Saturday, December 20, 2008
I've always loved the month of December. I guess it's to do with the festivities, get-togethers with family and friends, "pigging out", delicious baking and Christmas lights and decorations. It also signifies that a year would be coming to an end, a time to reminence on what's been achieved and what is still outstanding, a year to reflect what could have been done differently ... it's all this and more!
As with most other bloggers busy baking for Christmas, I too have my fair share of baking to do this month. So too is the Cake Slice Bakers group! Our cake for this month of festivities is called a Chocolate Hazelnut Nutcraker Cake ... I know the title of the cake is already quite a mouthful.
This cake is delicious any time of year but it was specially designed for the Christmas holidays – The Nutcracker is a play on the hazelnuts which are a key ingredient and a play on the popular ballet associated with this season. The layers can be baked in advance but the cake is best served the day it is assembled, allow it is best to leave it 6-8 hours before serving to allow the flavours to meld together and the crème to set up. I made a few changes at my end when doing this challenge. Instead of baking this cake as a 9" triple layer as in the original recipe, I two thirds the ingredients to come up with a 6" tripler layer cake. I also omitted the rum syrup and replaced it with an orange citrus syrup using orange juice, orange zest and orange extract.
Chocolate Hazelnut Nutcracker Cake
Makes one 9" triple layer cake
1 cup skinned hazelnuts (113g)
10 whole graham crackers (156g), broken into pieces
1 1/4 cups sugar
57g unsweetened chocolate, finely grated
10 eggs, separated
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (I didn't have this so I substituted with all spice)
1 tsp baking powder
Dark chocolate curls for decoration
1) Preheat the oven to 180C. Butter the bottom and sides of three 9" 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 180C.
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 add1/4 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 1/2 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 1/2 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.
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark rum
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.
2 cups heavy cream
3 Tbsp icing sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla in a chilled bowl and whip until the cream is stiff but not too thick or buttery.
To Assemble the Cake:
1) 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. Using a star tip, pipe individual stars by using 1/3 cup of the crème Chantilly over the top, working from the outer ring to the centre of the cake. Repeat with the remaining layers, letting the syrup soak in before adding the crème.
2) Use silver balls on the tip of the stars, only for the top layer of the cake. Finish off with some Feraro chocolates as final decorations.
Note: This cake can be stored in the fridge for 3 days.