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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Saturday, August 13, 2005

SHF: Coffee, Chocolate, Hazelnut....brilliant!

Since I bought Nigel Slater's book Appetite a few months ago, I've been wanting to make the final recipe in the book, called 'a great chocolate cake for family, friends, dessert, tea, birthdays...'. What struck me was his description before the recipe, in which he explains that the recipe actually came from Tamasin Day-Lewis (yes, Daniel's sister) who used wholemeal flour and brown sugar in her recipe. Nigel had changed his to plain flour and normal sugar, which sounded great, but the original really intrigued me. I've never used wholemeal flour before, but I'm trying to eat more wholegrain stuff now, so maybe I could convince myself it was a health-conscious cake.....? Nigel added coffee to his recipe, instead of milk, so when this month's Sugar High Friday theme was announced as coffee, I actually had a legitimate excuse to make this cake. Ahem. *cough*. Yeah, convince away.....

I could only find once reference on the internet for Tamasin's original recipe, and that recipe forgot to include any sugar, so I rather doubted its authority. I'm right into 'authority control' now I work as a cataloguer ;-). Although I have a pretty sketchy strike rate when doing my own modifications to recipes - in fact I'm well-known for not following the instructions and wondering why my recipe doesn't turn out - I threw caution to the wind and decided to go it alone.

Maybe I'm throwing off the curse of the experimental cook, but this is truly one of the best cakes I've ever made, and probably one of my top two this year; the other being the spicy chocolate gingerbread. It uses ground hazelnuts along with the wholemeal flour, which gives a really moist texture, but also it's almost grainy with that unrefined flour and nubbly bits of hazelnut. I made this cake on Thursday night without any event in mind to eat it, which is not a wise thing to do when you have a wedding coming up, in which you're a bridesmaid! So, even though I keep sneaking a little slice each time I walk through the kitchen (bad girl!), I worried that it would have dried out by today. But no! This cake is truly rustic and homely, and holds its moisture really well, no doubt helped by the ground nuts and shot of espresso coffee in the mix.

One of the best features is this sandy rubble of topping sprinkled onto the top before baking, which uses some reserved hazelnuts and chocolate from the batter. Doesn't it looks mouth-watering?? I used a chunk of dark couverture from Chocolatier, which was pretty luxurious and allowed me to chop proper chunks of chocolate, which you can't do when you buy a block of Lindt or whatever. The crushed hazelnuts on top toast and roast in the oven, and give the most brilliant flavour. It has a similarity to Nutella, you know, so if you're a fan of that (and who isn't?) you'll love this cake.

The coffee flavour is subtle, and gives a deeper note. You could possibly sprinkle some more espresso over the topping just after it comes out of the oven if you want a bigger coffee flavour. Hazelnuts are my favourite nut flavour, but Nigel suggests that walnuts or toasted almonds could also be used, which might be easier to find (I found my ground hazelnuts in a baking supply store and stored them in the freezer).

This would be the perfect cake to take on a picnic or take for dessert to a BBQ. It's homely and unpretentious, despite the pedigree of its ingredients. It's not the type of cake you'll find served on bone china with a cup of Darjeeling at High Tea, but the type of cake you could feel quite comfortable shovelling into your mouth with your fingers. And I reckon that's its real winning point. Top stuff.
Read on for the recipe:

Wholemeal Chocolate, Hazelnut & Coffee cake
Adapted from Nigel Slater, Appetite p.438.

Nigel says you can make a few changes to the recipe without coming unstuck. He suggests walnuts or lightly toasted almonds instead of hazelnuts. He also suggests adding the finely grated zest of a small orange or even some finely chopped fruit such as dried apricots or stoned ready-to-eat prunes.

250g butter (1 block)
125g soft brown sugar
125g white or raw sugar (feel free to play with these sugar amounts)
4 large eggs
3-4 tablespoons strong espresso coffee
250g wholemeal plain flour
2 heaped teaspoons baking powder
200g skinned hazelnuts, coarsely ground (I used 100g ready ground, and 100g whole nuts)
250g good, dark chocolate - coarsely chopped (it should look like gravel)

23cm springform cake tin (for ease of removing the cake afterwards) or a normal cake tin.

-Line the cake tin with greaseproof paper, even if it is non-stick.
-Set the oven at 180C
-Beat the butter and sugars til they are fluffy and pale, preferably with an electric beater unless you want a real upper body workout doing it by hand
-Add the eggs one at a time, beating lightly between each addition. Don't worry if the mixture curdles.
-Stir in the coffee
-Dunp in in the flour and baking powder and fold them in, then fold in most of the hazelnuts and chopped chocolate, keeping a little back for the top of the cake. The mixture should be quite firm.
-Spoon it into the lined tin and smooth the top
-Scatter over the remaining hazelnuts and nuts
-Bake for about 1h 20 minutes or until the cake is springy. (Mine took about 1.5 hours). Test its donenss by spearing the centre with a skewer. It should come out without any raw batter on it
-Leave for 30 minutes or so before cutting. It is at its best slightly warm and loose textured.

Note: Because I used a combination of ready ground and whole nuts I ground in the processor, I think my cake was a bit more dense than Nigel's. If you want a looser textured cake, I'd suggest you grind all the nuts yourself.


  • My local Woolworths stocks ground hazelnuts and I think Coles does as well.

    That cake sounds great!

    By Anonymous anna v, at 8/13/2005 05:22:00 pm  

  • Yum. This cake looks sensational! That topping is... ooh... *drool*

    I love a cake I can shovel. Actually I think I do that with all of them regardless =)

    By Anonymous augustusgloop, at 8/13/2005 08:35:00 pm  

  • Hi Niki, where did you get the chunk of Chocolatier couveture from? I can't find a list of stockists on their site.

    I recently tried Kennedy & Wilson's couveture and I'd like to decide on a local favourite!

    By Blogger plum, at 8/13/2005 09:00:00 pm  

  • Anna - That's interesting, cos I haven't found them around where I live. What area of Melbourne (Melbourne, yes?)do you live? I'd love to be about to buy ground hazelnuts more often so I don't have to hoard them in the freezer.

    AG - Oh, yes. Shovelling as you scurry through the kitchen denying all knowledge, with crumbs on your lips....

    Plum - Yeah, their website isn't great, is it? The Chocolatier factory and main shop is in the suburb where I live (although at the other end of it), so it's pretty convenient for me to pop in and pick up a box of truffles or whatever. They don't advertise that they sell couverture and I didn't know about it until one day I was there before Christmas and I heard another woman asking for it. It's pretty good chocolate, but not 70% cocoa solids, so I reckon if you live near The Essential Ingredient in Prahan (you're in that direction, aren't you?) that you're better off buying the chunks of Lindt couverture they sell there. I hardly ever get 'over the river', and I long for those huge chunks of Lindt!

    By Blogger Niki, at 8/13/2005 09:06:00 pm  

  • Checked out your blog it's great!

    I have a fan blades site/blog. It pretty much covers fan blades related stuff.

    Come and see it some time.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/13/2005 10:03:00 pm  

  • Wow, the cake looks delicious and has some of my favorite ingredients, particularly the espresso and the hazelnuts.

    Can't wait to try it out.

    By Blogger Ruth, at 8/13/2005 10:25:00 pm  

  • Stunning, as usual, Niki. I can almost taste it from the photos! And congrats on your sucessful modification!

    By Blogger Nic, at 8/14/2005 12:05:00 am  

  • Niki...that's a great-looking cake. I only wish I could get excited by coffee-flavored things!

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 8/14/2005 12:08:00 am  

  • I'm in Brisbane. YK the city where you bought the last remaindered copy of _Toast_;)?

    I'm not in a classy part of town like New Farm, we're very low rent down here so it's surprising that both Woolies and Coles have it as standard stock. The Lucky brand in the dried fruit aisle?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/14/2005 06:34:00 pm  

  • ooops that was me, Anna V.

    By Anonymous anna v, at 8/14/2005 06:42:00 pm  

  • Hi Niki, this cake looks splendid! I think it even looks a bit healthy, in a rustic kind of way!

    I've bought hazelnut meal from my local Woolies (from that evil empire "Lucky" but I'm not sure if it's the same as ground hazelnuts - it might be a bit finer...

    I'm still on the lookout for a budget almond meal supplier for my friands too! :)

    By Blogger Kelly, at 8/14/2005 06:48:00 pm  

  • Indian shops have almond meal for comparatively cheap. It's definitely coarser than the Lucky almond meal but it's OK for orange/almond cakes and the like. Two of my household can't eat gluten so I'm always on the hunt for cheap. I haven't used the Indian shop variety for friands but I can't see why it couldn't work unless you particularly wanted a very fine result.

    It's usually made with almonds with skin instead of skinned.

    By Anonymous Anna V, at 8/14/2005 08:29:00 pm  

  • Hi Niki,

    Just found your blog while foodblog surfing. Wanted to say that the cake looks fantastic and really healthy too. Definitely something I would want to make and leave a few slices in the office and graze on throughout the day.


    By Anonymous ChubbyCat, at 8/14/2005 09:06:00 pm  

  • When I was making a lot of european biscuits (sadly a thing of the past now I've a toddler with nut allergies), I bought a nut grinder. Fresh nut meal is noticeably yummier, and it means you can do walnuts or any other nut that takes your fancy. It has a suction-thingy that attaches it to the table and is very easy to use. I found mine at the Diamaru kitchen shop (now sadly a thing of the past), but I've seen them at other cook-ware shops.

    Love your site!

    By Anonymous din, at 8/15/2005 08:47:00 am  

  • The cake looks awesome !!

    Not sure if they still do it (or even if it's still around), there was a Turkish deli that sells different types of nuts (and products) just along Russell Street, before Lonsdale Street and opposite the QV building I think.

    By Blogger pseudo chef, at 8/15/2005 04:11:00 pm  

  • (sound of lips smacking...!) What a great looking cake, Niki. Oh no, so many recipes I want to try (btw, chilli choc shortbread turned out YUMMO and friends all LOVED it!)

    Pseudo Chef: Yes, the Lebanese nut shop on Russell is still there. Walk past it almost everyday - didn't realise they sell ground hazelnuts...

    By Blogger cin, at 8/15/2005 11:48:00 pm  

  • Niki, that cake looks great with the topping. I love the combination of hazelnuts and chocolate. With coffee thrown in, it sounds heavenly.

    By Blogger boo_licious, at 8/16/2005 12:23:00 pm  

  • Anon - whoa, spam! Get away from me. Fan blades indeed.

    Ruth - definitely worth trying. It has that aura of health about it too - despite the entire block of butter. It a cake of anomaly!

    Nic - the first modification I've made that really worked. Thanks!

    Stehpanie - The original recipe from Day-Lewis actually included milk, rather than coffee, so it's still an option if you want to give it a go. The coffee flavour is really subtle in this. I would jack if up a bit when making it again to get more coffee flavour.

    Anna - that's very impressive. We're lucky to find bog standard ground almonds in the supermarket here. No ground hazelnuts around my area, worse luck!

    Kelly - it sort of reminds me of a lumberjack cake, in its dense heartiness. And I can convince myself it's not really bad for me.... Yes, the stuff I bought from the baking shop was hazelnut meal, which was skinned and finer. I think it's the reason my cake was denser than Nigel's photo.

    Chubbycat - tbank so much! It'd be a good cake to bring in for workmates. Not too fussy or prissy. Just good, solid working fare. Yum.

    Din - thank you! A suction-top nut grinder - wow! Is it a bit like a spice or coffee grinder? Sounds very cool. You must have been making a lot of biscuits at the time!

    Pseudo Chef & Cin - bugger! I don't work in the city any longer or I'd be straight down in the next lunchbreak. I'm out here in the suburbs, but I have noticed the uni food co-op sells nuts - so I'm going to check them out. And when I next in the city, I hope to suss out this nut shop!

    Cin - Wow - you made the choc chili biscuits. How excellent! I still have a log in the freezer waiting for the next opportunity. Can I ask if you sandwiched yours with anything?

    boolicious - it's a brilliant combination. Just like a piece of nutella bread with a cup of coffee.

    By Blogger Niki, at 8/16/2005 03:15:00 pm  

  • Niki,
    Your photos make me want to try this cake. I usually shy away from anything wholemeal, since those things aren't easy to come by where I live. But if you say that this tastes like Nutella with coffee, well by gosh, I *will* try this!


    By Blogger Lori, at 8/16/2005 03:24:00 pm  

  • re the nut grinder: tried to find picture of it on web, the closest I could find is:


    Mine is plastic (apart from grater-barrel) and attaches to the table via suction rather than the clamp in this picture.

    I used to go crazy baking biscuits at Christmas time, a different sort each night in early December then mix and share with family and friends. This year now I'm not cooking with egg or nuts I might try shortbread and variations (definitely try a version of the chilli and chocolate shortbread).

    By Anonymous din, at 8/16/2005 10:29:00 pm  

  • Lori - Nigel's modified recipe in his book actually uses plain white flour, so it wouldn't be any problem to use that instead. He also used demerara (raw) sugar, rather than soft brown. It might have a slightly difference texture using those, but I think it's a forgiving recipe, and easy to substitute.

    By Blogger Niki, at 8/17/2005 09:38:00 am  

  • Din - that shows some serious dedication to baking - I'm highly impressed! My nights leading to Christmas are filled with far too many rehearsals and concerts, and I always wish I could bake more. The grinder reminds of those hand-held parmesan graters. Does it create quite a fine meal, or it it fairly rustic and coarse? (which I tend to prefer, actually)
    One of my first posts which was an entry for IMBB last year was for caramel cornflake cookies. They sound a bit bogan and trashy, but they were one of the most popular things I've made, and so very easy. You can do a search for 'cornflake' in the box at the top, or find them in the subject archive - the nuts in the recipe are optional, and the 1 egg is just for binding and could be substituted for more a little honey or golden syrup.
    I recently watched an episode of the Aussie version of Ready, Steady, Cook which had a woman contestant who had a child allergic to nuts, eggs, seafood, dairy, coconut etc. and had run out of ideas, so the challenge was on the chef to make something. I only remember her making rock cakes using jam to bind the mixture rather than eggs & milk, which I thought was inventive!

    By Blogger Niki, at 8/17/2005 09:47:00 am  

  • Niki - as always you've pulled off a fabulous looking and fantastic sounding dessert. SHF simply wouldn't be a sugar high without you! Thanks!

    By Blogger Jennifer, at 8/17/2005 10:36:00 am  

  • This looks fantastic!
    I will be able to make it too with my new oven which is being installed today (actually right now!) Wohoo!

    By Blogger Clare Eats, at 8/17/2005 12:34:00 pm  

  • The nut grinder is much like a parmesan grater, having just looked them up. The ground nut does come out quite fine, which worked well for this style of biscuit, where the nut provides favour, richness and that nice 'short' texture. That said I certain relate to wanting a coarser texture, nuts are so yummy, its nice to know they are there (sigh). May the food procesor is the way to go, just don't make nut butter!

    I'll give the caramel cornflake cookies a go, they sound very moreish. The up-side of this allergy thing is its forced me to be more analytical as to why a recipe works and whether substitions or variations are possible. I'd not really considered that biscuits like these and anzacs work because the sugar/sugar equivalent acts to hold them together.

    By Anonymous din, at 8/18/2005 02:32:00 pm  

  • Niki! I made it! And you're absolutely right, it's truly yummy! I put some pics up on my blog here of it. I think I kept a few too many nuts back for the top but it's still yummy.

    I made another of those yummy chocolate orange cakes of yours last week too, and got the ganache right this time! It was super!

    By Blogger FactoBrunt, at 8/22/2005 07:31:00 am  

  • I love Nigels. Here is Tamasin's

    Hazelnut and Chocolate Cake

    by Tamasin Day-Lewis
    from Tamasin's Weekends

    An irresistible teatime treat from Tamasin Day Lewis - a rich, chocolatey hazelnut cake with a crunchy nut topping

    Servings: 6
    Level of difficulty: Intermediate
    Preparation Time: 35 minutes
    Cooking Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

    oil, for greasing
    175g wholemeal flour
    2 1/2 tsp Baking powder
    175g unsalted butter
    3 eggs, beaten
    2 tbsp Milk
    200g best quality bitter chocolate, finely chopped
    125g ground hazelnuts
    25g Hazelnuts, chopped

    1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/gas 4.

    2. Grease and line an 18cm springform cake tin.

    3. Sift the flour and baking powder, returning the sifted-out bran to the bowl.

    4. Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy.

    5. Add the eggs, a little at a time, beating between each addition.

    6. Using a metal spoon, fold in the milk, and sifted flour and baking powder, mixing thoroughly.

    7. Add about two-thirds of the chopped chocolate, together with the ground hazelnuts.

    8. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, levelling the surface. Sprinkle with the chopped hazelnuts and the remaining chocolate.

    9. Bake in the centre of the oven for 1 hour, then cover the cake with a sheet of greaseproof paper to prevent the nuts from burning. Bake for 30 minutes more or until the centre feels springy when lightly touched.

    10. Release the springform tin and leave to cool.

    By Anonymous Kerry Thornbury, at 12/08/2005 09:48:00 pm  

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