Chocolate Cake with Hazelnut Buttercream

This week I decided to finally take on a classic and make a chocolate cake (although since it is FINALLY sunny in Chicago, I was originally leaning more towards something coconut-limey… but soon, soon).  Personally, chocolate and hazelnut go together like PB&J for me – the flavor combination is absolutely delicious, and all I can think of is Ferrero Rocher (yum).

I had never made a hazelnut buttercream before, so I wasn’t entirely sure on how this was going to go.  I found a basic recipe to get to a hazelnut paste, and then pulled my Italian Buttercream recipe out of my back pocket (from school) and just figured I could combine it all into one frosting.  After I made the frosting last night, I kept adding more hazelnut paste because all I could taste was butter.  But now, looking back, I think I should’ve gone with the minimum of hazelnut, because the flavor developed overnight (and at that time of the evening, my palate was probably pretty worn out).

This chocolate cake had RAVE reviews on Epicurious… but to be honest, it wasn’t chocolatey enough for me (and that’s saying something – I’m not a huge chocolate fan).  I ran out of cocoa powder, so I followed one reviewers substitution for the chocolate syrup, but I think that the cocoa powder would have added a much stronger chocolate flavor.  Don’t get me wrong, it is definitely not a bad cake, just a mild chocolate cake.  The hazelnut buttercream honestly overpowers the cake, which I was very surprised at.  But it is still very delicious, and I will definitely make it again with a few modifications.  The batter for this cake is extremely liquid, it almost looks like a melted chocolate shake in texture. 

When I constructed this cake, in additional to the hazelnut buttercream, I also brushed each layer with simple syrup, and then sprinkled crushed hazelnuts on top of the buttercream in the middle layer.  It lends a nice crunch to the cake, which is something I love to have in my desserts.

Even with the hazelnut paste incorporated, this buttercream was suprisingly easy to pipe; however, the chocolate cake was very delicate and I had to be very careful about not getting crumbs incorporated in the frosting.  If you make this cake to frost, you can only frost in one direction – a back-and-forth motion will get chocolate crumbs everywhere.

Recipes used are below, with my modifications included.

Chocolate Cake (adapted from Epicurious)

  • 3 oz quality semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (NOT Dutch process)
  • 3/4 cup chocolate syrup
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/8 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, shaken
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 300.  Grease two 10″ cake pans (or spray with Pam for baking).  Cut a parchment circle and place in bottom of pan, then spray/grease the parchment.
  2. In a small bowl, pour hot coffee over chocolate, and stir until all combined.  Let cool
  3. Sift together all dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt).  In a separate bowl, mix oil, syrup, buttermilk, and vanilla.
  4. In a mixer with a whip attachment, start beating eggs until they are golden in color and slightly thick.  Alternately pour the coffee/chocolate mixture and the buttermilk mixture until all combined.
  5. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the batter, allowing to incorporate after each addition. 
  6. Divide batter between cake pans (I had approximately 1200 g of batter per pan).  Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted comes out clean.
  7. Remove from oven, and let cool until cake pulls slightly away from pan (approximately 5 minutes).  Flip out onto a cooling rack, and remove parchment.  Allow to cool completely.

Hazelnut Italian Buttercream

  • 1 cup hazelnuts, toasted
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1/2 tsp hazelnut extract
  • 4 oz. egg whites
  • 8 oz sugar
  • 2 oz water
  • 14 oz butter
  1. Put hazelnuts, powdered sugar, first egg white, and hazelnut extract in a food processor, and wait until a paste is formed.  Set aside.
  2. Pour the sugar and water into a saucepan and heat over medium high heat.  DO NOT STIR – if you stir the sugar mixture, you risk crystallizing the sugar, therefore making it un-usable.
  3. Once the sugar syrup reaches 215 degrees F, put the second amount of egg whites in a mixer with a whip attachment and whip on high until stiff peaks form.
  4. When the temperature of the sugar syrup reaches 238-240 degrees, or the soft ball stage, remove the pot from heat and slowly stream the syrup into the egg whites, down the side of the bowl while the eggs are still whisking.  Make sure the syrup does not touch the whisk, or it the sugar will harden on the whisk.
  5. Continue whisking on high until the meringue cools down; the bowl should be cool to the tough.  Add the butter, a piece at a time, while the mixer is still whisking.  Add the vanilla and hazelnut paste to taste, and continue to whisk until combined.
  6. Buttercream can be stored in an airtight container for 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator, or frozen for up to 2 months.

2 thoughts on “Chocolate Cake with Hazelnut Buttercream

  1. It looks so yummy! I recently, too, was on the hunt for a good chocolate cake and found one that uses both a little actual chocolate (melted in coffee which I was leery of, even though its meant to deepen the flavor) and cocoa powder. DELISH! I’d be happy to share the link, if you were interested. As for the crumbs in the frosting? THAT is the main reason I freeze my cakes and then crumb-coat them. 🙂

    • Totally agree – but most of the time I don’t have time to freeze my cakes (I tend to make it all in one day because I’m special like that) 🙂 I think you probably found the same recipe that I used, or the one on Allrecipes maybe? I saw that too, and was debating between the two…

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