Recipe: Chocolate Hazelnut Ombre Cake

Recipe: Chocolate Hazelnut Ombre Cake

Kitchn Video
Mar 22, 2017
(Image credit: Kitchn Video )

We never get over how magical baking is. You take all these raw ingredients and mix them together, and a few hours later you have something beautiful and delicious to share. If you find comfort in stirring a bowl of chocolate batter, or a sense of calm frosting a cake, you're probably already aware of the fact that baking can make you feel better. We also think watching someone bake something beautiful can have the same effect. So here's a video of someone frosting a pretty chocolate hazelnut cake.

We aren't rushing through the act because maybe you'll pick up a trick or two just by observing the process. And after you zen out watching the frosting glide across the sides of the cake, maybe you'll want to bake this beauty yourself. The recipe is here for you to do just that.

Chocolate Hazelnut Ombre Cake: Watch the Video

Chocolate Hazelnut Ombre Cake

Makes 1 (8- or 9-inch) layer cake, serves 12 to 18

For the cake:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1/2 cup toasted and peeled ground hazelnuts
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups granulated sugar
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sunflower oil, plus more for coating the pan
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 large eggs
8 ounces sour cream
4 ounces melted semisweet chocolate

For the Swiss meringue buttercream:
3 large egg whites
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup honey
1 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1 (13-ounce) jar chocolate-hazelnut spread

For decorating:
Chocolate-covered pretzels, chocolate malt balls, chocolate-covered nuts, mini chocolate donuts, or chocolate sprinkles
Unsweetened natural cocoa powder
Chocolate syrup

Make the cake: Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. Coat 2 (8- or 9-inch) round cake pans with oil, then line the bottom of each with a parchment paper round; set aside.

Place the flour, cocoa powder, hazelnut meal, baking soda, and baking powder in a large bowl and whisk until there are no lumps of flour or cocoa powder left; set aside.

Whisk the sugar, butter, oil, vanilla, and salt together in a large bowl. Whisk in the eggs one at a time until smooth. Add the flour mixture and mix with a rubber spatula until just incorporated. Add the sour cream and chocolate and mix only as much as needed to incorporate all of the ingredients evenly.

Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans. Bake until the top bounces back when you gently press it, or a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Place the pans on a wire rack and let sit until cool enough to handle, about 20 minutes. Run a thin knife around the edges of the cake to loosen, flip the cakes out, remove the parchment paper, then place right-side up back on the rack to cool completely before filling and frosting.

Make the buttercream: Fill a large saucepan halfway with water and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low. Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or large heatproof bowl. Fit the bowl over the saucepan and whisk constantly over the simmering water until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture is the temperature of a warm bath, 4 to 5 minutes.

Place the bowl onto the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer.) Beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Increase the speed to high and beat until stiff peaks form and the bowl is no longer warm to the touch, 4 to 5 minutes more.

Reduce the mixer to low speed and add the butter a few tablespoons at a time. Once all of the butter is added, increase the speed to medium and beat until smooth, 3 to 4 minutes. There will be a moment where you think everything is wrong. The frosting will look curdled, but just keep going. It will all work out! Beat in the honey.

For the ombré effect, divide the batter into 3 equal portions and place each in a separate bowl. Mix cocoa powder and chocolate-hazelnut spread into the first portion (start with 1/2 cup of each) until it is as dark as you'd like you'd like it for the bottom of the cake. Mix cocoa powder and chocolate-hazelnut spread into the second portion until it is a few shades lighter than the first. Leave the last portion plain.

Transfer each buttercream into a separate piping bag (no tips needed); set aside.

Assemble and decorate the cake: If the cakes are not level, use a serrated knife to trim the tops. Cut each cake in half horizontally so that you now have 4 layers.

Place 1 of the cakes on a cake or serving plate. Pipe a border of plain buttercream on the cake. Dollop about 1/3 of the remaining chocolate-hazelnut spread on the center of the cake and spread to the border of the buttercream. Top with a second cake layer. Repeat with the buttercream border and another 1/3 of the chocolate-hazelnut spread. Top with a third cake layer. Repeat with the buttercream border and final 1/3 of the chocolate-hazelnut spread. Top with the final and fourth cake layer.

To frost the cake, spread a thin layer of the plain buttercream over the entire cake as a crumb coat. Refrigerate the cake uncovered for 10 to 20 minutes for this layer to set.

Pipe the darkest buttercream onto the bottom third of the outside of the cake. Pipe the lighter cocoa buttercream on the middle third of the outside of the cake. Pipe the plain buttercream on the top third of the outside of the cake. Use a clean offset spatula or bench scraper to smooth the sides. Spread the remaining plain buttercream on the top of the cake and smooth into an even layer. If some of the top frosting goes over the sides, use a clean offset spatula or bench scraper to smooth the sides again.

Decorate with the chocolate-covered cookies and candies, dust with cocoa powder, and drizzle with the chocolate syrup.

Recipe Notes

  • Make ahead: The cake layers can be baked ahead. Do not level or split the cakes. Wrap each one tightly in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for 1 day, or in the freezer for up to 1 week. Defrost before using.
  • Storage: The assembled cake can be covered in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Credits: Emily Petrick is a West Coast-based baker and food stylist. She is a Cordon Bleu graduate and worked at several prestigious Los Angeles bakeries before starting her own business. She is happiest when she is experimenting and making a mess in her kitchen. You can see more of her work on her website.

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