Friday, April 19, 2024


Some dessert combinations are rightfully classic in nature, like chocolate and orange, pistachio and rose, and to me, chocolate and hazelnuts. Especially when melded into a wonderfully smooth cream.
Tender chocolate layers, rich chocolate hazelnut filling, and a wonderfully sticky whipped caramel; a beautiful trio to accompany any brunch, lunch, or celebration. While it might look complicated to make with a lot of steps, I promise it is quite a straightforward process, and the cake rewards on every bite. A truly timeless combination of flavours, just perfect for a cup of strong coffee.
If you do not feel like making your own hazelnut paste, using hazelnut butter (made only from hazelnuts) is also fine. As is blending your own paste a bit more coarsely, for a bit of texture.
On a few final technical notes; I always make the caramel sauce one day in advance. To be precise, the evening before making the rest of the cake. That way, it has a chance to cool down nicely and the flavour can develop well. If you enjoy salted caramel, do add a bit of flaky salt once it's cooked.
Its colour will greatly depend on how you cooked the sugar. If you like your caramel on the sweeter and lighter side, and you cook it to a lighter amber colour, your whipped caramel will be almost white, like mine. If you like your caramel intense, and cooked to a dark amber colours, once you whip it, it will be more tan in colour.
As for the whipped cream stabiliser - I find that this topping definitely needs it, as it needs to bear the weight of the whole second set of cake and filling. It is called differently in different countries - Kremfix, Sahnesteif, pannafix, Whip It, etc; but any cream stabiliser made for 200-250 millilitres of cream will work perfectly.

For the chocolate cake layers
150 grams plain flour
25 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
150 grams granulated sugar
100 grams applesauce
150 millilitres water
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
45 millilitres oil
1 heaping teaspoon vanilla bean paste
½ teaspoon vinegar
For the whipped caramel topping
60 millilitres water
120 grams granulated sugar
200 millilitres plant double cream, divided
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 sachet of cream stabiliser, 10 grams
For the filling and frosting
400 millilitres soy milk, cold
60 grams cornflour
25 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
75 grams granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
200 grams vegan block butter, softened; divided
100 grams hazelnut paste (or shop-bought hazelnut butter with no additions)
100 grams dark chocolate (at least 75% cocoa solids)
150 grams vegan white chocolate
food colouring, optional

Start by making the caramel sauce, as it needs a bit of time to cool down completely. Take a large saucepan, and add in the sugar and water. Place it over medium-high heat, and let it come to a boil. Without stirring, let it boil and cook until it starts to turn caramelise. Be patient with this part, as it needs a bit of time to cook off the water.
One the sugar syrup turns amber colour, add in half of the cream and the vanilla, and reduce the heat to medium. Continue cooking until everything is blended and uniform in colour, about 2-3 more minutes, and remove from the heat. Let it cool down in the pan slightly, and then transfer it to a suitable container and place it into the refrigerator overnight, or for at least 6 hours.
The next day, start by making the cake layers. Let the oven preheat to 180°C. Take a large bowl and sift in the plain flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add in the sugar and mix well. Line three small round baking pans (15 cm) with baking parchment, bottom and sides, and set them aside.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add in the hot water, oil, vanilla, applesauce, coffee granules, and the vinegar, and whisk until just combined. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans, and immediately bake in a preheated oven, at 180°C, for about 8-10 minutes, or until done. Check the doneness with a toothpick, making sure the cakes stay fudgy, and not dry. Let them cool in the pans completely.
Once the cakes are done, proceed to make the filling and frosting base. Pour the cold soy milk into a large saucepan, add in the sugar, and sift in the cocoa powder and cornflour. Whisk it very well so there are no lumps of starch or cocoa in the milk. Place it over medium-high heat, and let it come to a boil.
Once it starts to simmer, start whisking constantly, so it does not burn. Let it boil for 2-3 minutes, whisking the entire time, until it cooks into a glossy custard. Remove from heat, add in 30 grams of vegan block butter, and mix it through. Cover the top with cling film or a piece of baking parchment, and let it cool down to room temperature.
Once the cakes are cool to the touch and the filling base is ready, place the vegan block butter into a large bowl and whip it with the vanilla until light and fluffy. This is best done with an electric mixer on the highest setting. Mix the cooked custard base to soften it up slightly, and then combine it with the whipped butter. If the filling seems a bit soft once combined, that is fine. Take 250 grams of the filling and place it into another large bowl.
Melt and cool both types of chocolate separately. Add the melted dark chocolate to the smaller portion of the filling that you placed into a separate bowl, alongside the hazelnut butter. Blend, with an electric mixer on high, until complexly creamy. Add the melted vegan white chocolate to the larger portion of the filling, and blend it through. If using food colouring, add it now and blend. Place both bowls into the refrigerator for about 30 minutes so the filling and frosting have a chance to firm up.
While the filling is cooling down, whip the reserved 100 millilitres of the plant double cream until soft peaks form. Blend the caramel to loosen it up slightly, add it to the whipped cream, and blend everything together. Finally, sprinkle in the cream stabiliser and combine well.
To assemble, level the cake layers and place the first one onto the serving platter. Top with half of the chocolate hazelnut filling, and then with half of the whipped caramel. Repeat this once more, and top with the final cake layer. Because the fillings are firm, there is no need for an acetate sheet and a cake frame, but if you want, you can most definitely use them. Place the platter into the refrigerator for at least two hours, until the cake firms up.
By that time, the frosting should be thick and smooth. If needed, fold it through a bit with a rubber spatula, and frost the cake entirely, making sure any gaps are filled. Decorate the cake further as desired, and place it back into the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. Serve well chilled. Yields 16 servings. © Tina Vesić 2024