Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Chocolate (shrug)

Around this time of the year, my son and I have a conversation which typically goes:

Me: So, what cake do you want for your birthday?
Him: Plain Chocolate. shrug (not even looking up).
Me: Filling?
Him: Chocolate. shrug (still not looking up).
Me: Frosting?
Him: Chocolate. My usual. Why change a good thing? (Can't argue with that).
I thought our conversation ended here, but moments later he continued (finally making eye contact) 'This time, how about chocolate-hazelnut with a bit of coffee in there somewhere?'

Aww, me boy is growing up!

Though this is without doubt our most favourite cake, it was never requested by the kids as the birthday cake. The cake is not too sweet but is moderately rich. The hazelnut flavour is just fantastic.

I found this recipe scribbled on a wee piece of paper tucked in my copy of Joy of Cooking. The recipe was in all likelihood jotted down from a book (sigh, don't remember which one) when browsing thru books in the local public library.

I usually use hazelnut meal but if I take the time to buy the nuts, roast, and grind them, I'm amply rewarded.

Most often, I make a chocolate-ganache which acts as the frosting and the filling. This time I made a chocolate-coffee frosting (recipe below) which turned out to be just right. So incredibly flavourful, full of that coffee-chocolate taste; a perfect foil for the hazelnut cake.

Hazelnut-Chocolate Cake
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter
1 ½ cups turbinado sugar (see Notes below)
2 large eggs
1 ¾ cup all purpose flour
1/3 tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 ¼ cup sour cream (low fat is ok but not fat-free)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup finely chopped toasted hazelnuts or hazelnut meal(see Notes below)
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or 3 oz coarsely chopped dark chocolate.

Grease the baking pans (one bundt, two 8inch round pans, or one 13x8 pan).
Preheat the oven to 350C.
Combine the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.
Cream the butter and sugar till well blended and fluffy.
Add and beat the eggs, one at a time.
Mix in the vanilla extract.
Add the dry ingredients to the butter-egg mixture alternately with the sour cream.
Stir in the chopped hazelnuts and chocolate.
Pour the batter in the prepared pan(s) and bake 35 mins (25 mins if using two pans) or till a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Instead of the turbinado sugar, 1 cup packed brown sugar can be used as well. But the turbinado sugar is preferred as it adds a bit of a crunch.
You can increase the amount of the hazelnut up to 1½ cups; proportionately decrease the quantity of the flour. If you increase the hazelnut any more, the cake doesn't hold well; been there, done that.

Chocolate-Coffee Frosting
1 cup whipping cream, chilled
¼ cup cocoa powder
½ cup confectioners sugar
1 tbsp instant coffee powder
1 tsp coffee liqueur

Mix all the ingredients and beat on medium speed for about 1-2 minutes (or till the mixture gets stiff enough for spreading).
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