Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge Cake
It was A's birthday on Friday and we had a final rehearsal for the Australian premiere/direct radio broadcast, which meant we couldn't have an enjoyable restaurant dinner or night out to celebrate. Bah! It also meant, that he had to supply a cake for everyone at rehearsal (birthday rules, you know!). But there are much worse ways to spend your birthday than singing stunning music and spending the evening with your friends! It wasn't so bad at all.
I had the day off on Friday so offered to bake a cake; it was the perfect opportunity to try something in the long list in my must-try list. Many things on that list are not appopriate to make just for the family or myself, so this chance was great! I chose to try Nigella's Chocolate Fudge Cake with Chocolate Fudge Icing, that I first noticed a year ago on A Spoonful of Sugar. I thought that would go down well with everyone (our little group mainly comprising women and gay men...all of whom seem to love chocolate!). I love Nigella's baking recipes, so this was perfect.
I decided to jazz it up a little with the flavour and texture of hazelnuts. I needed to decorate it somehow, and hazelnuts are my favourite nut. I think I was also inspired by the photo in Domestic Goddess of the Autumnal Birthday Cake (also on the must try list...when I can afford that much maple syrup) where she threw chopped pecans at the sides of the cake.
The cake was very easy to bake, although I was slightly alarmed at the amount of butter and oil that went into it. I couldn't be bothered trying to source corn oil, and a bit of Googling suggested olive oil could be substituted. It seemed to work fine. They took a little less than the time specified to cook through, and they were perfectly moist and very dark coloured, which offset the coffee coloured icing.
The icing horrified me by using the biggest block of butter I've seen! I closed my eyes and reminded myself it was a special occasion. That said, I actually found it to taste a little too buttery and rich. I think it needed more chocolate added to it too; it was a little pale in colour and chocolate flavour. I added some great hazelnut essence I bought at a baking store recently. I guess I could have used Frangelico too, but I was cooking for 20 people here!
The hazelnuts were just chopped briefly in the food processor (I actually started chopping them by hand until I slapped myself around the head which brought me to my senses). I then just threw the chopped nuts at the side of the cake, held my breath in hope and patted them in. They actually stuck, so I was very happy!
This was a fabulous birthday cake, and everybody loved it. I received lots of compliments and even managed to sneak home the one leftover slice to enjoy later that evening.
Read on for the recipe!
Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge Cake
Adapted from Nigella Bites
Serves 10. Or 1 with a broken heart
For the cake:
400g plain flour
250g golden caster sugar
100g light muscovado sugar
50g best quality cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
142ml/small tub sour cream
1 tbsp vanilla extract
175g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
125ml olive oil
300ml chilled water
For the fudge icing:
175g dark chocolate,
250g unsalted butter, softened
275g icing sugar, sifted
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1.5 tbsp hazelnut essence
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.
Butter and line the bottom of two 20cm sandwich tins. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugars, cocoa, baking powder, bicarb and salt. In another bowl or wide-necked measuring jug whisk together the eggs, sour cream and vanilla until blended.
Using a freestanding or handheld electric mixer, beat together the melted butter and corn oil until just blended (you’ll need another large bowl for this if using the hand whisk; the freestanding mixer comes with its own bowl), then beat in the water. Add the dry ingredients all at once and mix together on a slow speed. Add the egg mixture, and mix again until everything is blended and then pour into the prepared tins. And actually, you could easily do this manually; I just like my toys and find the KitchenAid a comforting presence in itself.
Bake the cakes for 50-55 minutes, or until a cake-tester comes out clean. Cool the cakes in their tins on a wire rack for 15 minutes, and then turn the cakes out onto the rack to cool completely.
To make the icing, melt the chocolate in the microwave – 2-3 minutes on medium should do it – or in a bowl sitting over a pan of simmering water, and let cool slightly. In another bowl, beat the butter until it's soft and creamy (again, I use the KitchenAid here) and then add the sieved icing sugar and beat again until everything's light and fluffy. I know sieving is a pain, the one job in the kitchen I really hate, but you have to do it or the icing will be unsoothingly lumpy. Then gently add the vanilla, hazelnut essence and chocolate and mix together until everything is glossy and smooth.
Sandwich the middle of the cake with about a quarter of the icing, and then ice the top and sides, too, spreading and smoothing with a rubber spatula. Throw the chopped hazelnuts at the side, while the icing is still wet, so they stick. Decorate with halved hazelnuts around the top.