Take 1: Hazelnut Mocha Cake



There's this magical cake that I want to learn how to make.... it's the Hazelnut Mocha Cake from Society Fair located in Old Town Alexandria, VA. I'm not easily seduced by cake quite frankly - it's not my dessert of choice. However. This cake is packing a triple threat of hazelnut, chocolate, and espresso. How could my knees not go weak?

I know this cake will not be there forever... that's how restaurants work. They need to rotate their selection. One day I will walk in there and it will be gone. In preparation for that dreadful day, it has become my mission to create a similar cake. It doesn't have to be exact! Just close enough that I can get through those long cold nights of withdrawal. Kidding. It's good but it's not gold.

As timing would have it, my brother's birthday was around the corner. Taste testers!




The buttercream is easy enough to edge in the right direction. This one is a Swiss Buttercream with hazelnut paste. It was smooth with a delicate flavor however, I would be curious to try adding a touch of nutella with hazelnut extract instead.

It's hard to go wrong with ganache, it depends on the consistency you prefer and the level of gloss. General guidelines that I follow- 1:1 ration of chocolate and heavy cream for a layer cake filling/glaze; 2:1 ratio chocolate to heavy cream for a thick, truffle weight; and 1:2 ratio chocolate to cream for a soft icing. I did equal parts chocolate and cream for the filling with just a touch of instant espresso powder.

Where things hit turbulence was finding the right recipe for the cake. Naturally, I turned to a recipe from Smitten Kitchen for a Hazelnut Brown Butter cake and totally, 110% bombed it. I'm still in shock. The cake looked fine but when I took a bite, it oozed out clarified butter. This must have been an error on my side. I'll be back to redeem myself.


The Hazelnut Cake recipe in this post is from a site that I've never visited before, Trampling Rose. The proportion of hazelnut to flour reminded me of a standard issue yellow cakes. I decided to play it safe and doubled the recipe for a three layer cake.

The comment that I received the most was, "this isn't a very sweet cake - but that's a good thing!" The texture is soft and color is lovely but the flavor is incredibly docile. I really thought the addition of hazelnut syrup as the coffee element would take it to a whole new level. It could be that the brand that I used was too mellow? If I were to make this cake again, I would brush it over with a little simple syrup to lock in more flavor. Serve as is to a more adult audience.



The "oh shit" factor of this cake was the finishing touch of draping ganache. My thought was it would class up the cake. Instead, it made the language coming out of my mouth very UNclassy. This was my first time working with draping ganche and man, did it school me. Here's the thing about draping ganche - temperature will make or break you. 

For the first attempt, my cake was chilled in the fridge and the frosting was just about room temperature. The cold of the buttercream with the already cool chocolate made it lock position faster than I was moving. Poor cake looked like it was wearing a toupee and not a good one. It looked like one of Three Stooges.

Fortunately, I was able to chip it off without much damage to the buttercream. This go around, the chocolate was too hot... so  much so... it started to melt the buttercream on the top of cake, hence the run off on the sides. 

All around. This was a nice cake. The sweetness of the buttercream is balanced with the subtlety of the hazelnut. It missed the mark in terms of matching the cake from Society Fair but I will keep trying!

Take 1: Hazelnut Mocha Cake

Hazelnut Cake
recipe doubled from Trampling Rose

Cut out three circle of parchment paper to fit in the bottom of a 6-inch road cake pan. Brush or spray with a little melted butter and line the bottoms with the paper. Make the batter and divide batter evenly between pans.

Hazelnut Swiss Buttercream
recipe from Smitten Kitchen

1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg whites
12 tabelspoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon hazelnut paste (or to your preference)

Whisk egg whites and sugar together in a big metal bowl over a pot of simmering water. Whisk occasionally until you can’t feel the sugar granules when you rub the mixture between your fingers.

Transfer mixture into the mixer and whip until it turns white and about doubles in size. Add the vanilla and hazelnut paste

Finally, add the butter a stick at a time and whip. Don't lose hope - it goes through a curdled cheese phase. It it starts to break - remain calm, you can fix it

Ganache Filling
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
20 ounces fine-qualify bittersweet chocolate
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder

Place chocolate in heat proof bowl. Heat milk to the point before boiling. Whisk in espresso powder. Pour over chocolate and let sit for about 5 minutes. Whisk until smooth and let cool.
To assemble - frost with buttercream then layer with ganache. 

Draping Ganache
75 g dark chocolate (70%), coarsely chopped
3 tbsp (45 g) butter

Place the chopped dark chocolate and butter in a saucepan and melt on low heat. Set aside until room temperature (but still liquid, not firm). Pour the glaze over the cake and quickly spread it over the edges of the cake to make it run down the sides.