Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake

One of my all-time favorite flavors is hazelnut.  I love hazelnut cake, I love hazelnut frosting, I love Ferrero Rocher, I love Nutella… the list goes on and on.

When my dad’s birthday came around, I asked what kind of cake he wanted, to which his reply was “a nut cake”.  I tried my hardest to get him to be a little more specific, but alas, I was left with “a nut cake” and nothing else.  I had seen this recipe for a hazelnut brown butter cake on Smitten Kitchen a while ago, and had been looking for an opportunity to try it out… and since hazelnuts qualify as nuts (I think they’re not one of those seeds-posing-as-nuts), I had my “nut cake”.

Now, I had been dying to try this cake because brown butter + hazelnut = ecstasy in my mind.  The finished result, while good, was not quite what I expected.  I had a few bumps along the way, and I’m attributing the final result to that.  

First – in the recipe, it asks for you to grind hazelnuts, powdered sugar, and flour into what would basically be a hazelnut flour.  This was a HUGE pain in my opinion – my ended up being sticky, clumpy, and not at all like a hazelnut flour would be.  This might be the way it’s supposed to be, but it ended up making everything more difficult in my mind – I could’ve easily gone to Whole Food or Trader Joe’s and looked for some hazelnut flour (hard to find, but certain places definitely do carry it).

Second – the recipe called for the pan to be brushed with melted butter.  I did this with a little hesitation… I understood brushing the parchment or the bottom of the pan, but not the sides.  Once I poured my batter in the pan, I had my concerns recognized – butter pooled on the sides of the cake, and I tried to smooth it out a little… but I think it prevented my cake from cooking correctly.  If I did this again, I would not brush the sides at all (and I would use MUCH less than 1 Tbsp of butter)

But all in all, the cake turned out well.  When I first made the ganache, the coffee flavor seemed VERY strong.  After sitting in the fridge overnight, however, the flavor seemed to dissipate… I didn’t taste it at all when we had the cake in our birthday celebration.

The last thing I’ll put before the recipe is my way of skinning hazelnuts – it is super simple (once you know what you’re doing).

  • Preheat your oven to 350.  Put the hazelnuts on a sheet pan with an edge (like a jelly-roll pan) and put in oven for 15 minutes.
  • Remove the pan of hazelnuts from the oven, and let cool for at least a half hour (you should be able to hear some “snap, crackle, and pops” coming off the hazelnuts when they come out of the oven).  It is very important to let these cool – this basically allows the hazelnuts to shrink back down to normal sized, but keeps the skins larger so they will peel easily.
  • Put the hazelnuts in the center of dish towel and gather up the sides so you have a bundle.  Roll this bundle around in a circular motion, pressing down slightly.  You should be able to feel the hazelnuts rolling over each other.

  • Open up your dish towel and pick out the hazelnuts.  If you have some that still have skins on, you can either try to re-roll them, or just keep them as is (some skins just don’t come off).

I find this method to be the best after years of making hazelnut biscotti – I tried doing the baking soda in water method, but all that happened was that my hazelnuts got waterlogged, making my biscotti take FOREVER to bake.

Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake (Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques)

  • 5 oz hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
  • 8 oz unsalted butter (plus small amount melted for brushing pan)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5.9 oz powdered sugar
  • 1.5 oz all-purpose flour
  • 6 large egg whites (5 whites if you use extra-large eggs)
  • 3 Tbsp granulated sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Take a piece of paper and fold into a pie shape (as if you are cutting a snowflake).  Flip your cake pan over, put the point of the paper in the center, and cut the paper where it meets the edge of the cake pan.  Brush the bottom of your pan with a small amount of melted butter, then place parchment circle in bottom of pan.
  2. Grind the hazelnuts and powdered sugar in a food processor until they are finely ground.  Add the flour, and continue to pulse until all combined.
  3. Place the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Melt to get to brown-butter stage (if you have not done this before, this info is great!)  Note: You do not want to get the butter too browned, as it will continue to cook as you let it sit.
  4. While you are melting the butter, place the egg whites in a mixer with a whisk attachment, and beat on medium until the eggs start to get foamy.  Add the sugar, and beat on medium-high until stiff peaks are formed.
  5. Alternately fold the dry ingredients and butter into the egg whites, starting and ending with the dry.  Be sure to scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan when you add in the butter – that is where the best flavor is.
  6. Pour the batter into the cake pan, and bake for around 40 minutes (the original recipe says longer, but mine was done and already pulling away from the sides of the pan at around 35 minutes).
  7. Cool cake in pan on rack for approximately 10 minutes; flip onto a cooling rack and continue to cool.

Chocolate Coffee Ganache

  • 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped small
  • 2 oz heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp granulated instant coffee
  1. Heat the heavy cream and coffee in a saucepan over medium heat until it just starts to simmer.  Be sure to stir so the cream doesn’t scorch on the bottom of the pan.
  2. Pour the cream over the chocolate, wait for a minute, then start stirring in the middle of the bowl in tight circles and work your way out, until the ganache is smooth.
  3. Pour over the middle of the cake (once the cake is cooled) and spread towards the edges with an offset spatula.  Allow to drip down the sides of the cake.
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3 thoughts on “Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake

  1. Pingback: Blueberry/Raspberry Yogurt Pie | Sweet Somethings

  2. This cake was SO good!! I HAVE to try and make it (since I live 2,000 miles away and can’t exactly pick one up every day) but I know mine won’t be nearly as wonderful as yours was! Maybe the fact that I also got to share it with your parents makes it even better. Maybe the fact that Julie and I had some for breakfast. Twice.:)
    But mostly because you are such a fantastic baker!
    Keep on baking! (And posting!)
    Love, Cyndi

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