lightly adapted from Nigella Lawson's Nutella cake
6 eggs, separated
1 pinch salt
9 Tbsp butter, softened
13-oz jar of Nutella
1 Tbsp Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur)
1 cup hazelnuts, finely ground into meal
4 oz bittersweet chocolate (dark is good--70 percent isn't too bitter for this recipe)
Ganache and Topping
1 cup whole hazelnuts
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp Frangelico
5 oz bittersweet chocolate
Preheat the oven to 350.
In a double boiler or rude approximation (pan within a larger pan in which water boils), melt the chocolate. Remove from heat when almost melted, stir until melted, and allow to cool.
Beat the egg whites and salt until the whites are stiff but still wet.
In a separate bowl, combine the yolks, butter, Nutella, Frangelico, and ground hazelnuts. Whisk until velvety smooth. Add a spoonful of the egg whites, and then add the rest of the egg whites gently, one-third at a time.
Liberally butter a 9-inch springform pan. Pour in the batter and bake for 30-40 minutes. The center of the cake will still be wobbly, but the cake will smell done (and heavenly), and the sides will have begun to pull away. Place the cake, still in pan, on a rack to cool. Poke holes in the cake with a toothpick or skewer. Sprinkle Frangelico on top (or pour some into your cupped hand and pat it onto the cake, as I awkwardly do). You may want to do this a few times to really infuse the cake.
A few hours later. . .
Toast the whole hazelnuts in a pan over high heat. Remove from heat when the nuts smell fragrant and have begun to brown. Peel the skins if you like by rubbing the nuts in a towel. I don't mind the skins, but I remove some for a varied appearance.
Chop the chocolate, then heat the chocolate, cream, and Frangelico gently in a saucepan. Once the chocolate is melted, whisk until the consistency is uniform and the ganache shiny.
Unmold the cake, but leave the bottom of the cake pan be, as cake and bottom are codependent at this point and need one another for structural integrity. Spread the ganache over the top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides. Once the hazelnuts are fully cool, top the cake with the nuts.
Cut and serve.
- I pulled the cake out of the oven after 35 minutes, and I think it would have been fine after 30. The cake will settle in on itself and turn into a delightfully moist solid once removed from the heat.
- I had ganache troubles that may have stemmed from my unorthodox mixing methods: I heated a large lump of chocolate using my double-boiler method and then added the cold heavy cream and Frangelico. The ganache did not mix well and was drippy and lumpy; an unsightly yellowish oily substance trickled into the springform pan gutter once I spread the ganache on the cake. I refrigerated the cake and then wiped out the gutter. The taste was fantastic, the cake looked great, and no one noticed anything amiss, but I wonder if omitting the cream and Frangelico and simply using the melted chocolate wouldn't be just as good. If you've already Frangelicoed the cake, it will be boozy enough. I think you could go this route without harming your dessert.
- I used El Rey chocolate, one of my favorite brands. El Rey is so fancy, it's sold in a special section at Whole Foods devoted to REALLY snooty shoppers. El Rey chocolate is single-sourced and superior to most other brands--just press it to your nose and inhale, like I always do, to the disgust of my fellow shoppers, and you'll smell the difference. I used 71 percent for the cake and a blend of 71 percent and 58 percent for the ganache. I think I could have gone with all-71 percent without making the cake unpalatable. My cake had a slight bitter tang that worked to render it a sophisticated, adult dessert rather than a saccharine confection.
- If you are having a Frangelico crisis and are facing an empty bottle, you have my permission to use rum.
- At the party, a chocolate hater tried the cake and ate an entire piece. That is the kind of cake it is.
- My photography skills are substandard, so my cake slice photos turned out wretchedly, but here's a close-up of the crumb of this cake. Moist, moist, moist!