Heavenly Hazelnut Chocolate Cake & the Surprise

There's this cute little shoppe not too far from my office called La Cuisine. It has that Williams-Sonoma quality of merchandise but a far more personable touch. The owner is there on a regular basis and you can see their pet German Shepard peeking from the back. Such a cutie!

What makes this spot stand out is their wall of chocolate. You can buy blocks of 9 ounce gourmet chocolate and smaller samples. When I made Mikes Oreo Birthday cake, the staff was incredibly helpful and insightful. She pointed out one chocolate I had never heard of called gianduja, a milk chocolate and hazelnut mix. After trying a sample, I knew I would be back for more. 

For my birthday weekend, I wanted to make a cake for our group trip to the VA beach. Not necessarily a birthday cake but a treat for the travel. I was so impressed with the recipe from Mike's birthday cake (thank you David Lebovitz), I decided to use the same recipe with modifications. This is an extremely light cake with an incredible texture. It's so fluffy and addictive!

The middle is a simple mix of melted gianduja, water, a touch of cafe, and a splash of Frangelico (hazelnut liquor). Tailor to your preference. For us hazelnut lovers, a small amount of a finely chopped hazelnuts adds variety. Just make sure they are finely chopped as to not interfere with the cloud-like cake. If you are feeling lazy or don't want to buy Frangelico- by all means... use Nutella

Finally, the topping. Now you have to understand- I really am ga-ga for this cake. I didn't want to obstruct it's beauty with buttercream or any other frosting. There is a light drizzle of thick confectioner's sugar mixed with more Frangelico. Alternatively, you can turn the drizzle into a glaze that gently coats the entire cake with just a little more powered sugar in the mix (see below). 

Mike and I truly loved this cake. The texture is heavenly! The flavor is mild and not too hazelnutty. It's balanced and sophisticated. We slowly destroyed it over the course of the weekend in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania? What happened to VA Beach? That's right. He tricked me. There was no group trip to VA beach. The handsome devil whisked me off to PA and the entire group hustled me into thinking we were traveling together. 

As it turns out, he had other plans for the weekend. 

Big plans.

Really big plans. 

Yessur. I am going to be his wifey!  ~ * Dreams do come true * ~

Heavenly Hazelnut Chocolate Cake

modified from David Lebovit's chocolate cake

4 ounces gianduja milk chocolate, chopped
6 tablespoons water
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ¼ cup + ¼ cup sugar
4 large eggs, separated
2 cups all-purpose flour or cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, Frangelico, or hazelnut extract

Preheat oven to 350. Grease 2 9-inch road cake pans and line bottoms with parchment paper. 

Melt chocolate together with the 6 tablespoons of water. Use either a double-boiler or a microwave. Stir until smooth; set aside to cool to room temperature.

Place butter and 1 ¼ cup of the sugar in a bowl and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the melted chocolate, then the egg yolks, one at a time.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix in half of the dry ingredients into the creamed butter mixture, then the buttermilk and the vanilla extract, then the rest of the dry ingredients.
In a separate metal or glass bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold soft, droopy peaks. Beat in the ¼ cup of sugar until stiff.

Fold about one-third of the egg whites into the cake batter and then fold in the remaining egg whites just until there’s no trace of egg white visible.

Divide the batter into the 2 prepared cake pans, smooth the tops, and bake for about 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool cake layers completely.


5 ounces gianduja milk chocolate, chopped
3-4 tablespoons milk (richer) or water (mild)
1-2 tablespoons frangelico (optional)
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee (optional)
1/4 cup finely chopped hazelnuts (optional)

Tailor to your liking. Use milk if you want a creamier taste, use water if you don't want to tamper with the gianduja flavor. I added a little frangelico but if you're not into that, you can leave it out and use more milk/water. The filling should be silky and easy to spread, but not watery. I added a pinch of instant coffee for dimension but it's not necessary. I like hazelnuts and added them to the mix. Feeling lazy? Substitue filling with nutella

Melt chocolate together with the 3-4 tablespoons of milk or water, depending on how thick you want the filling to be. Use either a double-boiler or a microwave. Stir until smooth; set aside to cool to room temperature. Add the frangelico and instant coffee if so desired. Mix in hazelnuts (optional). 

Drizzle vs Glaze

For a little drizzle: 1/2 cup sifted confectioners sugar mixed with a few tablespoons of frangelico and water. Add frangelico and water 1 tablespoons at a time until it's the consistency and flavor you desire. I wanted it thick and that punch of booze so I didn't use water. You can always use just water with a touch of hazelnut extract. 

To make more of an all encompassing glaze: 2 cups sifted confectioners sugar mixed with 3 1/2 tablespoons frangelico. Still not feeling that frangelico? Use 3 tablespoons water and a 1/2 a teaspoon of hazelnut extract.