Did you know today is World Nutella Day? Well, it is. And that’s a thing. A world wide celebration of that delightful combination of chocolate and nuts that people audaciously present as a “breakfast” treat. This always cracks me up. Breakfast! Snort! No question, it is delicious but I give the breakfast angle a suspicious eye. Sugar, chocolate and hazelnuts is a treat, not necessarily a daily part of a healthy breakfast. But that’s just my opinion; to each his own. Now then, as important as World Nutella Day may be, do you also know today is something even better? IT IS INTERNATIONAL CLASH DAY PEOPLE!!! Fire up the iTunes and play the only band that matters for the next 24 hours. While eating nutella. That’s a pretty great way to spend a Friday. You’re welcome.
So back to this nutella thing … to honor this auspicious occasion I baked a cake, one that has a steady position in my cake rotation. A moist devils food cake sandwiching a nutella buttercream, it is always a crowd pleaser. To make it extra special, I dipped a couple hazelnuts in a hard caramel and nestled them in dollops of piped ganache but the cake alone is reason to celebrate. So celebrate, my friends. I dropped this one off at my car dealer, to the delight of some very nice gentlemen who spent a lot of time on my car recently. And didn’t charge me. Let me share a few words of wisdom with you: when this happens, you should bake a cake.
It just so happens that I bake a lot of cakes (people are very nice to me) so assembly is second nature but it took me a lot of time and practice to get to this point. Below I outline, rather briefly, how to build a simple layer cake. If you’re interested in a more detailed tutorial on this type of thing, let me know in the comments. If there’s enough interest, I’ll do a few posts. I do however, have a few tricks to share here and want to really drive home the importance of having the proper equipment:
- Simple Syrup: the secret of professional cake bakers. Brushing the cake layers with a flavored simple syrup keeps the cake moist and gives a little extra flavor boost.
- Offset Spatulas: both large and small, are immensely helpful.
- Cake Turntable: If you do this a lot, invest in a good turntable. Inexpensive plastic turntables are easily obtained at Michael’s, JoAnn’s Fabrics or Amazon but I’d recommend investing in a good, solid metal one if you do this frequently. Mine was on the pricey side but I use it all the time so it was a worthy investment.
- Serrated Knife: A good serrated knife is absolutely necessary in cutting even cake layers. Do not even attempt to cut a cake with a chef’s knife. Egad.
- Stand Mixer: if you bake a lot, you really should have one. For an Italian buttercream, where you pour a hot sugar syrup into whipping egg whites, a stand mixer is immensely helpful, especially if you’re doing this alone. A handmixer could work but you have to have a helper. No question. Handling the bowl, a beating hand mixer and a hot sugar syrup alone is a dicey proposition. While you stabilize the bowl and hold the mixer, someone else needs to pour.
As for other important celebratory events on the horizon, please be aware that Monday is Chinese New Year (Year of the Monkey!) and then Tuesday is the best day of the year, Paczki Day (also known as Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday and Shrove Tuesday.) And of course Sunday is the SuperBowl so you’ve got a lot of eating to do in the next four days people. Get on it. Make me proud.
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: PARTY! PARTY! PARTY! Don’t wait for a birthday or some such significant occasion to make this. Make it tomorrow. Sure, layer cakes are special. So are Tuesdays. Make it because you can. Because you want to. Treat yo self, I say. If you want to eat a piece for breakfast do it. I might even say nutella for breakfast, in this application, is perfectly ok. You also must listen to The Clash because cake and The Clash is a winning combination any day of the year.
SuperBowl snack recipes: Pimento Cheese Stuffed Pretzels, Bacon Wrapped Dates,For your SuperBowl Chili – Homemade Chili Powder, Frybread for Navajo Tacos, Queso Fundito, BBQ Baked Beans, Rumaki
Chinese New Year recipes: BBQ Chicken Bao, Chinese Sticky Ribs, Won Ton Soup, Potstickers, Chinese New Year
Pazcki Day recipes: Fresh Homemade Paczki
Seven years ago: Khachpuri
Six years ago: Marmalade Yougurt Cake, Double Chocolate Cookies
Five years ago: Spiced Pecans, Roasted Sweet Potato & Wheat Berry Salad
Four years ago: Passionfruit Pavlova, Passionfruit Curd, Apricot Almond Tarts
Three years ago: Cassoulet Sunday, Nutella Torte
Two years ago: Mexican Chocolate Cookies
Last year: Scratch Rum Cake
CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT LAYER CAKE
makes one 10” layer cake, serves 12
Devil’s Food Cake:
2/3 cup cocoa (2 ounces)
1 ½ cup + 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour (7 ¾ ounces)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup warm water
8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (4 ounces/1 stick)
1 ½ cups sugar (11 ¼ ounces)
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
- Preheat oven to 325°F and place the rack in the lower 1/3 of the oven. Grease a 10” cake pan and line bottom with parchment or wax paper.
- Place the dry ingredients (cocoa, flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt) in a medium bowl and whisk to combine; set aside until needed.
- Combine buttermilk and water in a measuring cup; set aside until needed.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on medium to medium-high cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla and mix until combined. Scrape the bowl.
- Add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk mixture alternately, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.
- Spread mixture evenly into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes until a wooden skewer comes out clean with moist crumbs attached.
- Cool the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes then loosen cake from sides of pan with a sharp knife and turn onto the wire rack to cool completely.
- For best results, wrap the cooled cake in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (a cold cake is easier to cut into even layers).
- Note: baked cake layers may be frozen, tightly wrapped for up to two months. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator.
Vanilla Simple Syrup Soak:
If you have Frangelico, a delicious hazelnut liquor, use it in place of the vanilla
1/3 cup sugar
¼ cup water
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
- Bring the sugar and water to a boil until sugar is fully dissolved.
- Let cool and add vanilla. Set aside until needed. Syrup should be fully cooled before using.
Nutella Italian Buttercream:
12 ounces sugar
3 ounces water
6 ounces egg whites (from 5-6 large eggs)
pinch of kosher salt
18 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature but cool, cut in 1” pieces
3-4 Tablespoons nutella, room temperature
- Place a pint glass of water near the stove and have a candy thermometer ready.
- In a small heavy-bottomed pot, combine the sugar and water and stir until dissolved over medium-high heat.
- Increase the heat to high, insert the candy thermometer into the pot and cook the sugar syrup to 240°
- Meanwhile place the egg whites and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
- When the thermometer hits 235°F, start whipping the whites on low so they’re a little foamy when the syrup is ready.
- When the syrup reaches 240°F immediately turn off the heat and place the thermometer probe in the pint glass of water.
- With the mixer running on low, slowly pour the hot sugar syrup in the “sweet spot” – between the wall of the mixing bowl and the spinning whisk. Do not pour syrup directly into the moving whisk or it will fling hot syrup everywhere. Do not fear – have confidence and pour slowly and you will be fine.
- Once all the syrup is in the bowl, increase the mixer speed to high and whip the egg whites until stiff peak and fully cooled. Make sure the meringue is fully cooled. If the meringue is warm, the butter will melt rather than emulsify. To test, feel the bottom of the bowl or place a dab of the meringue on your upper lip – if you feel the slightest bit of warmth, continue whipping until fully cooled.
- Switch to the paddle attachment and on medium speed, add the butter, one piece at a time, until fully incorporated, smooth and emulsified. Make sure to scrape the bowl to fully incorporate all the meringue. If the buttercream doesn’t look quite right, keep beating. It will get there.
- Add the nutella and mix until well blended.
- Buttercream can be made 1 day ahead and keep at room temperature (rewhip briefly before using) or frozen, well wrapped, up to 2 months. Bring frozen buttercream to room temperature and rewhip before using.
To assemlbe the cake: this is much easier if you have a cake turntable and a cardboard cake round for the bottom of the cake. You can pick up inexpensive plastic turntables and cake boards at Michael’s or JoAnn Fabrics or order from Amazon. Or, if you’re a good customer, ask for a 10” round pizza cardboard from your local pizzeria. You can also trace the cake pan onto a clean piece of cardboard and cut a nice round. It’s a good idea to wrap this one in foil before using.
10” devils food cake
vanilla simple syrup
equipment needed: 10” cardboard round, cake turntable, offset spatula, pastry brush
- Unwrap the chilled cake and place on the cake turntable
- With a large serrated knife, cut the cake into three even layers. If you think three even layers might be difficult to pull off, cut the cake in half for two layers. Don’t sweat it. A two layer cake is just as delicious as a three layer cake.
- Place a dab of buttercream on the cardboard round.
- Center one layer, the top cake layer top side down, on the round.
- Brush the layer evenly with the vanilla simple syrup.
- Place a large dab of buttercream in the center of the layer and spread to the edges with an icing spatula. Hold spatula at a 45 degree angle to the cake and drag it across the surface to level the icing.
- Repeat with remaining layers – brushing with syrup and then buttercream. To create a level top, use one the bottom layer of the baked cake, bottom side up, i.e., the bottom is now the top. As that layer is level from the pan, your cake top will be perfectly level as well. Make sure you peel off that piece of parchment though.
- To ice the cake sides, scoop a large dab of icing onto the side of the cake and spread it with short, side to side strokes for a thin coat. This is the crumb coat and is meant to seal the cake and crumbs in. A thicker coat will follow.
- Ice the cake top in the same manner then chill the cake until firm, at least 45 minutes or several hours.
- Ice the cake with a thicker, even layer to fully cover. The icing can be as smooth or textured as you like. It’s your cake.
- Garnish with whole or chopped hazelnuts, caramelized if you are so inclined.
- Cake travels best if cold but is best served at room temperature and will keep for several days if tightly wrapped.