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Sincere Acts of Sweetness

April 26, 2013

Chocolate Glazed Hazelnut Espresso Cake

I spoiled my coworkers with a choice of six Bundt cakes to help make a mundane meeting taste a little sweeter. Out of the six cakes that I made, this one was devoured the fastest. Folks made a bee-line directly for it. I think the lusciously thick chocolate glaze that graced the top of this cake was just too difficult to ignore. Moreover, the classic combination of chocolate, hazelnut and coffee was just too  hard to resist too. This cake is a trifecta of awesomeness.

I don't know about you but when you see the word "hazelnut" in a recipe, I think two things: first, "ooh yum!" and second, "ugh... too time consuming". This is because I always lament having to spend time removing countless thin, papery skins from the nuts. It's a lot of tedious work, but thanks to a tip I read in Dorie Greenspan's Baking with Julia cookbook, it's actual quite simple.

According to Dorie and Alice Medrich (who co-authored the recipe in the book where I learned this trick), the best way to get the bitter skins off hazelnuts is by giving them a luxurious dunk in a hot baking soda bath. They emerge ready to shed their skins in a flash!

Removing Skins from Hazelnuts

3 cups of water
4 1/2 tablespoons baking soda
1 cups of unblanched hazelnuts

Preheat the oven to 350F. Bring the water to boil in a medium saucepan, add the baking soda and the nuts and boil for 3 to 5 minutes, until the water turns black -- don't fret, it's normal! To test if the skins have loosened sufficiently, drop a nut into a bowl of cold water and rub lightly against the skin. If the skin just slides off, the nuts are ready to go. If the skins don't come off easily, continue to boil, testing every 30 seconds to a minute. When they are ready, turn the nuts into a colander and run really cold water over them. Simply slip off the skins using your hands or a cloth, toss the nuts onto a towel, pat dry, and transfer to a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet.

Place the pan in the oven and toast the nuts, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, or until evenly browned. The best way to test for total toastiness is to bite into a nut (careful, it will be hot!) -- it should be brown to the center. When the nuts are sufficiently browned, remove the nuts from the oven and cool. 

So with this time saving tip, you'll have nothing stopping you from making this delicious treat!

Chocolate Glazed Espresso Hazelnut Cake
Yield: 8-14 slices, depending on how you cut it.
Adapted from Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman

2/3 cup full fat sour cream (look at the ingredients and make sure it's all natural, no icky stuff you can't pronounce), at room temperature
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (don't skimp, no imitation junk)
1 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned and finely chopped
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon of salt
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 12-cup Bundt pan and dust with flour or spray with Pam for Baking. Be sure to get the center tube portion of the pan. Set aside.

Whisk together the sour cream, eggs and vanilla in a large glass measuring cup. Whisk together the nuts, espresso powder, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

Combine the butter and sugar in a large bowl and cream with an electric mier on medium-high speed until really fluffy and pale, about 3-5 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and mixer blade as needed.

Add 1/3 of the flour mixture, mix a little by hand, and then mix on low speed just until incorporated. Add 1/2 of the sour cream mixture, mix a little by hand, and then mix again on low speed. Repeat steps with remaining flour and sour cream and then remaning flour. Scrape down the bowl and mixer blade as needed. Remember, just mix until the flour disappears and/or the sour cream is fully incorporated.

Scrape batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then invert the cake onto a wire rack to cool completely.  Start the glaze while the cake is cooling.

Chocolate Glaze
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (avoid chips if you can and go for a better quality chocolate if you can. The better the chocolate the better the cake will be)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Combine the chocolate, oil and corn syrup in a stainless steel bowl.

Simmer 1 inch of water in the bottom of a medium saucepan. Put the stainless steel bowl on top of the simmering water, making sure that the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl.

Heat, whisking occasionally, until the chocolate is completely melted. Stir in the vanilla. Drizzle over the cake, letting it drip down the sides. Let stand until the glaze is set, about 1 hour. Slice and serve.

Store uneaten cake in a cake keeper or wrap in plastic -- as if there will be any!


  1. Ty for remindine me about the tip for de-skinning hazelnuts. I always forget! Though I use ground hazelnuts/hazelnut flour, the finely chopped texture will be divine. And adding espresso powder, sigh, I'll eat the entire cake. Will move to my "tried and true" pinterest board from "cakes" as soon as I've made it.

    1. :) I'll have to give the hazelnut flour a try. I image you make your own?

    2. Oh, no. Trader Joe's here in California always has ground almonds, and at least around the holidays they have ground hazelnuts and sometimes pecans called pecan meal. Whilst great for flour-free cakes, not enough texture for those crunchy bits but probably a nice addition. It's getting made today

  2. Hi Julia! This looks amazing..! I love hazelnuts. In Europe they are way more popular than they are over here, they are kindof like the almonds over here in terms of availability and them being in *everything*. I miss my chocolate bars with whole hazelnuts, but the absolute best is hazelnut icecream. Mmmmmh. Anyways, you made this look relatively easy - now I just need to find the actual nuts! You've got me drooling :)

  3. It's a messy business skinning hazelnuts....worth every second though!


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