Anyone who has spread a bit of nutella over toast has fallen in love a little bit.  That’s because chocolate and hazelnut is a magical combination.  Like brown butter and sage, it immediately transports you from a prosaic bite, to something special.  Hazelnuts have always seemed like the “fanciest” nut to me.  This doesn’t really make sense, as I’ve found pine nuts and macadamia nuts to be ludicrously expensive.  Maybe it’s the flavor, its cultural connection to Europe, or just really good marketing.  I feel like any time I see a commercial for something chocolate hazelnut, it involves a 30 something brunette in a silk dress beside herself with the decadence.  An aria is playing in the background… Well, whatever the case, it’s working.  I’m into it, and I’m pretty sure you are too.  This cake takes chocolate hazelnut out of the candy aisle and into your dinner party.  But, be warned, this bad boy is RICH, so a little slice goes a long way.




For 12-16 servings

12 ounces shelled hazelnuts

1/2 cup flour

1 teaspoon espresso powder

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

I use Valrhona

6 eggs, separated

1 cup sugar, divided

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon rum

1/2 teaspoon vanilla


12 ounces unsalted butter, softened

3 cups powdered sugar

3 tablespoons agave nectar or maple syrup

1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 teaspoons coffee extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup powdered hazelnuts (from above)


Preheat oven to 350F.

Grease, line with parchment, and grease again the bottoms of two 9-inch round layer cake pans with removable bottoms.

Finely chop hazelnuts in a food processor until powdered. Set aside 1 cup of the hazelnuts for frosting (there should be a little more than 3 cups left). Mix and sift flour, espresso powder, and cocoa; add 3 cups of powdered hazelnuts; blend thoroughly.

In a medium bowl, beat egg yolks with an electric mixer; add 1/2 cup of the sugar gradually and keep beating until very thick and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Beat in the lemon zest, rum, and vanilla.

In a separate large bowl, beat egg whites until frothy; add remaining sugar slowly while beating. Beat until soft peaks form. Add the egg yolk mixture to the beaten egg whites. Sprinkle a quarter of the dry ingredients over egg whites and gently fold until batter is partially blended. Repeat with second and third portions of the dry ingredients. Spoon last portion over batter and gently fold until just blended. Do not over-mix.

Gently spoon equal amount of batter into each cake pan, spreading to edges of pan. Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes or until top springs back when touched with fingertip. cool; remove from pans.

For the buttercream, add the butter to a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, and whip until soft and smooth.  On low speed, add the powdered sugar, mixing until fully incorporated, and then add the agave nectar (or maple syrup), cocoa powder, vanilla extract, coffee extract and salt.  Mix in 1/2 cup of the powdered hazelnuts. Taste for sweetness and add more powdered sugar if necessary.

Fill the cake with buttercream, then spread the buttercream on top.  Sprinkle the top layer with the remaining hazelnuts.