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Lately, my mind has wandered to nuts. Cold and frosty mornings do that to me – remind me of my childhood and sitting by a crackling fire eating hazelnuts, or ‘filberts’ as we used to call them, and drinking hot chocolate. And there you have that famous combination taste of hazelnuts and chocolate that has translated into so many popular sweet treats like Lindt Balls, Ferrero Rocher, Guylian Belgian Chocolates and Nutella. Well, this cake is equally seductive.

Here, in the subtropics, it’s rare for us to get frosts, but you don’t have to travel very far inland to get frosts and snow. My daughter was out on the New England Tablelands last weekend – three hours away – with sub-zero temperatures, crisp blue skies, crackling paddocks and full moon setting as the sun rose. I made this cake for her to take because it was her birthday.

This is an absolutely scrumptious cake that comes under my ‘best ever’ list. I don’t know if your are like me, but I try lots of different recipes that look yummy but very few make into my regular repertoire that I will make over and over again. Usually, with cakes, it is simply because the recipe doesn’t work – or it tastes awful!

So, why does this cake make it onto my list of tried and true? Well, apart from the scruminess, it is fail proof – you just have to follow the recipe.

I first tried cakes like this when I moved to Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs in the mid 1970’s, with its large population of migrants from Eastern Europe they had fortunately brought their cake baking skills and cafe culture with them.  This cake has its history in those places that make chocolate and grow hazelnuts and is very similar to a traditional Austrian Linzer torte or Hungarian Dobos torte – though these would generally be layered with more chocolate and cream. (If you are in Sydney you can try these treats at the Gelato Bar on Bondi Beach or the Cosmopolitan in Double Bay – I’ve had many a late night where I did just that).

RECIPE
200g dark, good quality 70% chocolate, chopped
150g butter, chopped
6 eggs, separated
2/3 cup caster sugar
1 1/2 cups hazelnut meal
double cream, to serve

FOR THE GANACHE (Icing) 100g good quality dark chocolate 1/3 cup cream 1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped


NOTE: I have learned that successful cake making depends a lot on using the correct size tin for the recipe – you can’t alter it and expect good results.

METHOD
1. Preheat oven to 170°C/150°C fan-forced. Grease a 6cm-deep, 20cm (base) round cake pan. Line base and side with baking paper.


2. Combine chocolate and butter in a small saucepan over VERY low heat. Stir until melted. My tip is to turn the heat off as soon as the chocolate starts to melt – it will be hot enough to melt the rest of the chocolate and butter – and that way will take less time to cool down before adding to the rest of the cake.


3. Place egg yolks and sugar in a bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat until thick and creamy – this will take a few minutes – be patient.

4. Add cooled chocolate mixture. Beat to combine. Add hazelnut meal. Beat to combine..

4. Place egg whites in a bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat until soft peaks form. Using a metal spoon, stir one-third of egg whites into chocolate mixture. Gently fold remaining eggwhite through chocolate mixture.


5. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from oven. Stand in pan for 10 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

TO MAKE THE GANACHE. Place chocolate in saucepan over very low heat and melt. Remove from heat and cool. Stir in cream to combine. Spread over the top of the cake when it is cool. Add the toasted hazelnuts as a decoration however your fancy takes you!

It’s always good to have an extra pair of hands for the clean-up!


NOTE: About whipping egg whites.  Always make sure your bowl and beaters are clean and dry.  You will have more success with fresh, free range eggs that are at room temperature.   The beaten egg whites act as the raising agent in this cake.  As the air bubbles heat up in the oven they expand and make the cake rise – that’s why it’s important to remember two things; 1. Fold the egg whites into the mix with a metal spoon NOT anything that will squash the air bubbles, 2. Make sure the cake is cooked properly before you take it out of the oven, otherwise it will collapse in the middle.

Now, I think it’s time to keep warm by the fire, put the kettle on, and enjoy a piece of this delicious cake.

NOTE. I am very fortunate to live next door to a professional cook – Belinda Jeffery – and I am often the recipient of her kindness and amazing produce that comes her way. In this case it was hazelnuts, and I made this cake with some of the plumpest and most delicious hazelnuts I have ever tasted that came from a farm at Batlow, NSW. Thank you Belinda and Happy Wombat Hazelnuts.

MORE CHOCOLATE RECIPES (just click on the link below)

Chocolate Macadamia Brownies

Chocolate Mousse in Minutes