I was very excited to discover, while assembling this cake, a new use for my blowtorch. I love my blowtorch and I like to use it as much as possible. I used to have one of those small culinary blowtorches with a little, tame flame. Then I got a big one from the hardware store. It has a much larger flame and it takes much less time to do the same job as a smaller blowtorch. Plus, it makes me think of the welding in Flashdance. I discovered my new reason to wield the blowtorch when I was pouring the ganache over the chilled, frosted cake. The ganache was a bit cool so that it wouldn't run too much and the cake was very cold. I started to coax it over the sides of the cake to make little ganache icicles but it set up really quickly on the cold cake and only a few little chocolate rivulets ran over the sides before it stopped running entirely and just sat there on top. I thought that the cake was doomed to be lopsidedly ganached. But gentle application of blowtorch flame loosened up the ganache and the cake was saved.
This cake is a bit of an undertaking to make, I recommend doing it in stages, at least over two or three days, so that it's not overwhelming. There's nothing all that hard to make, but there are a lot of components.
- 1/2 strong brewed hot coffee
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
Dissolve the sugar into the coffee. Set aside to cool. This can be made well in advance and stored in the fridge or freezer.
hazelnut cru nch:
adapted loosely from baked
- 3/4 cups crisped cereal, rice or millet
- 1/2 cup feuilletine flakes
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons golden syrup or corn syrup
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped hazelnuts
Cook the sugar and syrup together with 3 tbs water in a small pan, stirring to combine. Let the syrup come to a boil and check the temperature with a candy thermometer. While the syrup is cooking, mix cereal, hazelnuts and feuilletine in a medium bowl. Once the syrup reaches 235 F, remove from heat, add butter and pour over the cereal mix. Coat the cereal with the syrup quickly and spread thinly over a baking sheet. Let cool. Store in a sealed container in the fridge.
coffee italian meringue buttercream:
adapted from Martha Stewart
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 2/3 cup water
- 5 egg whites or 1/2 cup + 2tbs pasteurized egg whites
- 2 cups butter, softened
- 1 vanilla bean's innards or 1/2 tsp vanilla powder
- 3 tsp coffee extract
Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small sauce pan. Using a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature, continue boiling until the mixture reaches 238 degrees.
As the sugar is boiling, whip the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed. The goal is to get the egg whites stiff when the sugar reaches 238; if they are getting close to being stiff but the syrup isn't hot enough I turn the mixer to the lowest setting until the syrup is nearly up to temperature.
Once the sugar syrup is up to temperature, turn mixer up to high speed and pour the syrup into the egg whites in a very thin stream. Lower the speed to medium and beat until the outside of the mixer bowl is no longer hot to the touch. Add butter in small chunks, 2-3 tbs butter at a time. The frosting will very likely curdle; this is normal and it should resolve if you keep beating. A stand mixer is very useful here because it makes your arm ache if you have to hold a hand held beater for that long. Also, I like to leave the frosting beating at this point and do something else rather than stand watching the curdled mess.
Once the frosting comes together again, add the vanilla and coffee extract and mix thoroughly, scrapping down the bowl.
Note: this recipe will make far more buttercream than necessary for these macarons, but it freezes very well and I like to keep frozen buttercream in the freezer for frosting emergencies. Use what you need and store the rest in a mason jar in the freezer. When you just want to frost a few cupcakes, scoop out frosting as required with an ice cream scoop and bring up to room temperature. Whip in a stand mixture-it will break at first and look horribly like a runny, viscous scrambled eggy mess. Keep on whipping and it will fluff up again.
- 8 ounces chocolate
- 3/4 cups heavy cream
- 1 tbs golden syrup (or corn syrup if you wish)
- 3/4 cups butter
Heat cream and syrup over medium high heat. Pour hot cream over chocolate in the bowl of a mixer and mix on the lowest setting. Scrape the bowl to mix and make sure all the chocolate is melting evenly. Let the chocolate cool to room temperature. Mix chocolate mixture on medium speed, adding butter a little at a time. The frosting will become remarkably light and silky, though still deeply, intensely chocolatey.
Make the chocolate frosting directly before frosting the cake, do not chill the frosting. It won't stay smooth and silky and lovely if you chill it.
hazelnut vanilla cake:
recipe adapted from baked
- 2 1/2 cups cake flour
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tbs baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup shortening or lard
- 1 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla or 1 tsp vanilla powder
- 1 large egg
- 1 1/2 cups ice water
- 3 egg whites
- 1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and ground into a fine meal
Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Cream together the browned butter and the lard. Add the sugar and the vanilla and beat until fluffy. Add the egg and just combine. Turn the mixer to low and add the flour mixture and water in turns. Scrape down the bowl to ensure everything is mixed properly.
In a clean bowl, beat the eggs until soft peaks form. Gently fold egg whites into the batter until well combined.
Divide batter between two 6 inch pans and bake at 325 degrees F for 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Allow cakes to cool completely and cut each cake into two layers, trimming off the tops if necessary to make even layers.
Chill or freeze cake layers wrapped in cling wrap.
This step can be done well in advance; the cake can last in the freezer if triple wrapped in cling wrap.
Set out cake layers, frostings, syrup and hazelnut crunch. One layer at a time, brush the cake with syrup, frost with alternately chocolate or coffee frosting and sprinkle on the hazelnut crunch. Stack on another layer and repeat until you have five frosted cake layers. Roughly frost the top and side of the cake with coffee frosting and refrigerate until the frosting is set hard. Re-whip the remaining coffee frosting until it is soft. Cover the cake with the remaining coffee frosting. Chill again.
If you wish, drizzle the cake with a little ganache (1/4 cup cream, 1/2 cup chocolate, melted together and cooled slightly) and a few whole hazelnuts.
Photos by Tyrel Hiebert