Tim and I love hazelnuts. I don’t remember when I was first introduced to hazelnuts in its pure form, but I remember loving Ferrero Rochers as a kid. Now, I find them a bit too sweet and not hazelnutty enough, if I judge them very critically.

I am waiting to make another batch of ‘better’ hazelnut spread (don’t add maple syrup as a sweetener; something weird happens with the oils from the nut and it seizes/separates), but in the meantime, I was hoping to make something hazelnutty.

Being the nice wife I am, when this cake was cool enough to cut, I ran over to Tim with a forkful of cake so he could try some without stopping his game. (Spoiled, perhaps?)

He tried a piece, stepped away from his game, and said “I have to make some coffee” and proceeded to grind his beans in his manual grinder and prepare his moka pot for the stove.

Since we have gotten married, no dessert has garnered such attention from him, so I declared this one a success! He also proclaimed it “one of the best cakes you’ve ever made,” and that’s a high compliment, coming from this coffee and sweets fanatic.

We ate the cake with caramel sauce leftover from the baby shower, but I think it would also go well with some strawberries, pears, or raspberries and whipped cream if you couldn’t be bothered to make the caramel. But if you can, you really should, because it’s really good. You could also eat it like Tim and hold a quarter of the undressed cake in your hand and take bites from it as if it were a burrito…

Hazelnut Butter Cake with Sea Salt caramel

 

 Hazelnut Butter Cake with Caramel Sauce

adapted slightly from Bon Appetit
makes one 8 or 9 inch layer cake

For the cake
Ingredients:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1
cup
all purpose flour
1/2 cup
hazelnuts, toasted at 275 or 300F for 10 minutes, or until just fragrant, then skinned/peeled
1 Tbsp + 3/4 cup white sugar
1
tsp
baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3

large eggs, room temperature
1
Tbsp turbinado/raw sugar, or brown sugar

Instructions:
1) Preheat oven to 350F.  Line an 8 or 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper, or butter and flour the pan.

2) Grind hazelnuts
and 1 Tbsp white sugar in a food processor until it is powdery; reserve 2 Tbsp of this mixture.

3) Whisk baking powder, salt, flour,
and remaining nut+sugar mixture in a medium bowl.

4) Cream the butter and remaining white sugar in
a large bowl until the butter is smooth, airy and not chunky or flecked in the sugar- 3 minutes.

5) Add eggs one at a
time, beating well after each addition.

6) Mix in dry ingredients to the egg/butter mixture until all ingredients are evenly mixed.

7) Scrape the batter into the pan, and try to flatten the batter so it is has an even top.

8) Sprinkle the nut+sugar mixture plus the 1 Tbsp turbinado/brown sugar evenly across the top of the batter.

9) Bake at 350F until cake is lightly brown and a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. This took my 9 inch pan in my stinky oven 20 minutes (probably was fluctuating between high temperatures), but if you are using an 8 inch pan, it might take something like 30 minutes. Bon Appetit says 40-45 minutes, but that seems way too long, in my opinion. In any case, check on it after 20 minutes and the cake’s appearance will tell you if it’s even close to being done. If it looks mostly matte instead of glossy, it is close to being done.

10) Test for doneness every 5 minutes after you initially check it at 20 minutes.Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool to room temperature before trying to do anything with it, like turn it out.


For the caramel
Make a half batch of Stella’s caramel, or make the full batch and save leftovers for more hazelnut cake, or use to drizzle over ice cream, pancakes, cupcakes, other cakes, or whatever you wish.

Assembly
Drizzle the cake slices with caramel and sprinkle with a coarse sea salt, like fleur de sel or Maldon.  

Notes/Substitutions:
-I cut the sugar in this recipe to 3/4 cup in the cake, and I think it helps to produce a cake that is hazelnutty first, then just a tad sweet at the end. If you like your cakes sweeter, feel free to use 1 cup minus 1 Tbsp sugar (15 Tbsp) in the cake.
-You can also use blanched hazelnuts (BA calls for that, but I like toast then peel the hazelnuts)
-To easily get skins of the hazelnuts without blanching: 1) Toast until you smell the hazelnuts and see the skins split. 2) Cool the hazelnuts, then use your fingers to rub the skins off. 3) Bring the hazelnuts into an open (outside) area or near a window, and blow on the loosened skins. The hazelnuts will stay in the bowl, and the skins will magically fly away!   Hazelnut Butter Cake with Sea Salt caramel