flourless Chocolate and Hazelnut Butter Cake
It is crucial that you use good quality, smooth, unsweetened nut butter here. My hazelnut butter came from a great company called Nutural World who make a delicious range of vegan, sugar-free nut spreads and butters including interesting flavours like pistachio, macadamia and pecan. Seriously, go and buy some now! Any other nut butter would work really well here, if hazelnut doesn’t appeal.
If you are not planning to make a layered cake then make a third of the recipe (one cake tin’s worth) and drizzle with chocolate and hazelnuts.
- 3 tsp vanilla extract
- 150g good quality cocoa powder (I used Green & Blacks)
- 390ml boiling water
- 9 eggs
- 450g caster sugar
- 280g odourless coconut oil, melted
- 170g smooth, unsweetened hazelnut butter
- 450g ground almonds
- 1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1½ tsp baking powder
- good pinch of salt
- 250g unsalted butter, softened
- 170g hazelnut butter
- 375g icing sugar, sieved
- 1 tbsp milk
- 1 tbsp Frangelico hazelnut liqueur
- handful of crushed roasted hazelnuts or chocolate chips to decorate
Preheat the oven to 160°c and grease and line three 22cm sandwich tins.
Sift the cocoa powder into a bowl, pour over the boiling water and add the vanilla essence. Whisk until smooth and set aside to cool.
Place the sugar, eggs, coconut oil and hazelnut butter in a freestanding mixer and whisk until light in colour and aerated.
In a separate bowl combine the ground almonds, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt.
Once the egg and sugar mix is ready, on a medium speed gradually pour in the cocoa and water mix. Once fully combines reduce to a low speed and shower in your dry ingredients. The batter will be pretty runny, so don’t be alarmed!
Divide the mix between the three cake tins (I recommend dividing the total weight of ingredients by 3 and weigh it as you add it to the tins so you get a really even and precise result).
Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of each cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to stand for 10 minutes before removing the cakes from their tins and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
While the cake is baking, make the icing by whisking the softened butter and hazelnut butter in a mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add the sieved icing sugar and whisk well. Finally add the Frangelico and milk. If the buttercream seems too thick, or if you want it boozier, add a splash more of either the liqueur or milk.
To assemble to cake, use a serrated knife to cut any dome that might have formed off each sponge, so you end up with three flat, even cakes. place a small blob of icing on your cake board or plate to hold the cake in place and put your first sponge on to it.*
Using a palette knife spread a relatively thin, even layer of icing onto the sponge and gently place the second sponge on top. Repeat with the final sponge and slather the top of the cake with the remaining icing and scatter over with either chocolate chips or hazelnuts.
* When assembling layer cakes I always flip the sponges over so that the nice flat side, that was at the bottom of the cake tin, ends up on the top. This gives a much neater and even finish.
Serves 15-18 people (unless you’re as greedy as me…)