Saturday 20 December 2008

The Cake Slice – Decembers Cake: Chocolate Hazelnut Nutcracker Cake

An intriguing sounding cake that is perfect for this festive season. Below are the author’s words as to how the cake got its name.

“This cake is delicious any time of year but it was specially designed for the Christmas holidays – The Nutcracker is a play on the hazelnuts which are a key ingredient and a play on the popular ballet associated with this season.The layers can be baked in advance but the cake is best served the day it is assembled, allow it is best to leave it 6-8 hours before serving to allow the flavours to meld together and the crème to set up. The cake can be stored in the fridge for 3 days but the recipe contains so little flour that it will start to turn pudding-like.”

Sounds delicious doesn’t it? I played around with the recipe a bit for this cake. I chose to bake cupcakes instead of the large cake and used walnuts in place of hazelnuts as I had some that needed using up. I also replaced the crushed biscuits crumbs with leftover gingerbread cookies, which I had great fun attacking with a rolling pin and I think added extra flavour to the batter. The recipe suggests blitzing the nuts in a food processor but while away at uni I don’t have access to one of these and so I chopped the nuts by hand as finely as I could but I still ended up with a few largish chunks. However, I loved the texture this gave the cupcakes and I think it helped keep them very moist and wonderfully light. I also topped the cupcakes with leftover royal icing that I stored away in the fridge after making the gingerbread cookies from the previous week – I can’t let anything go to waste! Baked into pretty liners and topping with a few chocolate sprinkles I think the cakes look quite festive. Due to such a small amount of flour used, the cakes have a springy soft texture and a wonderful nutty flavour. They certainly went down a treat with my flat mates.

Chocolate Hazelnut Nutcracker Cake
(Recipe from Shy High Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Alisa Huntsman & Peter Wynne)
Makes one 9inch triple layer cake
Ingredients – for the cake layers
140g skinned hazelnuts
150g whole graham crackers (or digestive biscuits), broken into pieces
175g caster sugar
50g plain chocolate, finely grated
10 eggs, separated
55ml vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
60g plain flour
1½ tsp mixed spice
1 tsp baking powder

Dark chocolate curls for decoration

Method – for the cake layers
Preheat the oven to 170C. Butter the bottom and sides of 3 x 9inch cake tins. Line the base with parchment paper and dust the sides with flour, tap out any excess.
Spread the nuts onto a baking tray and toast for 10-12 minutes until lightly browned. Leave to cool completely. Increase the oven temperature to 180C.
In a food processor, grind the graham crackers to crumbs. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Add the toasted nuts to the processor (no need to wash) and add 30g of sugar. Pulse until the nuts are finely ground, but do not blitz too much or else it will form a paste. Add the nuts, graham cracker crumbs (crushed digestives) and grated chocolate together in the bowl and mix.
In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and 70g of sugar using an electric mixer until well blended. Add the oil and vanilla slowly, beating until ribbons begin to form on the surface of the mixture. Then, fold in the chocolate nut crumbs.
Place the egg whites in a clean bowl and beat until thick and foamy. Gradually add the remaining 75g of sugar, continuing to beat until the whites form stiff peaks. Fold a third of the egg whites into the yolk mixture and mix well to slacken the mix. Sift over the flour, spice and baking powder and fold in. Gently fold in the rest of the egg whites until no streaks remain but do not over mix.
Divide the batter between the three pans and bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the layers cool in the pans for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire wrack to cool completely.
To assemble the cake, place a layer on a cake stand, flat side up. Sprinkle it with a third of the rum syrup and let it all soak in for 1-2 minutes. Spread 1/5 of crème Chantilly over the top, right to the edge. Repeat with the remaining layers, letting the syrup soak in before adding the crème.
Use the rest of the crème to cover the sides of the cake. Decorate the top with dark chocolate curls.

Rum Syrup
55g sugar
55ml water
55ml dark rum
Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Place over a medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the rum. Allow to cool before using.

Crème Chantilly
450ml double cream
3 tbsp icing sugar
1½ tsp vanilla extract
Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla in a chilled bowl and whip until the cream is stiff but not too thick or buttery.


Snooky doodle said...

these are so cute and they look so so yummy :)

Sweet Treats by Dani said...

love the mini version :)

Megan said...

What a great idea to make cupcakes - and they certainly look perfectly delicious!

Mumsy said...

Great job. I love the cupcakes. I thought about doing cupcakes, too. And I'm a slacker and haven't made mine yet. Today!

They look lovely!

The Food Librarian said...

What a great idea to make these into cupcakes!!! I love them. I made mini-cakes too.

Gigi said...

Simply adorable! I love the addition of gingerbread cookies. Great job!

Nic said...

Your cupcakes are gorgeous Katie, I love the topping that you used.

Anonymous said...

Diabolically clever to make cupcakes.

TeaLady said...

Pretty cup cakes.

steph- whisk/spoon said...

such cute mini cakes! gingersnaps were a great idea!

Caroline said...

Great idea about making them as cupcakes, they look yummy!

Jo said...

I was wondering if anyone would come up with a cupcake version .. :) great job!

superfine* said...

hi gigi,

love the idea!

i sent you an email to join the cake slice and never heard back. is the group still accepting members? thanks!

Jodie said...

I like your subs! Great job!