The finished product - you'd hardly know it was only a 6" cake!

The finished product - you'd hardly know it was only a 6" cake!

This month was a real drama!  Delicious sounding recipe, angst in execution, mediocre reviews from first tasters, but a glorious finish.

The cake description sounded fantastic: Chocolate Hazelnut sponges, soaked in rum syrup and covered in Chantilly Creme.  Yum!  Couldn’t wait to get started.

(The Cake Slice Bakers are currently working their way through Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes)

I’d planned to bake the layers in the evening, so put together the rum syrup.  Then decided to go bake apple pies at the kitchen.  Got home at 2am, so there went the idea of making cake layers that evening.  I didn’t actually get to the cake until the next night.

I didn’t need a humongous 9″ layer cake, so I cut the recipe in half to make a slightly less humongous 6″ triple-layer cake.  I even wrote out the amounts for every single ingredient at half-strength, because inevitably when I’m doing it in my head I forget to cut something in half.  Inevitably.

Apparently, I do this even when they are WRITTEN DOWN, and as a result, my cake had twice as much chocolate as called for.  I decided to go for it anyways.

The folding and whipping and baking went well, and I ended up with lovely freckled little discs of hazelnut-chocolate sponge.  Yummy!  By the time I was getting around to assembly, the rum syrup had turned into… rum sludge?  I heated it up again… still rum sludge.  Well, I sort of basted it onto the layers, but really, none of it soaked in.  It was more like a glaze.  Whups.

The Chantilly creme was… disappointing.  I used Frangelico instead of vanilla, for more hazelnut flavor, but the consistency was just sort of  boring (I’m not a huge fan of whipped cream icings), and I was worried that it wouldn’t hold up in the fridge.  So I put the whole thing together, it sort of leaned a little (I’m having trouble with 6″ cakes and straightness), I put some hazelnuts on top, and told Jeff and his friend Heather to have a slice after dinner and let me know how it turned out.

With a slice missing

With a slice missing

They reported that it wasn’t anything much at all, really.  Just sort of… cake.

I was disappointed, but resolved this morning to give it a try myself before just sending it off to work.  And I’m glad I did!  I think that this is a cake that wants to sit for a day or so, to let the flavors come together.  The sponges were moist and deliciously nutty, the chocolate wasn’t too much, the frosting held up well… and I’m solidly resisting going back for another piece right now.  I have a feeling Jeff’s officemates are going to like this one!

Chocolate Hazelnut Nutcracker Cake
from Sky High

Makes one 9inch triple layer cake (half a recipe makes one 6inch triple layer cake)

Ingredients – for the cake layers

1 cup skinned hazelnuts (about 4 ounces)
10 whole graham crackers (5½ ounces), broken into pieces
1¼ cups sugar
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely grated
10 eggs, separated
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup all purpose flour
1½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp baking powder

Dark chocolate curls for decoration [I just used hazelnuts]

Method – for the cake layers

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of 3 9inch cake tins. Line the base with parchment paper and dust the sides with flour, tap out any excess.
2. Spread the nuts onto a baking tray and toast for 10-12 minutes until lightly browned. Leave to cool completely. Increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
3. In a food processor, grind the graham crackers to crumbs. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Add the toasted nuts to the processor (no need to wash) and add ¼ cup of sugar. Pulse until the nuts are finely ground, but do not blitz too much or else it will form a paste. Add the nuts, graham cracker crumbs and grated chocolate together in the bowl and mix.
4. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and ½ cup of sugar using an electric mixer until well blended. Add the oil and vanilla slowly, beating until ribbons begin to form on the surface of the mixture. Then, fold in the chocolate nut crumbs.
5. Place the egg whites in a clean bowl and beat until thick and foamy. Gradually add the remaining ½ cup of sugar, continuing to beat until the whites form stiff peaks. Fold a third of the egg whites into the yolk mixture and mix well to slacken the mix. Sift over the flour, spice and baking powder and fold in. Gently fold in the rest of the egg whites until no streaks remain but do not over mix.
6. Divide the batter between the three pans and bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the layers cool in the pans for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire wrack to cool completely.
7. To assemble the cake, place a layer on a cake stand, flat side up. Sprinkle it with a third of the rum syrup and let it all soak in for 1-2 minutes. Spread ¾ cup of crème Chantilly over the top, right to the edge. Repeat with the remaining layers, letting the syrup soak in before adding the crème.
Use the rest of the crème to cover the sides of the cake. Decorate the top with dark chocolate curls.

Rum Syrup
¼ cup sugar
¼ water
¼ cup dark rum [I used Myers Dark]

Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Place over a medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the rum. Allow to cool before using.

Crème Chantilly
2 cups heavy cream
3 tbsp confectioners sugar
1½ tsp vanilla extract [I used Frangelico instead]

Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla in a chilled bowl and whip until the cream is stiff but not too thick or buttery.

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