Friday, June 23, 2023


I often find myself writing about comfort food and what makes it comforting, about the textures, flavours, nostalgia; but what about the process of making? Because when it comes to comfort food, it is every bit as comforting to make it, as it is to enjoy it.
I deeply believe that preparing desserts, even larger ones, such as this cake, should not be a hassle. It should be enjoyed on each step of the way, from preparation, to baking, to assembly.
For that reason alone, I adore rustic, old-fashioned recipes that do require a bit of patience, but reward the baker and the guests with the most scrumptious of treats. Heaps of freshly toasted hazelnuts, smooth vanilla filling, rich chocolate ganache, and fifteen whole layers of deliciousness.
Even though it is a tall cake and it does serve a crowd, it does need a bit of thought, both in preparing and in serving, as it is best served well chilled or even partially frozen, due to its height. Serve it with freshly brewed coffee and in good company, and enjoy!

For the soft vanilla cake layers
400 grams plain flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
550 millilitres tepid water
450 grams granulated sugar
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
100 millilitres sunflower oil
3 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
For the chocolate brownie cake layers
150 grams plain flour
20 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
150 grams light brown sugar
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
small pinch of salt
240 millilitres warm water
60 millilitres sunflower oil
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
For the chocolate ganache filling
300 grams dark chocolate (75%)
400 millilitres plant double cream
For the vanilla and hazelnut cream filling
900 millilitres soy milk
120 grams cornflour
200 grams granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
250 grams vegan block butter, cubed
150 grams hazelnuts, toasted and ground

Start by making the vanilla cream filling. Pour the cold soy milk into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add in the cornflour, vanilla, and the sugar, and whisk until nicely blended. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and let it heat up slowly. As soon as it starts to steam, start whisking.
Once it comes to a boil, cook it, stirring constantly, until thickened and smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Remove it from the heat, transfer it to a large bowl, and add in the vegan butter, one piece at a time, whisking constantly. If you wish, you can use an immersion blender, as well. When the filling is nice and blended, cover the top with a piece of cling film or baking parchment and let the filling cool down to room temperature.
Next, make the vanilla cake layers. Take a large bowl and pour in the warm water, sugar, oil, vanilla, and vinegar, and whisk them vigorously until combined. Set the bowl aside, and prepare two round cake pans (15 cm) by lining them with baking parchment; bottom and sides. Sift the plain flour and the baking soda into the honey mixture, and whisk everything together until just blended.
As soon as the batter is ready, pour it into the prepared pans equally, tap them a few times on the counter to pop any air bubbles, and bake immediately in a preheated oven, at 180°C, for 15-20 minutes, checking for doneness early on. As soon as a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean, the cakes are done. Remove them from the oven and let them cool down in the pan.
Next, make the chocolate brownie cake layers. Take a large bowl and sift in the plain flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Add in the sugar and mix very well. Line a small (15 cm) round baking pan with baking parchment; bottom and sides, and set it aside. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients; add in the warm water, oil, and vanilla, and whisk until just combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and immediately bake in a preheated oven, at 180°C, for about 15-18 minutes, or until done. Check it with a toothpick, making sure it stays fudgy, and not dry. Let it cool in the pan for a few minutes, and then turn it out onto a wire rack and let it cool to room temperature.

Finally, make the chocolate ganache. Chop up the chocolate finely, and bring the plant double cream almost to a boil over medium heat. Pour the cream over the chocolate and set it aside for a few moments. When it starts to melt, mix the ganache with a spatula until everything is melted, and then let it cool down to room temperature.
Once everything is cool to the touch and ready, proceed to assemble the cake.
Level the cakes, if necessary, and slice each of them into two thin layers. Set them aside. Transfer the vanilla filling into a large bowl, and blend it with an electric mixer on high until completely smooth. Make sure to scrape the bottom and side of the bowl and blend until there are no clumps of custard visible. Divide the filling into two parts and the toasted ground hazelnuts to one of them, and blend again. Divide the ganache into five equal parts, and start to layer.
Take a sturdy cake platter and place the first chocolate layer in the centre. Close a tall cake ring around it, and line it with a tall strip of acetate. This will hold everything in place as the cake is layered and cooled. Spread half of the hazelnut filling over the cake, and top with one-fifth of the ganache. It does not have to be perfect; simply level it as much as possible at this point.
Place one of the vanilla cake layers on top, and spread another part of the ganache filling. Top with the remaining hazelnut filling, and place another chocolate cake layer on top. Very gently press down with your whole palm, so the cake settles completely into the cake ring.
Top with half of the vanilla cream filling, and carefully spread another part of the ganache. Place another vanilla cake layer on it, and top with half of the vanilla cream filling. Spread a part of the ganache on it gently, and top with another vanilla cake layer. Once again, press down very lightly.
Spread the final part of the ganache on top, and place the last vanilla cake layer on it. Cover the top with a piece of cling film or baking parchment so it doesn't dry out, and place the entire cake into the refrigerator for at least eight hours, preferably a bit longer. Once ready, decorate as desired, and serve. Yields 20 servings. © Tina Vesić 2023